The Historical Jesus – Part 3 of 3
How should Jesus affect us today?
Have you ever tried to run with your shoes tied together? As I see it, this can only be the result of a few possible scenarios. 1.) You have chosen, or more likely selected to participate in some sort of race at a picnic, possibly with an egg and a spoon, or 2.) you are being forced to take part in a “team-building” exercise, or, 3.) someone with an inflated sense of their own comedic abilities has affixed your shoelaces without your knowledge.
In any case, I’m sure we can all agree that having your shoes tied together is not the optimum way to go on foot. Your shoes are still functional, and movement is still possible, just not at peak performance.
This same idea applies to our view of Jesus – whether it is our view of the Jesus of history or the Jesus of today. (Who, by the way, I believe to be the one and the same). I have often been guilty of tying Jesus’ life, mission, and message too tightly to my own opinions. When we do that, we shackle the vitality of who Jesus really is to our own meager capabilities. Jesus came to change this entire planet, not just to support my narrow views.
So how should Jesus affect us today? My simple answer is: change. We should become better people – people who are more like Jesus Himself – as we follow Him. We should become better, not worse, and not the same. If we encounter Jesus through history, His teaching, or His presence, and remain immovable, then we have certainly missed Him.
If following Jesus makes me miserable to be around, perhaps I am not truly following Jesus at all. Perhaps I have a fashioned a Jesus that makes the world worse. If that is the case, then “the greatest story ever told” becomes a tragedy. This is the equivalent of running with shoes tied together. It is possible, but anyone who has experienced the full stride of the unfastened life that Jesus offers is certain to leave me in the dust.
In His own explanation of His purpose on earth, Jesus talked about change.
JESUS EXPLAINS HIS PURPOSE
The scene begins with Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth. He went into one of the synagogues, like usual, and decided to read Scripture publicly. He chose the scroll of Isaiah and read a familiar passage (we call it Isaiah 61:1-2), and the whole scene is recorded in Luke 4:18-21:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
As He closed the scroll and sat down, He had the full attention of all who were present. As they leaned in to listen to His next words, Jesus finished by saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (v. 21)
In other words, the message from God that Isaiah had reported some 700 years before had come true. It had come true precisely because Jesus had arrived—and His arrival was good news. Jesus was and is the Good News for the entire world – just as described in Isaiah 61 and Luke 4.
- Jesus is good news to the poor: the economic poor, emotional poor, and spiritual poor.
- Jesus is good news to those who are suffering. He taught others how to emulate the healing nature of His voice and touch.
- Jesus is good news to those in captivity. His message and His example provide freedom for all who are imprisoned by the oppression of evil.
- Jesus is good news to those who never experience first place. The advent of His life on earth is accompanied by the Lord’s favor.
Jesus came to change the world, and the way people in the world treat one another. The change Jesus brings is both redemptive and beautiful. The more this change takes place in our own hearts and actions, the more we participate in a universe that Jesus is redeeming back to Himself, and back to the way it was intended to be. This is divine change, and it is the kind of work that only God can do. He wants to bring this change about in us and through us.
This kind of change is neither easy nor safe, however. It was not safe for Jesus, or His followers. And He warned them that would be the case several times before His own death. Tradition tells us that 10 of His 12 closest disciples were also put to death because they followed Him. Another was exiled. But there is a reason they lived recklessly and did not try to avert their impending executions. Because their own encounters with Jesus began a never-ending process of change; a perpetual change that grew them into the maturity of a deep, meaningful, and eternal relationship with their Creator. The threat of losing this life mattered very little, because they believed the life growing in them was of incalculable value. They were growing in and being changed by this mysterious thing that Jesus had called the Kingdom, and it was like a hidden treasure, or an expensive pearl, for which they would give away all they had to keep. Jesus’ impact on them was eternal, just as He is for us.
If Jesus remains in history, the most essential part of His existence is missing. We serve the Jesus of yesterday, today, and forever. I believe that God came to earth in the Person of Jesus smack dab in the middle of our history, so that He might reclaim and redeem history. History is His Story.
Jesus came to bring a new quality to life that is meant to last beyond death. He changed history in an indelible way. He made the world better, and as His followers we should do the same.