Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:19-21 (NIV)
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus
You may have all this world
Give me Jesus.
American Negro Spiritual
Back in the seventies, there was a commercial for Memorex cassettes. At the beginning, you had jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald singing at a recording studio; her voice was being taped onto a Memorex cassette. There was also a wineglass in the studio that broke when Ella hit a high note. Then when Ella stopped singing, someone replaced the broken wineglass with another one; then they replayed Ella’s singing on the Memorex cassette. This time, when Ella’s high note came over the speakers, the second glass broke as well. At the commercial’s end, you hear and see the memorable tagline: “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”
I ask myself this question when I see the “Jesus” 21st Century Churchianity displays in front of the world. We talk about our churches being places where we can find Jesus, but are we presenting-though our actions and words-the “live” Jesus, or a “Memorex” (a facsimile) Jesus? Sad to say, I find that I get the latter variety, someone that looks and sounds like Jesus, but isn’t the “Real McCoy”.
I want the “live” Jesus: the itinerant rabble-rouser who embodied the Divine; who lived fully (despite the constant threats and dangers he faced); who loved wastefully those who didn’t return his love; who spoke truth to power; who reached out to society’s marginalized with the Good News of God’s (very present) King/Queendom; and in the end gave of himself as a loving response to the sins he encountered. This is the Jesus who lives today in all of his people when they live and love as he did. This Jesus speaks to me daily with power, love and hope. This was the welcoming Jesus, who accepted all: from his devoutly Jewish disciples to a Pagan Roman Centurion whose servant he healed without reservation.
But too often I see the mealy-mouthed, sanitized straw-man “Jesus” who is perfect for the fundagelicals out there who want someone “safe”. They want a Jesus who will only come to the marginalized after they get “saved”. A Jesus who preached a coming Kingdom of God (in some future time), which he’ll head riding a white horse and in armor (see Revelation). A Jesus who’ll speak their words so he will exonerate the sins that he “died” for. A “sinless” Jesus that is a “blood sacrifice” to appease “God”, thus allowing his followers to use violence when necessary; or consign non-Christians to some eternal torture chamber called “Hell”. To me, this is a Jesus who’s powerless, hopeless, and needs to stay dead.
Give me the “Live” Jesus. You can keep the facsimile. Better yet, let’s chuck the facsimile and live out the Live one for all the world to see.
Then the world will know we are his disciples. Peace!