Identity – The Jesus Card.
In all this rummaging around in our mind and gut to nail down our identity, how do we get around the stuff we talked about last time – the stuff pounding the fudge out of us inside and out? What do we reach for when nothing seems to take or be strong enough? Enter our spiritual side. Here’s an absolutely worthless, yet interesting, piece of information. Stand beside a piano and sing one note loudly into the strings. Then listen. One string, the one tuned to the note we sang, will pick up the vibrations of our voice and play the same note back. See? Almost worthless – until we turn from pianos to souls. Secularism is a tough sell. All our pain filled questions, our wounds, our deep yearnings still go out there and we listen for something/someone to play back. The spiritual is very much with us in a zillion ways. Sometimes the huge range of choices is nothing more than the equivalent of what we like on our hot dog – some go with relish, some not. I roll with chili, slaw and brown mustard. A pineapple could be spiritual or a helium balloon floating across the room. Poems we wrote, nature or tracing our genealogy. Or Jesus. He’s always on the radar. But which one? He has more flavors than Baskin Robbins and Coldstone put together. We tend to make Him up the way we like. Colored sprinkles? Not so much. Crushed peanut butter cups? Pile it on. Holiness? Uh…no, thanks. Love (pink fuzzies, no negatives) – a double scoop please.
But….what if Jesus isn’t just a good example for us to follow? Do we know anyone, anyone who can do what He did? What if He’s not a first century hippie dishing cool stories or a Rastafarian minus the weed? We tend to throw away anything about Jesus we don’t like, agree with or that makes us uncomfortable in any way. We make a mental Jesus who’s nice but harmless, boring, pleasant and most important…He never disturbs the thick ooze of the sediment of our self centeredness.
What if Matthew, Mark, Luke and John got it right? What if Jesus isn’t like that but is that? If so then what’s He about when left to tell His own story? Some things stick out. Jesus said the worst thing He ever said to one of His own, Peter. Peter just had rocked everyone else out of the room by saying that Jesus was the Messiah. Within a minute or so, Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan…” (Matthew 16:23) What was that bomb about? Another time, the guys saw Jesus really shaken, something that didn’t happen often. “Now is my soul troubled. and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” (John 12:27) What purpose was that? To give another one of those whiz-bang stories? Finally, Jesus and the twelve were going to Jerusalem. Usually they clumped together down the road in one big posse. But this time was different. Jesus walked on ahead giving off heat that intimidated the rest; they were afraid to walk with Him and nobody dared ask “why?” (Mark 10:32) What ties all this together? Was He nervous about giving the Sermon on the Mount (Gag! I wish I hadn’t listened to those guys who said preach without notes!)? Jesus lived in the grip the cross; it wasn’t a tragic end. It was the Reason and the Cure – for everything wrong with us, the world, the cosmos.
The Easter thing gives us the rest of the story. All of Christianity hangs on the idea that, after being crucified, Jesus rose from the dead. Without that, the whole Christian thing comes down (I Cor 15: 13-19) – no resurrection, no Christianity. No bacon, no BLT. It’s big deal. Maybe we have a hard time wrapping our brain around this. Maybe it seems a little creepy. Maybe we think we can only believe what we see. Jesus Christ doesn’t fit into a test tube for lab testing or pop up as the end answer of a chemical or mathematical formula or equation. “How can I know?” Big question, good one too. A little help comes here and here.
There’s a bigger and better question. “How badly do I want to know?” God said, “You will find Me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) The lab where this gets fire tested isn’t buried in some basement in a forgotten corner of campus. It’s the core of our being where we do deep business and get confused sometimes as to what knocks around in there. It’s hard to cobble together some sense of identity there in the dark, especially when some things in that darkness bite and chew on us. Identity? Who am I? Jesus asks if we would like to be what and who only He can make us. It’s a question from a living person. “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) While this talks about His ultimate effect on everything, Jesus refuses to wait until then to start. “Now” is always a good time for Him. He turns train wrecks into Mona Lisas, rakes diamonds out of manure piles. How badly would we like Him to do that for us? His cross says how far He will go to make it happen. His resurrection says a real Person has come off the pages of the Gospels and hovers over our heart as I type and you read. Some good words from an old dog like me.
“If you knew that there was One greater than yourself, Who knows you better than you can know yourself, and loves you better than you can love yourself, Who can make you all you ought to be, steadier than your squalid nature, able to save you from squandering your glorious life, Who searches you beyond the standards of earth…One Who gathered into Himself all great and good things and causes, blending into His beauty all the enduring color of life, Who could turn your dreams into visions, and make real the things you hoped were true, and if that One had ever done one unmistakable thing to prove, even at the price of blood – His own blood – that you could come to Him, and having failed, come again. Would you not fall at His feet with the treasure of your years, your powers, service and love? And is there not one such (Jesus), and does He not call you?”
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