A Line in the Sand
I’ve been watching The Bible mini series on the History Channel this month and have been surprised by how Biblically accurate it is (for Hollywood, at least), but also how entertaining I’ve found it. And I like especially like the way the are portraying Jesus – loving , compassionate, very human but completely God.
But there are some things I’ve noticed they are leaving out – the hard things He said. If you read the Gospels, you will quickly see that not only could Jesus draw a crowd, He knew how to scatter one even quicker. He’d say things like “It’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle”. Really, Jesus? Is that any way to increase charitable donations? Telling the man who wants to bury his father (who actually probably wasn’t even dead yet) to ” let the dead bury their dead” – not many pastors would let that one fly to a potential church member on this Easter Sunday. And telling people that unless you “eat my flesh and drink my blood” you cannot be His disciple, before we had ever heard of communion or the Last Supper? What happened to the Jesus in those Sunday School illustrations – you know, the one looking anemic who always seemed to be holding sheep in His arms?
To be fair, a 10 hour mini series on the entire Bible cannot show every single episode in the recorded life of Christ. They are left with showing the highlights, and most of the statements I mentioned were minor dust-ups involving lesser characters. But it is clear that Jesus did not make it as easy to follow Him as we often do.
Truth with a little “t”
This completely flies in the face of our popular culture which says that being tolerant is to never offend anyone, and to never believe our faith is “the Truth”. We prefer to deal in “subjective truth” with a little “t”. In contrast, the Jesus of the Bible often seems like He is actually trying to offend us with many of His statements, but that’s because we are no longer comfortable with someone confident enough to demand commitment from us. We live in an era where to believe anything and be completely devoted to it is seen as extreme…even dangerous.
We are cautioned about religious extremism in what has been done by those who pursue hate, but ignore the good done by those whose complete devotion pursues self-sacrificing love. Sorry, but it is simply not the same thing to blow up people in the name of God and to give your life FOR people in His name. If someone insults Jesus, I’ll pray for them – but insult the icons of other religions and you may have a price on your head. Both are extreme, but one is extremely evil while the other is extremely good.
After Jesus made His most polarizing statements, He would often explain the true meaning for those who bothered to hang around afterwords. But He didn’t run after the ones who left. Perhaps His goal was to distance those who wouldn’t love Him enough to look past the initial statement to ask Him for a further explanation. Just like us today. When Jesus won’t sing the tune our current culture is playing, we don’t stick around long enough to find the Depth of His Truth. We bolt for the door, holding fast to our own more convenient truths.
I really do believe we need more kindness in the world today, and I desire for people to become more tolerant of each other and our differences. But tolerance is now defined as rejecting Absolute Truth – it’s all a matter of subjective opinion. It is into this breakdown of common sense that we hear Jesus say, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – no one comes to the Father but by me”. How incredibly intolerant of Him! Doesn’t He know all the people He’s offending?
Most people are fine with whatever you want to believe, as long as you don’t expect them to believe it too. It can be some truly ridiculous belief – “the moon is made of cheese” – as long as you make the caveat that it is “just your own belief system, and all other beliefs are just as valid.” But if beliefs conflict with each other, how can they all be really True? If A is true and is not equal to B, how can B then be true? This is the nature of truth – it is incredibly, offensively exclusive. And if Jesus says He is the only way to God, then He is either very wrong or else all conflicting beliefs are wrong.
If I came upon you lost in a forest with nightfall fast approaching, you would immediately be asking me for directions back to civilization. I then would assure you that while there are many paths winding deeper onto the forest, I knew the way out. Many other explorers had made their trek into the forest, only to die there and never return. But when you asked me, “Which one is the way out?”, what if I said to you, “Oh, don’t want to offend the memory of those who created the other paths! I’m sure one is just as good as the other.” You would probably threaten me until I pointed out the one true way out, right? Exactly.
Just Who Does He Think He Is?
To our opinions and preferences, Jesus boldly draws a line in the sand and says, “Make a choice”. If someone on the street made such a bold statement to us, we’d rightly ask him what right he has to make such an exclusive statement. To that question, Jesus only need point to an empty tomb and a cache of eye witnesses who went to their deaths all claiming that Jesus conquered the grave and rose on the third day. Of all the other explorers, He is the only One who knows the path out of the grave. All the rest died lost in the forest.
Religious re-imagineers may try to explain the resurrection away as a strictly “spiritual event” – that Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead to prove His deity, but it was a symbolic resurrection. The only problem with this is that I am not interested in being only “symbolically resurrected” after I die and then going to a “symbolic heaven”! No, the Bible is a book set amidst a definitively historic backdrop, and Jesus was part of that history. He was not talking in the context of symbolism and religious double-speak. He was saying in effect, “I am God, and if you truly embrace all that I am and all that means, you will have eternal life”.
The resurrection of Easter Sunday is God’s line in the sand for humanity. It sets Jesus apart from all other prophets and priests, all whom still reside in their tombs. It says that He alone has the right to speak for the Father, because He was not just a man like the other prophets. His resurrections sets Him apart and renders invalid all other claims to Truth. While you may choose to believe it was some grand hoax, He does not give you the option of lumping His teaching with that of the other entombed prophets of the ages. He has drawn a line in the sand for all time. Love Him or leave Him, but never take Him for granted. In the coliseum of history, He truly stands alone – loving and self-sacrificing, yet demanding we make a choice.
It’s Easter Sunday, and 2000 years ago Jesus asked you to follow Him on the path toward eternal life. So which path will you follow?