when i was jesus

The flash of Judas’ eyes. People being healed. John, my beloved disciple, standing next to my mother, Mary. The calming of the storm. The confused look on Mary’s face in the garden. The realization of the truth overwhelming Thomas’s doubt. I saw it all – with my own eyes. You see, I used to be Jesus.

Now before you ring the psychiatric department, let me explain. I was active in a very large church with a vision to present the gospel to our community during the Easter season, so we regularly produced rather elaborate Easter productions. Since I was tall, dark and bearded, with some acting experience, I was chosen to play Jesus.

I realized that this was a great privilege, and threw myself into studying the Gospels and other literature to properly portray Jesus. As an actor, along with just learning lines and blocking, I tried as best I could to “become” Jesus to properly portray him to the audience. Little did I realize then what a lasting influence being Jesus would have on my life.

Of course, there are the many fond memories, since working on a major production brings people very close together. Imagine a room full of fifty adult men all trying to put on Queen-sized, control-top pantyhose for the first-time (my wife’s idea – it was much less messy than leg make-up.) Or the rehearsal where I, as Jesus, was a few seconds late for my resurrection appearance. Our pastor, the narrator, ad-libbed “and as they were gathered together Jesus came and appeared among them saying . . . ‘Sorry I’m late, boys!’” Then there was the rehearsal of the calming of the storm scene when Peter fell out of the boat. And who would have guessed that an off-stage romance would lead to Mary Magdalene marrying Judas!

But this past Good Friday, as a small group of believers gathered to remember our Lord’s passion, a flood of strong, significant memories nearly overwhelmed me. And I realized that I had a unique perspective of the Lord’s Passion Week. These are some of the things I remember from when I was Jesus.

As I broke the bread and passed the cup, I realized that I would never again see these twelve men before I died. They were talking among themselves, some laughing, some quiet, but, oh, how I longed to make eye contact with each one of them as they took the bread and wine. Some did, but others were too busy to notice me. Oh, how that burned in my soul! And those with whom I did make eye contact . . . didn’t seem to understand.
Judas was sitting just to my left. He was talking and enjoying the food like all the others. Until I handed him the bread. He was smiling as I handed it to him, but his smile faded, and as he rose his eyes flashed and his smile had turned to a sneer. The utter contempt that he felt for me at that moment was written clearly on his face. As he ran from the room, I wondered if there was anything else that I could have done for Judas. But it was too late now, there was no turning back. The grand scheme had been set in motion.

During Christ’s crucifixion, the nails were driven not through the palms of His hands, as Hand Ligamentsis typically depicted. Bearing the full weight of His body, the nail would have ripped through the flesh and of his hand and He would have fallen from the cross. Rather, the nails were driven through what we now call the wrist. You can feel the depression in the front and back, just below the heel of your hand. By driving the nails here, the bone and ligaments would be strong enough to hold the weight of the human body indefinitely. This small depression also happens to be where the ulnar nerve leads to the hand. As the nail drove through and destroyed the nerve, the white-hot pain would shoot at least to the elbow, perhaps as far as the shoulder.

As I hung on the cross, even through the pain I saw those who had gathered. So many were jeering and taunting. But I sought out and locked onto the familiar faces, two weeping women to my left. Further back, I spotted John – he was here with me! And he had his arm around my mother, Mary. I could hardly look at her, the horror and agony on her face – I felt such shame. I was bloodied, undressed, helpless. Why did she have to see me like this?

My breathing became more labored as I tired. Each breath I had to push up with my legs to pull the air into my lungs. The mind becomes very active, many thoughts flash by as death approaches. And there was the realization that I was alone, so alone. My Father had abandoned me! The weight, the pain, the shame were mine alone. And my Father had left. Eloi! Eloi! Lama sabacthani! Why? Why have you forsaken me? I need you more than ever now!

Father, look at them – they have no idea what they are doing. Forgive them.

Into Your hands I commit my spirit! The victory is won! And I hung my head in death. The silence pressed upon me. It was as if no one were breathing in this whole great room. I could hear the weeping, the wailing of the women as they took my body down from the cross and carried me to my grave.
Paragraph separatorLater, I saw Mary walk slowly, hesitantly toward the tomb where they had laid her Lord. She had been crying. I stepped out where she could see me, but she didn’t recognize me. She fell at my feet confused, despondent. She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and asked if I knew where they had taken His body. I just smiled. And I felt that wonderful expectancy when a loved one is about to open a special gift that you know they are going to love. That moment of tension, wanting to prolong it just a bit longer in anticipation of knowing the joy that was about to come. I simply said her name, “Mary!” The shock, the surprise as she looked at me again, but this time she saw! She knew me!
Paragraph separatorThomas swore he would not believe I was alive again unless he saw me with his own eyes and was able to touch my wounds. So, I came and stood before him and gently held out my hands to him. In an instant, I watched as he recognized me. I saw the confusion followed by the fear. Then he fell on his face before me. I was filled with joy because this was right – this was exactly what Thomas needed.

In the same way, Jesus is watching you. He is studying you, hoping you will notice Him. He wants you to see Him, to respond to Him, to see you understand who He is and adore Him. May you see Jesus today. May your eyes be opened to Him more and more each day and may you bring Him great joy!


don’t skip steps

To further illustrate faith-sized requests, I’d like to give you the experience of a married couple who moved into a new neighborhood. One of the first requests Mary and Jack made was, “Lord, we’d like to get acquainted with our neighbors, and if they don’t know You personally as their Saviour, we’d like to introduce them to You.”

