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Following Jesus – 4 – The Name

October 5, 2009

Jesus – what image comes to mind at His name? In my childhood, it meant that white guy hanging on the cross statue in our Church. I knew He was a miracle worker and that He taught people a highly moral lifestyle. I knew He was called the Son of God and that He was part of a Trinity. Still, it was merely head knowledge. In my teen years, He became symbolic of what I thought was a dead religion that persisted despite ‘scientific evidence’ to the contrary… a religion that was authoritarian and legalistic. In my early years as a university student, He once again became a good moral teacher. I knew a few people who called themselves His followers; and they managed to demonstrate this in their words and actions. Their lifestyle intrigued me – I wanted to know what made them so different. Their example drew me in. Of course, I tried to deflect their influence – I had hundreds of questions, many I thought would be devastating to their Christian faith, but they patiently gave answers (1 Peter 3) and treated me with a kindness I knew I did not deserve.

Maybe, when we hear Jesus’ name, the image that comes to mind too often is that of His followers. And not the ‘good’ ones. It’s the weird ones who go a bit ultra-mystical. Or the sort who seem to think the Good News of the Gospel is all about making more money. Or the types who seem to take delight in their moral superiority and use it to attack non-Christians. Maybe it’s the type who think Christianity is an excuse to judge someone else, ask people to ‘pray for that bad person,’ and then tell that person that they’re praying that they’ll escape God’s judgement. Or perhaps it’s the ‘Christian’ whose outlook seems to be fairly racist, bloodthirsty and committed to their own culture’s version of ‘success.’

Still, I don’t want to be negative, and I don’t want to pretend that somehow my own Christian walk has been exemplary. See, the thing that scares me is that maybe, for the many people in my life who do not believe in Jesus, when they hear the name ‘Jesus,’ they’re going to think of me. My life. My example. My words and actions. How have I treated them? Have I come across as narrow and judgemental? Or materialistic? Or moralistic and legalistic?

One scary thing about being a follower of Jesus is that my own life and example could have an impact – whether positive or negative – on the people around me. When some social issue comes into a conversation – some political thing, or maybe a moral issue like abortion – how are they going to interpret my response? Will I be loving and merciful, like my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or will I be the hellfire and brimstone Bible thumper that leaves them wishing they hadn’t asked?

I don’t know how right it is, but I like to point people to Jesus Himself. As He is described in the Bible. Perhaps not enough people have read the Four Gospels these days for me to assume that people know the records of His life. The Bible records that, as a child, He and His family had to flee the violent ruler of their nation and seek refuge in Egypt (Matthew 2). As an adult, He worked at the family trade – carpentry (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) – before beginning His ministry; which was marked by miracles (Matthew 11:20; Mark 6:2; Luke 19:37; John 10:25), astounding teachings (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 22:33; Luke 4:36);and violent persecution (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1; John 7:25). He was murdered, but He rose again to life (Luke Chapters 23-24). Then, shortly after His resurrection, He ascended to Heaven (Acts Chapter 1). He then sent the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, to Earth to inhabit His followers and empower them to live their lives for God (Mark 1:8; Luke 11:13; John 14:26).

One of the most astounding things Jesus said about Himself was this:

John 14:6 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I used to think that rather offensive a statement. In my early Christian walk, I then tried to provide elaborate reasons and explanations for it. Lately I’ve been more inclined to suggest that there’s only a couple of ways to take this statement:

If Jesus is truly God Incarnate, the Creator, Sustainer, Saviour, and Redeemer of all Creation, then He is well within His rights to make a statement that, coming from a mere mortal, would be ridiculous – or a sign of insanity. That is, God is well within His right to be the decider of issues of eternity and salvation.

If He is insane, then one must wonder how He also managed to revolutionise the way that humans treat each other. We may well take for granted His teachings on justice, mercy, kindness, charity, forgiveness and goodness – but these values are not particularly intrinsic to humans, are they? Look at the broken down world, where one side of the world is dying from starvation and the other is dying from diseases resulting from overeating; where racism and war and hatred are daily occurrences; where the elderly are beaten and the young are abused and the unborn are routinely murdered; where people engage in incredible acts of cruelty towards our fellow creatures; where the wilderness is butchered for profits; where we know the right way to live but choose the selfish, hedonistic options instead.

With more than a little hint of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I am convinced that Jesus is either Lord, Liar or Lunatic. His amazing lifestyle, teachings, and descriptions of Himself don’t leave room for much else.

Following Jesus

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12 comments

  1. Your insanity defense leaves out several easy explanations for his numerous various claims. First we may be misinterpreting his statements. Was the phrase unique to Jesus or was it said of others?

    {Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me}

    A popular quote, but is found in an Egyptian pyramid, said of the God Horus. The same thing was said of Buddha. Both predated Christianity by centuries. Interpretations can make them seem less identical, but they say the same thing.

    Next we must consider that impious men edited the scriptures, and since the Catholic Church admits to collecting the scriptures and correcting them, it obviously happened.

