by Richard Mansel
The curious title exemplifies the conflict that exists when we talk about Jesus. The disparity between what we say and what others hear is one of the greatest factors in whether we succeed or not. Men weigh their experiences, opinions, family history, and views filtered through the words of friends and influences to arrive at an identity of Jesus. Whether our version meets Scripture’s portrayal of the Savior is a matter of life and death.
Jesus polled his apostles saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13, NKJV). They enumerated some of the popular answers and then Jesus asked the powerful question concerning his identity that stands face to face with all of us. “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter avows, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Jesus’ question is a sentinel we must face if we will enter the walls of heaven. An answer is required of everyone, no matter the excuses we offer. Everyone must take a position. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The person who finds the moral parameters of God too restrictive views Jesus as either repressive or receptive of their behavior, depending on their conscience and upbringing. The former projects his disdain for rules onto Jesus and views him as the source of repression. The latter cannot appease their conscience so their mind reorients their beliefs so they can continue in their sins while holding to a modicum of self-justification. The specter of rationalization continues to haunt the human mind.
Men project their political and social dogmas onto Jesus and he becomes a mirror of their cause. For example, the vegan calls Jesus the “prince of peas” and imagines him as a vegetarian./1 The homosexual views Jesus as a homosexual. The homeless advocate sees Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus as homeless. Politicians see him as a vehicle to victory. The revolutionary sees Jesus as a warrior. The racists view Jesus as sharing their bigotries. The list of possibilities is endless.
In John 6:60-67 we find strong evidence that Jesus never backed down from what he taught. He allowed his disciples to leave rather than compromise truth, and he never would have wavered even if his apostles departed. In fact, if everyone on earth turned from truth, God would never alter his will or words (Psalm 119:89). Israel left God and he always called them to repent or remain in misery. Nothing has changed today. If we live right we will be righteous, if not, we will be sinful (Ezekiel 18).
In John 12:17-19, the Pharisees renounce Jesus because their prejudices overpowered what their senses were witnessing. They were seeing Jesus improperly because they had not laid down their sinful ways and approached him with an open heart. However, the Greeks came to “see Jesus,” meaning that they wanted to interview him (John 12:20,21). They were on a quest for truth with their hearts and minds receptive to Jesus. As Gentiles, they represented the world that would actually listen to what he said instead of closing their minds and ears to him (John 20:29).
May we all emulate their willingness to hear Jesus for what he says rather than what we think he says. We must throw away our filters and approach Scripture like little children, eager to listen and learn. If so, we will find the greatest treasure ever available to man.
by Richard Mansel