Monday, May 14, 2012

JESUS, Part 4

What is your view of Christ?

What are the non-negotiables for you?

Do you view Him as many of the Jesus films portray him? A calm, cool, collected, politically correct individual with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a pale complexion? (This physical description is not accurate, because, afterall, Jesus was a Jew living in Israel.)

Do you think of Him as a Santa Claus or a genie that will be there at your every beckoning?

Do you view Jesus as predictable?

Do you think Jesus is safe?

Before you answer that, let me define “safe.” Small. Predictable. Easy.
Perhaps you view Jesus like those of the Jesus Seminar, who sought to set aside all misinterpretations of Christ and get to the real Jesus. The true Jesus. The historical Jesus.

I first learned about the Jesus Seminar my freshman year of college. We were given an article, on the Jesus Seminar, to read and write a reaction paper on. I began reading the article and thought to myself, "this is going to be good; Christianity needs more individuals like this. More people reading through the Bible and trying to find the true, historical Jesus." After a few minutes of reading I was appalled.  Before I tell you why, let me give you some information on  The Jesus Seminar. It is a group of New Testament “scholars” (I use that term loosely) who have been meeting periodically since 1985. The initial two hundred has now dwindled down to about seventy-four active members. They focus on the sayings and actions of Jesus within the four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--to determine the probability of His actually having said or done all that is attributed to Him. Each scholar would offer his/her opinion on each Jesus statement by voting with a different colored bead. (I know what you're thinking, this sounds very technical and scientific).

Red: Jesus undoubtedly said this or something like it
Pink: Jesus probably or might have said something like this
Gray: Jesus did not say this; but the ideas are close to His own
Black: Jesus did not say this; it represents a later tradition

Here is what they concluded. Over 80% of the statements Jesus supposedly makes in the Gospels are gray or black—Jesus probably didn’t say them. This means that only 20% of Jesus’ statements (in the Gospels) are likely to have been spoken by Him.

Perhaps this shocks most of us. It should. But think about it and let it sink in. Isn’t that what many of us do? We read through the Bible and pick out what we like and add it to our theological buffet. We like the part about Jesus healing people, but we’re not so sure about the part when he overturned the tables in the temple.  We're into the fact that he turned water into wine, but we're not so sure about that whole turning the other cheek bit. The thought of Him going to prepare a place for us sounds pretty sick, but to think he actually says we may have to endure hardships and suffer is tough to swallow.

We will gladly buy into the things that fit our view of God, Jesus, or Christianity. The things we find easy. The safe things. The things we will do without hesitation. Those are the things we believe about Jesus.

What the Jesus Seminar came up with was a kind, gentle, politically correct, Mr. Rogers-like Jesus. They concluded that Jesus was not a miracle worker. He could not prophesy. And He would never make the extraordinary claims the Bible associates with Him (how dare God’s Word).

The Jesus Seminar came up with a Jesus who is safe. A Jesus who is tame. A Jesus who is predictable.

I am sure that a majority of Christians living in such countries as China would quickly inform us that Jesus is not safe. If He were safe, they wouldn’t face so much persecution. They wouldn’t be thrown into jail (at the very least) or killed for simply uttering His name. If that doesn’t convince you, perhaps Paul, the Christian persecutor converted Apostle, could help. Just read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews that he authored. You will find some shocking truths about what following Jesus might look like. Following Him may mean you have to give up everything—something most Western Christians (including myself) cannot even fathom. If this is a picture of what safety looks like, then I guess yeah, Jesus is safe. But we all know that fearing for your life on a daily basis is quite the opposite of safe—or at least I hope we do.

Several years ago, on Christmas Eve, I was watching a show on the Discovery Channel titled “The Miracles of Jesus.” In this show they set out to put Jesus’ miracles to the test. Christian and non-Christian alike put everything on the line and set out to see if Jesus’ miracles could be proven by science or illusion. They scrutinized His many miracles and came to the conclusion, without directly saying it, that the only way they could have been accomplished is if He was in fact who the Bible tells us He is.

So…who is Jesus? What picture of Jesus does the Bible paint? I say the Bible, because that's the best and truest account we have of His life. It is only there we can discover who he really is!

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