Approaching the Mystery of Jesus' Personality ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, April 25, 2008

Approaching the Mystery of Jesus' Personality

Over the centuries, about a bajillion historians and Christians have coveted the experience enjoyed by guys like Peter, James, John, and the other disciples of Christ--but talking shop with Jesus back in Palestine would have been a mixed blessing. You probably don't believe me, so to prevent you from bailing too quickly, try this argument on for size: My wife agrees with me.

How 'bout them apples? Shall we continue now?

Lindsay actually provoked this post. While reading the gospel of Mark, she suggested that spending time with the real, flesh-and-blood Son of God would have had some disadvantages. That made me pause for a second, but my wife is far too long-suffering to be a heretic, so I played along. And here's where it got me.

Consider: When you're around Jesus, watching him heal and listening in on his parable workshops, imagine the magnetism. God in human form must have had a dizzying, mysterious quality, must have been a riveting hidden picture book of a man. You would stare and stare and never get to the bottom of him.

The disciples didn't have a complete handle on it until he was gone, but Jesus' perfection must have had a hypnotic fascination for those who observed him. No wonder his disciples followed him around like little kids or friendly dogs. There was something about him that didn't fit the contours of a normal human, as if his edges were blurry like a woven skater shirt or like the circumference of the sun, too bright to make out.

The disciples stared, trying to understand why their eyes kept tricking him, why the outline of Christ's life didn't resolve itself into a recognizable pattern. Surely he was a prophet, or if not a prophet, a rabbi, or if not a rabbi, a political Messiah. But no, the legendary Jewish archetypes didn't fit...

This must have been maddening, as there was only one of Jesus and multitudes of bewildered, staring people, trying to pin him down with their glances, trying to guess what his game was, trying to find his depth--and there was only so much elbow room to go around. Most of them gave up on Jesus because he was too hard to sort. Too complex, too demanding. If "normal people" couldn't figure his gig, he could be up to no good.

We grow to know Jesus, year after year, as he changes us from the inside out. And I suspect that this is a more steady, less infuriating process than what the people had in Palestine.

In purely physical and historical terms, you know how the story ended. People who make no sense to their shallow constituency typically get the axe. But fortunately for us, the mystery surrounding Jesus' personality has changed somewhat. Not so much in its essential, perplexing allure, but in our proximity to it. And the fact of Christ's physical murder and subsequent resurrection was what changed our role from spectators to participants.

When Jesus returned to Heaven, to the dimension that surrounds and holds ours up, he sent his Spirit, invisible but strong, to empower us. Jesus the man doesn't walk the earth these days but we have the Spirit of Jesus. This Spirit lives inside each of his people, making Christ gradually explicable as he teaches via transformed lives. He reveals himself to us as he mends and heals us, and this is what the church calls sanctification. We grow to know Jesus, year after year, as he changes us from the inside out. And I suspect that this is a more steady, less infuriating process than what the people had in Palestine.

The question is how we'll approach this offer of inner-circle discipleship. The person of Jesus is still this magnetic riddle, this mystery of embodied divinity. Once brushed up against, his is a personality that calls for response. There are at least three ways we can respond to Jesus, I think.

We can come to him like the political power-mongers of his day, fascinated and enraged, like moths to light. We can come like the bored crowds, hungry for food and a spectacle, like brats to a carnival. Or we can come like those who were badly off and knew it, afraid but hopeful, like infants about to walk.

Only the last group will enjoy the acquaintance, because, as the disciples discovered, to know Jesus and enjoy the benefits is life-consuming. Anything less is merely crumbs and ashes. But to know him, encounter him as he really is? In the biblical language, that's Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Fountain of Youth. That's really living. That's what we were all made for.

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gehnnawarrior137 said...

Pure genius :D yea but my curiosity would get me i think it would have been a trip to meet the living god. I mean the more i talk to him and learn about him the more i change deep down at my core, its a mixed blessing kind of a how deep does the rabbit hole go type of thing and once you go down it..... theres no coming back. But then again ive never been much for the ignorence is bliss thing. Jesus is so complex that hes simple is the best way for me to explain it. To encompass all that knowledge and depth all you realy need to understand is he stands for love and apposes anything on the other side of that fence. Alls i hope is that in some way shape or form hes at least a little proud to have me as a follower and i hope im not screwing things up too horribly lol. long live the real king jesus :D, nice blog guys (and girls) ;)


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife