Today I am posting my highlighted bits from chapter 1 of Michael Frost's book 'Jesus the Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ.' The title of this chapter is "Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up!" Frost uncovers some different ways we see Jesus in the world. He makes this astute observation early on:
"Some skeptics believe that in their desire to promote faith in Jesus, the Gospel writers were inclined to myth-making and embellishment. With such a motive, you would expect they would have presented a very impressive, almost unreal picture of him. If the Gospel writers were into perpetuating the embellished memory of a dead rabbi (in much the same way that Elvis still lives according to many 'experts' in America), you would expect that they would portray him in a way that befitted a great religious leader of superior, godly qualities. Not so. Rather, they depicted Jesus as a remarkably human and multifaceted man. The reality of the man, Jesus, couldn't possibly have been made up by those wanting to develop some cult of personality around him.
The Gospels show him to be a man who was continually frustrated, occasionally angry, a man who was at times scared, sad and dreadfully lonely. He is presented with such a refreshing and honest realism they could not have made him up! The Gospel writers were hardly the priests of a new cultus; rather, they were accurate reporters, dedicated to the presentation of the facts surrounding this strange and wonderful man who had so thoroughly transformed their lives.
Later Frost shares this story:
"M. Scott Peck, in his book 'Further Along the Road Less Traveled,' records Baptist theologian Harvey Cox's telling of the story of Jesus raising a Jewish leader's daughter from the dead (Luke 8:40-56). As Jesus and his companions are heading for the home of the dying girl, a woman who has been hemorrhaging for years breaks from the crowd and touches his robe in the hope that she too will be healed.
Jesus reels around and demands to know who touched him. The cowering woman owns up, and Jesus, feeling compassionate for her having endured years of unspeakable suffering, heals her and continues on his way to the house where the young girl has since died.
Having related this story (no doubt in greater detail than I just did), Cox asked his audience of 600 Christian healers and therapists with whom they most identified. The bleeding woman? The anxious father? The curious crowd? Or Jesus? What Cox found was that around a hundred felt they could relate to the desperate woman; several hundred identified with the father whose daughter was dying; the majority identified with the perplexed group standing by. And six - yes, six - people felt they could identify with Jesus.
Peck's point in recounting this experience is that there is something seriously wrong with Christianity when only one in every hundred Christians can identify with Jesus. Have we made Jesus so divine, so other-worldly that we cannot connect with him anymore? He suggests that this leads to the excuse that we can't really be expected to follow Jesus because we perceive ourselves way down here and Jesus way up there, beyond identification. Says Scott Peck: "That is exactly what we're supposed to do! We're supposed to identify with Jesus, act like Jesus, be like Jesus. That is what Christianity is supposed to be about: the imitation of Christ.""
The author also talks about a valuable communication lesson he learned while teaching in college, which is how Jesus communicated:
"When predictability is high, the degree of communication that takes place is invariably low. Alternatively, as predictability decreases, so communication increases. The more unpredictable, unorthodox, surprising the communicator, the better he or she communicates. If an audience thinks it knows what you're about to say and you go ahead and say it, they will switch off. But if they're pretty sure they know what's coming next and you turn on them with a surprising application or a shocking illustration, they will be chastened to ever-increasing levels of understanding."
Frost also shares an exercise he once did while preaching. He asked the members of the congregation to close their eyes and picture Jesus in their mind. Then he asked if anyone wanted to share...
"One young man imagined himself arriving at the room where Jesus was having the Last Supper. At first, he felt conspicuous and wanted to leave, but he noticed Jesus looking up and his face beaming as he noticed the intruder. His eyes lit up and he was so welcoming that the young intruder felt like a long lost son returning to his father after a long absence. Here was Jesus the father-like figure, offering warmth and acceptance."
He shared other stories too, but that one reminded me of something I experienced when I first started meditating. The counselor I was seeing prescribed that I listen to this recording three times a day. It asks you to picture Jesus in several different scenarios. It is very refreshing to see him with a smile on his face, welcoming you, happy to see you, putting an arm around you. I like that.
This was a good chapter. I think it's good for us to have our minds blown by Jesus now and then. I think it's necessary. Good stuff.