    Finally, simple semantics may be the culprit. Either or statements are self deluding when other options exist. Believe whatever makes you feel good and live piously.
    Pelagian7


  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. As I said at the beginning of this series (https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2009/09/12/following-jesus/), my intention was not to delve too deeply into the controversies.


  3. Further Reading:
    http://leaderu.com/truth/1truth21.html
    The Gospels As Historical Sources For Jesus,The Founder Of Christianity
    Professor R. T. France


  4. ‘One of the most astounding things Jesus said about Himself was this:

    John 14:6 (NIV)
    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”’

    Yes.


  5. “John 14:6 (NIV)
    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”’

    This saying was said in Egypt about their sun God. It was interpreted to mean that the sun brings life, without it nobody would reach the afterlife.

    Pelagian7


  6. Hi Russ, yes, totally!


  7. Hi Pelagian7, I have never heard of that before. You’re obviously interested in Ancient Egyptian beliefs. Can you provide an academic reference for the information you provide?

    However, it does bear repeating that I do not intend to address spiritual controversies in this series on Jesus. I suggest that if you sincerely desire to dialogue with Christians on the topic of similarity between Egyptian/Kemetic religions and Christianity, you should contact Christian groups such as http://www.probe.org/, http://creation.com/, http://www.answersingenesis.org/, http://www.rzim.org/, and http://www.josh.org/.


  8. Hi Fialo, I can provide references, but not now. The book I first found that information in is loaned out. Rather than give you that title (written by a former priest, quoting Egyptologists) I would prefer to look at the bibliography and notes to refer you to original scholarly interpretations.

    The saying was on a fresco in a pyramid. It was a 12 paneled depiction of horus going through celestial cycles. Ultimately being reborn each morning and each year, when the days became longer, and the returning of the sun.

    You certainly have a right to explore whatever you want, but I would think insight would not be controversial. If sayings were commonly said, and we think they have special significance, shouldn’t we explore that. Wouldn’t that help us understand the scriptures better?
    Growing up I thought ‘Christ’ or ‘Lord’ were words unique to Jesus but learned later many garnered these titles at that time.

    None of this harmed my faith, it made it stronger, although it was scary to consider what I was taught could be wrong in some way.
    Pelagian7


  9. Hi Pelagian7,

    wow, that is certainly fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

    I did personally read numerous books on Egyptology but that that was quite a few years ago. I was involved in Wiccan religion up until just over 7 years ago, and Ancient Egyptian beliefs did play a part in that.

    May I then ask: would you consider yourself as ascribing to a particular belief system, then, or are you more drawing upon multiple beliefs?


  10. I think of myself as a follower of Jesus’ teachings (love, compassion and humility). After researching many religions and in depth study of Monotheism, including the brief time when Egypt professed one God, I found a common basic belief shared among these religions.

    Even shamanism and Paganism seemed to have this same commonalty. Although, they celebrated the essence or spirit of water, animals . . . they for the most part believed in a oneness or all powerful God and the matter they worshipped was only Gods earthly essence.

    Similar to us kneeling at the cross, or praying to saints, we, could be confused as having multiple Gods in the future, especially if all the Christian writings were lost to polemics, who quoted only small parts of our belief.

    The struggle I had was understanding how God could have given one peoples a single way to salvation. I don’t buy the vengeful God theory. So, when I learned that many sayings, including the one in, John was said of others, even if mythological, it dawned on me.

    Many Christian sayings and celebrations were borrowed to garner validity in the communities familiar with those sayings. The church admits to using Pagan dates for celebrations to entice converts, why wouldn’t the Gospel writers do the same in the scriptures, especially the Gospel written latest, John.

    This does not mean our Bible is not God breathed, merely written by human scribes and not literally perfect. I believe in walking the path of Jesus and his ways are the only way, however, those who never even hear his name but live as he instructed (by whatever means of revelation) are saved in his name.
    Pelagian7


  11. Pelagian7 – great, thanks for sharing. That’s interesting. I don’t wholeheartedly agree with your position that Christian sayings and celebrations were borrowed from pagan traditions, nor does my Christian community engage in kneeling before crosses and prayer to the saints. Actually, our church does not have ‘saints’ in the sense of ‘canonised’ individuals who are seen as spiritually supreme – we see all followers of Christ as saints.

    However, I would agree that some streams of Christianity have certainly drawn from pagan / cultural influences that are outside Biblical mandate – this brings up the question of when, if ever, are cultural traditions (e.g., Christmas, Easter, etc.) acceptably labelled as ‘Christian?’

    Anyway, all the best for your spiritual journey.
    -fikalo


  12. I don’t think those holidays are Christian. For example; we hunt easter eggs, which is a pagan fertility practice. Weird that it still exists yet few know why the practice takes place.

    If we analyze Jesus from a Jewish perspective, and probably should since he was first and foremost Jewish, we would find a few incongruencies in the scriptures.

    Naming God or adorning Churches (Temples) was part of Jesus’ seditous behavior against Rome. Jews also believed that God forbade them to consume blood, which makes the last supper commands dubious.

    I have a feeling that if Jesus walked with us in body, our religion would be less adorned and more pious.
    Pelagian7



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