HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD-Part Six?
How Do You See Jesus?
I was going to write a summary for this series, but after reading the following by Max Lucado I thought it fit well. It is longer that most of our nuggets, but it is worth reading. The next nugget will be the summary for "How Big Is Your God.".
Suppose Jesus came to your church. I don't mean symbolically. I mean visibly. Physically. Actually. Suppose he came to your church.
Would you recognize him? It might be difficult. Jesus didn't wear religious clothes in his day. Doubtful that he would wear them in ours. If he came today to your church, he'd wear regular clothes. Nothing fancy, just a jacket and shoes and a tie. Maybe a tie. . .maybe not.
He would have a common name. "Jesus" was common. I suppose he might go by Joe or Bob or Terry or Elliot.
Elliot. . .I like that. Suppose Elliot, the Son of God, came to your church.
Of course, he wouldn't be from Nazareth or Israel. He'd hail from some small spot down the road like Hollow Point or Chester City or Mt. Pleasant.
God, a plumber?
Rumor has it that he fed a football field full of people near the lake. Others say he healed a senator's son from Biloxi. Some say he's the Son of God. Others say he's the joke of the year. You don't know what to think.
And then, one Sunday, he shows up.
About midway through the service he appears in the back of the auditorium and takes a seat. After a few songs, he moves closer to the front. After yet another song he steps up on the platform and announces, "You are singing about me. I am the Son of God." He holds a Communion tray. "This bread is my body. This wine is my blood. When you celebrate this, you celebrate me!"
What would you think?
Would you be offended? The audacity of it all. How irreverent, a guy named Elliot as the Son of God! Would you be interested? Wait a minute, how could he be the Son of God? He never went to a seminary, never studied at a college. But there is something about him. . .
Would you believe? I can't deny it's crazy. But I can't deny what he has done.
It's easy to criticize contemporaries of Jesus for not believing in him. But when you realize how he came, you can understand their skepticism.
Jesus didn't fit their concept of a Messiah. Wrong background. Wrong pedigree. Wrong hometown. No Messiah would come from Nazareth. Small, hick, one-stoplight town. He didn't fit the Jews' notion of a messiah; and so, rather than change their notion, they dismissed him.
He came as one of them. He was Jesus from Nazareth. Elliot from Mt. Pleasant. He fed the masses with callused hands. He raised the dead wearing bib overalls and a John Deere Tractor cap.
They expected lights and kings and chariots from heaven. What they got was sandals and sermons and a Galilean accent.
And so, some missed him.
And so, some miss him still.
We have our own preconceptions, don't we? We still think we know which phone God uses and which car he drives. We still think we know what he looks like. But he's been known to surprise us.
We expect God to speak through peace, but sometimes he speaks through pain.
We think God talks through the church, but he also talks through the lost.
We look for the answer among the Protestants, but he's been known to speak through the Catholics.
We listen for him among the Catholics, but find him among the Quakers.
We think we hear him in the sunrise, but he is also heard in the darkness.
We listen for him in triumph, but he speaks even more distinctly through tragedy.
We must let God define himself.
We must put away our preconceptions; otherwise we'll make the same mistake a lady in Baltimore made recently. Our radio ministry was hosting a radio rally. After my talk, I stayed around to meet the folks who listen to my program. These people had never seen me, but they had heard my voice. Presently a small, elderly woman stepped up.
"You don't look like you," was her first statement.
"You don't look like you. Max Lucado is older, and his hair is grayer."
I hated to disappoint the lady, but she was wrong. I looked just like me. My face would match the picture on my driver's license, but that didn't matter to her. She wanted a face to match her preconception.
She had an image in her mind that didn't match the image she saw. She had to make a choice. She had to accept the true me or live with the wrong impression. We must do the same with God.
When we do, when we let God define himself, a whole new world opens before us. How, you ask? Let me explain with a story.
Once there was a man whose life was one of misery. The days were cloudy, and the nights were long. Henry didn't want to be unhappy, but he was. With the passing of the years, his life had changed. His children were grown. The neighborhood was different. The city seemed harsher.
He was unhappy. He decided to ask his minister what was wrong.
"Am I unhappy for some sin I have committed?"
"Yes," the wise pastor replied. "You have sinned."
"And what might that sin be?"
"Ignorance," came the reply. "The sin of ignorance. One of your neighbors is the Messiah in disguise, and you have not seen him."
The old man left the office stunned. "The Messiah is one of my neighbors?" He began to think who it might be.
Tom the butcher? No, he's too lazy. Mary, my cousin down the street? No, too much pride. Aaron the paperboy? No, too indulgent. The man was confounded. Every person he knew had defects. But one was the Messiah. He began to look for Him.
He began to notice things he hadn't seen. The grocer often carried sacks to the cars of older ladies. Maybe he is the Messiah. The officer at the corner always had a smile for the kids. Could it be? And the young couple who'd moved next door. How kind they are to their cat. Maybe one of them. . .
With time, he saw things in people he'd never seen. And with time, his outlook began to change. The bounce returned to his step. His eyes took on a friendly sparkle. When others spoke he listened. After all, he might be listening to the Messiah. When anyone asked for help, he responded; after all, this might be the Messiah needing assistance.
The change of attitude was so significant that someone asked him why he was so happy. "I don't know," he answered. "All I know is that things changed when I started looking for God."
Now, that's curious. The old man saw Jesus because he didn't know what he looked like. The people in Jesus' day missed him because they thought they did.
How are things looking in your neighborhood?