That was a fine request and right in line with what Cod wanted to do. But it was the description of a goal to be reached, not a step to take. They got down to business then, and took the first step.

“Lord,” prayed Jack, “I’d like to meet the fellow living next door in some casual way and begin to get acquainted with him. I’d like to begin today, and I believe You can arrange it for me. Thank you, Lord.” Mary agreed with Jack in her prayer, and gave thanks with Him.

The morning had scarcely turned to afternoon when the answer came. Their children got into a quarrel over a tricycle with the neighbor’s children. Both fathers rushed to the scene. Jack took all the blame for his children, and put out his hand, “I’m Jack M., just moved in, glad to meet you.” The first request had been answered. The first step had been taken.

The second step: “Lord, I’d like to know what that man is interested in, so we could become friends.” The answer came within two days. He was interested in football.

The third step: “Lord, I need two complimentary football tickets, and could I have them by this weekend, please.” The tickets came. The friendship grew.

The fourth step: “Lord, I’d like to invite this new friend to the Bible class I teach a few miles from here. Would You put it in his heart to accept when I ask him to go with me tonight?” He accepted. All the way over as they drove, they talked about football. All the way home they talked about Jesus Christ, and what it meant for Him to become one of us . . . God became a Man.

The fifth step: “Lord, Mary and I would like to invite my friend and his wife to our home some evening this week and have a little talk and Bible reading together.” The friends came, and they read and talked quietly together.

The sixth step, “Lord, next week when I ask them over again, will You prepare their hearts, so that they will be ready to accept You as their Saviour? I believe this is the time to ask for this, and I thank you for all You’ll be doing in the meantime to draw them to Yourself.” When the next week came, the neighbors willingly and gladly accepted Jesus Christ.

This method also works in matters of guidance about getting a job, taking a trip, buying or selling a house, getting married, writing a book, or anything you may think of yourself, large or small.

Rosalind Rinker, Prayer – Conversing with God, page 71-72.


what are you praying for?

About the time I began to be aware of honesty and simplicity and brevity in audible prayer, I listened carefully when others prayed, and also checked myself after I had prayed. I asked myself these questions:

For what definite thing had I prayed?

Did I believe that I would get it?

Could I picture myself receiving it?

The tragic answer was, that I wasn’t asking anything definite, and I wasn’t receiving anything definite. I was merely praying platitudes, “Lord, bless my family in America, and bless the Chinese pastors working in Shanghai, and bless . . . and bless . . . and bless . . . .” The words bless and blessing do get a workout when people pray! But what exactly are we asking for? Are we asking for anything? Are we talking to anyone? Are we expecting an answer from Him?

Rosalind Rinker, Prayer – Conversing with God, page 69.


we don’t learn to pray in six easy lessons

I was more convinced than ever that people do want to pray, and all that is needed is simple instruction at the personal level, and an opportunity to pray. We don’t learn how to pray in six easy lessons, we learn to pray by praying.

Rosalind Rinker, Prayer – Conversing with God, page 44.


piety: ignorance, inability or intent

If you were here to stop and ask yourself why you are not as Pious as the Primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance or inability, but purely because you never really intended it.

Quoting William Law
C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 61


disciple making defined

I offer my personal definition of disciple-making. It is simply this: “Out of my love for God, using my gifts and talents, to multiply the character and priorities of Christ in as many people as possible.”

Dann Spader, 4 Chair Discipling, pp. 126


evil is that which kills spirit

When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is also that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life – particularly human life – such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may “break” a horse or even a child without harming a hair on it head. Erich Fromm was acutely sensitive to this fact when he broadened the definition of necrophilia to include the desire of certain people to control others – to make them controllable, to foster their dependency, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredictability and originality, to keep them in line. Distinguishing it from a “biophilic” person, one who appreciates and fosters the variety of life forms and the uniqueness of the individual, he demonstrated a “necrophilic character type,” whose aim it is to avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into obedient automatons, robbing them of their humanity.

Scott Peck, People of the Lie, p. 42-43


never closer than when pruning

One of the most critical times to prune is early in the branch’s history. Failure to prune early will result in a weak root system, which can cause the branches to become a tangled web of foliage unable to produce enough sap to bear fruit. If not pruned, a branch will eventually die a premature death. But if pruned carefully, though, its life span and fruitfulness dramatically increases.

A typical young branch will surface ten to twelve buds that can become clusters of grapes. But early on, it will need to be pruned back to two or three buds, in order to product rich, luscious clusters of grapes. Two or three luscious clusters is preferable to ten or twelve mediocre clusters. Interestingly, the gardener is never closer to the branch than when he is pruning it. Each branch is unique, so each branch needs to be carefully analyzed in order to be pruned most effectively. The gardener scrutinizes each branch, because he knows than an abundant harvest is at stake.

Dann Spader, 4 Chair Discipling, p 118-119.


xmas and crissmas

I have always loved this obscure piece written by C. S. Lewis. I hope you enjoy it as well.

A LOST CHAPTER FROM HERODOTUS


And Beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north-western parts of Europe though they do no agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. Bur the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them, And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, the throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as Exmas gifts. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, the become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, I Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, It is, O Stranger, a racket; using (I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis.)

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

C. S. Lewis


sacrifice clearer than worship and prayer

The extent of our sacrifice coupled with the depth of our joy displays the worth we put on the reward of God. Loss and suffering, joyfully accepted for the kingdom of God, show the supremacy of God’s glory more clearly in the world than all worship and prayer.

John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 232