I wanted to find out more about Jesus Christ. So one Sunday I walked into a nearby church. It seemed like the right thing to do.
The church was, well, just your normal, average, everyday church. I went in and listened to the sermon. I learnt a lot. A few sermons later, a definite picture of who their Jesus was started forming in my mind’s eye. Eventually, my mental image of Jesus came into sharp focus:
They taught me that Jesus was: a long-haired hippie, wearing an ankle-length dress decorated with peace signs. Jesus was a vegetarian: he only ever ate seafood and abhorred red meat. Jesus eschewed motor-cars and walked everywhere in order to reduce His individual carbon footprint. Jesus knew a trade, but welcomed free cash gratuities from many sources. Jesus never commanded, demanded, or ordered anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do: instead He made suggestions and entertained them by telling them funny little fairytales.
These church preachers taught me that Jesus talked all about ‘love’ and ‘beatitudes’. Jesus’ teachings can be summarised as: ‘I’m OK, you’re OK.’, ‘Let’s all tolerate and be nice to each other.’, and in extremis: ‘I disagree with every word you say, but I will die for your right to say it.’ And then Jesus did, they told me. How nice of Him.
Their Jesus was effeminate, politically correct, uninspiring, and dull. In fact, Jesus was apparently a mirror image of themselves: not particularly worth following except perhaps for his free gifts (love, forgiveness, and the like).
Having learnt everything the churches could teach me about Jesus, I was about to move on when a friend advised me to read about Jesus for myself in The Gospels. I had heard about ‘The Gospels’: the preachers sometimes made occasional references to them. Vaguely curious, I started reading The Gospels to see what else they could tell me.
I was surprised to discover that The Gospels described a Jesus Christ completely different from the Jesus talked about in churches. If The Gospels were true, than the churchy-Jesus was just a delusional fancy of the preacher’s imagination: an illusion with no more substance than a shadow. But why do churches ignore the Jesus Christ of The Gospels? Why prefer an illusion to the reality proclaimed in their own Holy Book?
Jesus of The Gospels was one cool dude. He raised the dead. He healed the sick. He walked on water. He quietened tempestuous seas. He called hypocritical big-wigs names like: ‘hypocrites’, ‘unmarked graves full of rotten bones’, and ‘blind leaders of the blind’. He cleared out a temple full of greedy money-changers with a whip. He walked unharmed right through the middle of crowds wanting to kill Him or throw Him over the nearest cliff. He faced down hostile mobs. He out-thought, out-argued, and out-riddled the smartest brains his enemies could field.
He was popular sometimes – but took unpopularity in His stride. He was smart – but never overbearing. He drank alcohol at parties – but never got drunk. He was as unflinching as granite, as wise as a good father, and as protective as a big brother.
He volunteered for a suicide mission to Jerusalem – and carried it through. He had Heavenly Legions on standby – like a real king with real power at His fingertips. Deserted by His closest friends: He forgave both them and the soldiers hammering six-inch nails through His wrists. He laid His life down: and took it back up again three days later.
Jesus Christ of The Gospels is a man’s man – a leader worth following even to hell and back. He was so strong, self-possessed, and noble that anyone coming into contact with Him must either love Him or hate Him. Only those never having known the man could ignore Him completely.
I was inspired to look around for others wanting to follow this incredible man, Jesus Christ. And I’m mostly still looking. For there simply aren’t that many today who prefer the Jesus Christ of The Gospels, as opposed to the illusory substitute Jesus preached from so many weekly pulpits…