Who is Jesus? (June 7, 2015)

This morning, we continue our series on who Jesus is by sharing various perspectives about him from a variety of writers.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

These are the words of John Dominic Crossan, taken from his book The Historical Jesus

In the beginning was the performance; not the word alone, not the deed alone, but both . . . . He comes as yet unknown into a hamlet of Lower Galilee. He is watched by the cold, hard eyes of peasants living long enough at subsistence level to know exactly where the line is drawn between poverty and destitution. He looks like a beggar yet his eyes lack the proper cringe, his voice the proper whine, his walk the proper shuffle. He speaks about the rule of God and they listen as much from curiosity as anything else. . .
To those first followers from the peasant villages of Lower Galilee who asked how to repay his exorcisms and cures, he gave a simple answer – simple, that is, to understand but hard as death itself to undertake. You are healed healers, he said, so take the Kingdom to others, for I am not its patron and you are not its brokers. It is, was, and always will be available to any who want it. Dress as I do, like a beggar, but do not beg. Bring a miracle and request a table.

Luke 1: 26-33

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants.

Julian of Norwich said this:

So Jesus is our true Mother by nature at our first creation, and he is our true Mother in grace by taking on our created nature.

Luke 4: 22-30, paraphrased:

A bunch of people gathered at the synagogue in Nazareth to hear Jesus. They were amazed at his words.

Why, that’s Joseph’s son, they said.

Jesus told them “Now you’ll ask me to do the same kinds of miracles here that I did in Capernaum.”

But I have to say this: “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Neither Elijah nor Elisha were sent to their hometowns to carry out miracles.

The townfolk were furious when they heard this. They drove him out of town, taking him to a cliff where they intended to throw him off.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Here is a stanza from Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne. 

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

Matthew 16:13-15

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Note:

Each of the following books is for sale on Amazon.com:

Jesus CEO; Jesus, Entrepreneur; Jesus, MD; Jesus, Feminist; Jesus, Life Coach;

Rabbi Jesus; Jesus the Pastor; Jesus for President; The Politics of Jesus; The Yoga of Jesus;.

Jesus . . . A Religious Revolutionary; Jesus, the Greatest Therapist Who Ever Lived;

Jesus, the Jewish Theologian; Jesus the King; Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger;

The Politically Incorrect Jesus; The Laughing Jesus; Jesus Mean and Wild;

Jesus in Blue Jeans; My Best Friend, Jesus; Jesus Christ, Superstar.

John 19:25-30, paraphrased

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. . . .

Later, knowing that everything was finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” So they soaked a sponge in wine vinegar. . .and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he received it, Jesus said, “It is finished,” bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Anne Lamott writes this in the book Traveling Mercies

I didn’t go to the flea market the week of my abortion. I stayed home, and smoked dope, and got drunk, and tried to write a little. On the seventh night, though, very drunk and just about to take a sleeping pill, I discovered that I was bleeding heavily. It did not stop over the next hour. I thought I should call a doctor, but I was so disgusted that I had gotten so drunk one week after an abortion that I just couldn’t wake someone up and ask for help. Several hours later, the blood stopped flowing, and I got in bed, shaky and sad. After awhile, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course, there wasn’t. But after awhile, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.

And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends. I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die.”

I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with. Finally, I fell asleep and in the morning, he was gone.

The experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my house door whenever I entered or left.

And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape. It was as if the people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling – and it washed over me.

I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along at my heels, and I walked down the dock past dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own dreams, and I opened the door to my house, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, “[Okay,]. I quit.” I took a long deep breath and said out loud, “All right. You can come in.”

[PAUSE]

Revelation 3:20

The words of Jesus spoken by an angel sent to John on Patmos Island: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

–Compiled by Roger Martin and Joanna Harader

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