July 15, 2013

Seeing Jesus

In a Middle Eastern country, a man risked his life to show a Jesus film to others. It turned out they were risking their lives also, for a suicide bomber had infiltrated the crowd. As the film ended, he pushed into a visible position and removed his jacket, revealing the explosives attached to his body.

The people were terrified, but the would-be bomber assured them they were not in danger. In tears, he told them that he tried thirteen times to press the detonator and at each attempt, he saw Jesus standing in front of him. He and the entire gathering committed their lives to Jesus Christ.

The Jesus film is based on the Gospel of John so would not have these verses, but it certain conveys the same concept. Jesus offers to lift the burdens of all who come to Him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

As I read this again today, I thought of what it tells me about Jesus. Obviously, He is gentle and humble. He is also a giver of rest, concerned for those overburdened with sin, even with the cares of this world, even with a bomb strapped to their body. While being a Christian can mean hard work, it is the intent of Jesus that even the hard work has ease and lightness in it. He does it by removing sinful intentions and guilt, replacing them with a joy and delight that transforms grumbling and worry into carefree abandonment.

In the beginning of my Christian life, I pictured Jesus as stern, unsmiling. Then our family went to see a stage play called “The Gospel According to John.” The man who played Jesus was laughing much and smiled most of the time. While the Bible doesn’t say much about this, I realized that it does say Jesus was filled always with the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit includes incredible joy.

Joy from God has the unimaginable ability to make all trials seem as nothing. It isn’t the same as shock after a trauma that numbs our feelings about reality. Instead, joy understands what is happening, but puts assurance deep in my heart that God is in control, that He will use even this for my good, and that nothing can harm me unless the Lord lets it. I become like a fearless child on her first roller coaster ride. I might even lift my hands in the air and shout as joy overcomes all else.

With that in mind, I try to imagine the image that bomber had of Jesus. Was He shaking His finger at him? Was He stern with arms folded in a glare of warning? Or was He standing there with arms reaching out and a big grin on His face? Whatever the man saw, He was smitten. He knew instantly that He was loved and accepted and there was nothing else to do but love and accept Jesus in return.

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