I have been delightedly devouring the new series The Chosen. I usually find these types of media efforts bland, but this one is exceptional. The Jesus I have been faithfully reading about all these years has been revealed in a whole new way as the situations disclose so much that my cultural reading has unintentionally concealed. My mind, and better yet, my heart, has been triggered into new paths of perception and appreciation.
Prepared, since I have been reading through the Gospels lately, familiar interchanges became more nuanced as the context of personality, politics, and geography fleshed them out. As I read I have been confused by numerous unfathomable “non sequiters”, puzzling actions and answers that do not make sense (to me). For example, when He rebuffs the concern of His family and announces that those who listen to Him and do His will are His true relatives. Or let the dead bury their own dead. “I came not to bring peace but a sword”, or we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, or the poor you will always have with you, or few there be to find the path, and so many more curiosities. I know there are theological answers for all these things, but I wonder how I would have responded if I had been there to hear them. I think I might have been offended. And we are not even talking about the numerous times He is asked a question and seems to give an answer to a different question. If it were not for the fact that He did all sorts of undeniable miracles He would probably have been largely dismissed. I also question how He has gained the present day reputation of being the benevolent deity when He speaks so often of judgment and hell, the narrow way, self denial, and renouncing all but loyalty to Him as precepts of His kingdom. He certainly does not come off, in conversation at least, as the tender all inclusive God that so many make Him out to be. The nice kind Jesus that we seem to have embraced in contrast with His stern Old Testament Father seems more wishful thinking than reality. Likely His healings and His undeserved death in our place prompts such a viewpoint. Just a thought!
I don’t know about you, but it is easy for me to “religionize” what I hear and read about God. It goes through some filter that intrigues the mind and inspires the soul, but keeps it safely distant from my person. I did not realize how fully I was doing that until in one scene He reaches out to touch someone in order to heal them. The hope of healing would probably have kept me there, but the terror of an encounter with such an other-worldy entity might have won out and made me run (unless paralysis was my malady). For some reason as I watched, at that moment He was so terrifyingly strange. It is amazing how the people welcomed such blatant power over natural law and demons (a whole other topic), to be sure marveling at it, yet without fear of the human being Who wielded it. I now consider, perhaps with a newly acquired anticipation, actually looking into the real eyes of the person I have wanted to serve and honor most of my adult life, and a thrill of fear stuns me. God in a person! Inconceivable, improbable, demanding, and our encounter inevitable. Am I ready for that?
As I mulled over this intriguing consideration, thinking my reaction was so unique, CS Lewis came up in my inbox with his relentless reasoning on – what a surprise – this very subject. I guess I am late to the party – again:
It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God”—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life- force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us!
PS – Here is a little melodious bonus, a handful on purpose, beautifully illustrating the point.