I'm continuing chronologically through the Gospels, and I'm asking this week:
Who is Jesus, really? And what does it mean to recognize and to accept Him?I see, for example, that the first thing the apostle John tells us is that Jesus is God – our Creator, our Life, our Light. But John didn't start off instinctively knowing Jesus is God any more than we can or could. So he's sharing here wisdom he'd already spent some time learning – not information he understood from the start.
And that's something we all have in common with the apostle John: knowing instinctively who Jesus really is just doesn't happen, even among people raised to be God's People. John tells us that when Jesus came He was God Himself in human flesh, working next to other people, talking with other people, teaching other people – and still almost no one on the whole planet understood, much less recognized Him. Even worse, when God Himself even walked among them, almost no one among those who counted themselves as HIS PEOPLE (even THE BEST OF His People) accepted Him even as a good teacher, much less as God.
And that's all still so true of today that it stinks. Which means our lives – even/especially our "Good Christian" lives – can stink, until we ourselves actually recognize and accept the real Jesus for who He really is.
So, how goes recognizing and accepting the real Jesus start? How does the Bible show us how to start – and how not to start – recognizing and accepting God alive among us?
Reading this week, first we see God recognizing Jesus, and sharing His Spirit. In our process here, that's kind of "cheating", to recognize yourself, but it was mightily important to the people of that day, who had to understand that while God hadn't physically walked among them before, He was not only doing it now but also pleased with, recognizing, and putting His stamp of approval on the result. And that's cool. Anything "spiritual" or "godly" or "church-approved" or "tradition-approved" that doesn't actually show God's stamp of approval is either demonic or human garbage. Might be pretty, but I wouldn't put it in your mouth.
Second one to show is John the Baptist – that filthy church-rejecter we met in earlier parts of the Gospel story (and talked a bit more about in an earlier post).
Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized, and John balked. Was that because he fully recognized Jesus was God? It's not certain here, but it is certain that John already knew that Jesus was something the likes of which no human being (except Moses, Eve, and Adam) had ever laid eyes on before. Maybe we should give John the Baptist at least a half-point here, because at the very least he saw:
- Jesus received the Spirit of God and was announced by God as having His stamp of approval,
- Jesus had a natural power and place that made him a piece of nothing by comparison,
- Jesus was the one who was going to be sacrificed for the sins of the world and,
- Jesus was the Son of God.
Do we do that, in our lives? When God grants us an extra measure of His truth, do we do whatever it takes to stay true to it? Or do we say we're sticking with God's truth, when we're actually sticking with the too-human "truth" of fake Christianity and the goodies it delivers us in this world?
Third person to show up recognizing Jesus? Satan. But we can say "recognizing", yes – but not truly understanding. We'd have to say that the devil doesn't truly understand God at all, or he'd have never gone off and decided to work up all the problems he's created since even before he messed up Eve and Adam. And he certainly wouldn't have tried to tempt Jesus into giving up the human race, the love of His life, for a few pieces of the kinds of crap the rest of us fall for over and over again ("for the good of the church / family / world!", of course).
In what ways do we (me, you, everyone) get in God's face and then act like the devil? How much "good"-evil has been done in the last thousands of years by "Good Religious People" (including Christians, though, as my fundamentalist grandmother used to say, "being Christian means you should know better more than anyone else")? How often do we recognize Jesus, sure, but we don't understand Him or what He's all about enough to not hurt our kid, much less not drive thousands of people to suicide or murder millions in war, all in "God's" name?
Next people to notice Jesus were all the Good Religious People in Israel, who marched right out with the best of everything they had to offer in offerings and worship, led by the Good Religious Leaders.
The Good Religious People – including the Good Religious Leaders – didn't start to notice Jesus until He started torquing them off by not being impressed with them, and by teaching God's truth in ways that didn't benefit them personally. But we'll get to them later, when they do in fact start showing up as being important at all to any part of the Gospel story.
So, the next people who really did start paying attention to Jesus? At least two of them were originally disciples of John the Baptist, and noticed Jesus because John the Baptist gave them an intriguing hint about who Jesus was. Because they were John the Baptist's disciples, we can tell they were dissatisfied with what passed for orthodoxy in those days, and they were hungry for what they sensed of God's REAL truth elsewhere – but where?
What about you? Ever been told there's something wrong with you or your spiritual wandering, if you're dissatisfied with the religious gruel ("but it has SPRINKLES!!!") being offered by "official" church each week? Ever ponder how many of the people Jesus met who were also wanderers, also malcontents? In fact, the only people who ever met the real Jesus Christ "in church" only met Him because HE was just wandering through – and they had to follow Him outside, if they intended to stick with Him.
Next were people who started meeting Jesus through people who'd met Jesus and been impressed that here was someone different, someone special – someone their guts told them matched what God had promised to send: the Messiah. The Savior of the World.
How many people would have gotten to meet the real Jesus if others hadn't shared Him with them? How often do you share Jesus with those in your life who either haven't met Him at all, or who've only been taught the cardboard, McDonald's version of Him?
Among all these people, though (except for perhaps John the Baptist), none of them truly understood the full reality of who Jesus really was. They recognized and understood some of what He was, but they had to keep learning, and casting off old religious beliefs that proved to be human-nonsense, the whole time Jesus was on earth (all the way to His resurrection, in fact!). Then, in truth, very, very few of the many tens of thousands who met God on earth face to face and heard Him speak actually managed to stick with Him and His truth, the whole way.
We're like that too. We'll eagerly go with Jesus and His way – but only to the point where we would have to give up our "pastor"-entitlements, or where we would have to let go of some family, or where we might have to choose truly loving instead of hurting back, or where we might have to fly as a solo-Christian until such time as we met others like us, and so on. Almost inevitably, when we reach that point we turn right back around. Like 99% of people who met Jesus Christ in the flesh, we decide on some level that He asks too much, and then we go back to the human organizations made up of and run by others who've also decided He asks too much. We enjoy their company and the assurances of their re-make of Jesus' original truth - and we congratulate ourselves all the way to hell on what great Christians we are, and on how much we love the Lord.
But we don't have to be like that. In fact, we don't even have to be perfect in our sticking with Jesus and just Jesus. The Bible shows us that even from the start Jesus' disciples never, ever got anything totally right. In fact, until the very end, after a long haul and a lot of spiritual personal and world-battles, they never truly understood all of who God is, or recognized or accepted Him for who He is.
And that's a comfort we can take from the Bible and its stories about the first people to believe in Jesus Christ:
We don't have to be perfect; we just have to be making a sincere effort in Jesus' way of doing things.Do that, and, just like the first disciples, we eventually learn that God takes care of the rest.
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.