What if Barak Obama, who let's face it - is new to the political scene but has taken the world by storm, started laying hands on people and healing them? What if he started fraternizing with outcast social groups and began integrating them into the social norm? What if he, in passing, told the concierge at the White House to fill several vats with water and then served them at the Inauguration ball as the finest wine in the country? What if he utilized every chance in front of a podium to tell people that he was the light of the world that would lead them to peace? What if he got even crazier and started telling people he has always existed, will live forever, and was sent by a mysterious entity to deliver his message? What if he promised access to a fountain of youth, water that will eternally quench thirst and bread that will eternally satisfy hunger, but to obtain them you had to eat his flesh and drink his blood? What if he started attacking the current religious systems and called out the leaders as false and hypocritical? What if he said he was God Himself? We would write him off as crazy, impeach him and lock him up in an insane asylum.
I'm reading the book of John right now and in all honesty, have been bugged by John's presentation of Jesus. His writing can be confusing and the stories he chooses to tell about Jesus seem less than flattering. In John's account, Jesus throws a royal temper tantrum, tipping over tables, yelling at people and throwing them out of the temple. Jesus meets secretly at night with a prominent religious leader and then proceeds to present confusing information, telling him that if he wants to follow Jesus he has to be "born again." Jesus interacts with social outcasts and stops to hang out one-on-one (a social taboo) with a woman living in sin. Jesus talks frequently and in great depth about "the Father who sent him." This unseen Father tells Jesus what to do, when to do it, acts as judge, and is the second witness Jesus uses to validate His claim to be God. Jesus tells his followers that if they want the ever-elusive eternal life, they have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Jesus claims to be the light of the world, the water that quenches all thirst, the bread that satisfies all hunger, the Word, the Son of God, and He even has the audacity to call himself I AM (the Old Testament name for God).
John's portrayal of Jesus isn't one I'm very comfortable with. The Jesus John describes comes across as quick-tempered, passionate, willing to stir up dissension, a little socially awkward and one who intentionally speaks over the heads of his audiences.
I couldn't help but ask myself, "What if, instead of Barak Obama, Jesus was my contemporary? Would I believe He was God?" I've been sitting uncomfortably for the past two weeks with the truth that I most likely would run the opposite direction. To me, Jesus would get lumped in with David Karesh and all the other wackos who claim to be god in an attempt to get press time and manipulate people.
Today I read how Jesus saw a blind man (let's call him Ed, just for fun), had compassion for him, and decided to heal him. It was the Sabbath, a day of no work. Jesus could have healed Ed with a simple word, but instead he purposely incorporated a form of work into the healing process to get under the skin of the Pharisees. Jesus made clay from dirt, smeared it on Ed's eyes, and told him to go wash it off in a specific pool. Ed obeyed, and as the water and dirt poured off his face, he opened his eyes to view a world he had never seen before. The act of healing created quite a ruckus and the Pharisees immediately launched an impromptu investigation. I can just picture Jesus hiding in the corner, doubled over in laughter, as he watched his arch rivals spinning themselves into a tizzy, grilling any witnesses who could possibly incriminate Jesus.
When things calmed down a bit, Jesus tracked Ed down and asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" Ed quickly replied, "Tell me so I may believe in him." Jesus' answer was profound. He said, "You have now SEEN him; in fact he is the one speaking with you." In that one sentence, Jesus opened Ed's eyes to see the spiritual blindness in his life and Ed immediately knew that Jesus was the only one who could heal him both physically and spiritually. Ed immediately cried out, "Lord, I believe," and worshiped Jesus.
I let my heart warm with that beautiful story of healing and redemption. And then I realized that I had been complicating things. Jesus is multi-faceted. He can be hard to understand. If it was easy to unwrap who He is it would be less exciting to get to know Him. I don't need to have all the answers or understand every verse I read. I just have to see Jesus and believe.
See Him for who He is. See the mess I've made of my life. See what He can do to heal me. The more I believe, the clearer my vision, and the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I will understand who He is.
Jesus asked His contemporaries and He asks us still today, "Do you believe in the Son of Man? Have you seen Him?" There is no "if" in my answer - "You are the Son of God."