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Meeting Jesus, Again

The first time I sat down and actually read the Bible when I was about 14 was the first time I loosed the constraints that religion, culture and upbringing had placed on my interpretations of Scripture. I was shocked at what I was actually reading. I’m sure that many out there have felt the same way. As I sat down and read through the Gospel of Matthew, simply because it came first in the New Testament, I started to wonder where the Jesus that I had learned about in children’s Sunday school was. I started to wonder about where all the nice little stories were. I wondered about the simple analogies and songs like “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

The Gospels each have their own slant on Jesus and His ministry. Reading each one gives you a slightly different look at Jesus and the world He lived in, but reading the Gospel of Matthew for the first time was shocking for me because for the first time in my journey of faith I learned that Jesus wasn’t always the nice guy that I had been told that he was. Sure, He healed the sick and preformed miracles, but He also said things like “I come to turn a man against his father” (10:35), “But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you”(11:24), and the words “You hypocrites!” appear more than a few times. Upon a full reading of the Gospel of Matthew, I was certainly unsure if what I had been told to believe for so long was actually true about Jesus. For me, I wasn’t sure if Jesus was somebody that I would necessarily want to meet on the street, let alone someone that I was supposed to be buddies with.

However, meeting Jesus for the second time in the Gospel writings taught me a very valuable lesson about my journey of faith. Spirituality is not necessarily a neat, tidy object that you can fit perfectly in a blue box with a bow. Instead, faith can be sloppy with doctrines and theologies that seem to only lead farther away from the truth instead of closer to it. It can be confusing, with issues of ethics and morality all tied up with beliefs and matters of the heart. Faith can even sometimes be mean, what Paul might call a “righteous anger” that vigorously seeks compassion and justice in a world that can be cold and merciless. Jesus wears many hats in the Gospels. He stands up for the poor and impoverished. He debates with the philosophers and teachers of the day. He opposes governmental oppression. He seeks to establish a new kingdom on earth. Jesus seems to be many men all at once, not only the one I learned about in children’s Sunday school but also the one that I discovered for myself in reading the Bible. It’s no wonder that denominations and Christians can’t always come to a consensus on who Jesus was. It seems that He was a little bit of everything for everybody.

Since that time of first discovering the Gospels, I have discovered many other Jesus caricatures. I have met the historical Jesus. I have met the philosopher Jesus. I have discussed and learned about the Jesus of social justice and the Jesus of evangelical preaching. There seems to be a Jesus that fits almost any paradigm. However, in all the times that I have met Jesus again and again, there is one that I know that I can place my full trust. That is Jesus as my Savior.

What differentiates this picture of Jesus from the others is that the Jesus of salvation is not one that you can put in a box with a bow. He didn’t come to fit into anyone’s particular worldview or to justify any particular political party. Jesus was the Son of God, sent down to bring salvation through the cross. There are many versions of Jesus out there, but when confronted with the Jesus of salvation, there is nothing in the human mind or spirit that can conform. It is a humbling experience to meet this Jesus. There is no handshake or cordial greeting, the only appropriate response is found on your knees.

I still find great enjoyment in learning about new areas of faith and doctrine and I find my mind still constantly searching after who Jesus was. My heart, however, knows exactly who he was. This is the great joy of every Christian. It is not in knowing exactly who Jesus was and what the meaning to everything is. It is simply resting in the salvation of Jesus that lets me roam and wander, but always brings me home.

[Lane Davis dabbles in religion, philosophy, music and literature to name a few. He and his wife live in Montgomery, Ala.]

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