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Jesus Who?

No one is more controversial than Him. No one is more loved and hated by so many. He has been the subject of countless songs sung, books written, pictures painted, and stories passed down. His birth was so influential that we use it to divide up history into 2 parts, before Him and after Him.

He’s on Urban Outfitter t-shirts that Ashton Kutcher wears like “Jesus is my homeboy”, and makes frequent guest appearances on TV shows like the Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, and the Colbert Report. Over 100 films have been made about Him, without a single full blooded Jew cast to play His part – and many recent major motion pictures like the Da Vinci Code, Nativity, and the Passion of the Christ have centered on Him. His name is used by people when they are angry without thought. And without hesitation, almost every successful comedian uses Jesus jokes to advance their career while tons of famous athletes have attributed their success to Him.

When it comes to music, John Lennon compared His success with the Beatles to Him, saying that they had become bigger than Jesus. In the 90’s nearly everyone mentioned Him when they won a Grammy. Kanye West talks about Him a lot, Carrie Underwood’s first song ever was about Jesus taking the wheel, and he makes appearances in songs from bands like the Killers, Green Day, and U2. Madonna put herself up on a cross to mock Him during her “Confessions” tour. Brad Paisley says that outside of country music, people think it’s wrong to say Jesus is the answer.

Every year we celebrate his birthday by sitting around a pine tree and giving each other gifts– and we celebrate his death and resurrection by dressing up like bunnies and hiding eggs. All this for a guy who was born 2015 years ago to a low class teenage mom in one of the lightest populated places on the planet. All this for a man that was executed by the Romans just like thousands of other criminals that never got a single sentence in the history books. The book written about Him has sold over 4 billion copies – the best selling book in history. Like Mark Driscoll put it, “He never traveled more than a few hundred miles from His home. He never held a political office, never wrote a book, never got married, never had sex, never attended college, and never won a poker tournament. He died both homeless and poor.” Yet he has generated more conversation and drawn more criticism than almost every other person in history.

Mostly, Jesus has been presented as a nice guy – a mister Rogers of the first century if you will. We have learned to associate Jesus with cool-aid, golden stars for attendance, flannel graph boards, and sugar cookies. He’s a handsome, clean cut, white American who used a flat iron on his flowing brown hair – He likes to stand on street corners holding small children and petting sheep. He wore a beautifully flowing white robe, and spoke with kindness and promoted peace everywhere He went. Yet, people were always plotting to murder Him and He was eventually publicly executed at the demand of His own people.

Famous football players have envisioned Jesus like a linebacker since He endured the beating so well before he was crucified, while other people have seen him as a political revolutionary; sometimes a republican, sometimes a liberal, and sometimes a communist. Some say he was a Jewish pessimist, others say he was among the greatest teachers of His time. Some say He was uneducated, others say He was the most educated you could get. Was he rich, poor, or in the middle class? Was He a Pharisee or did he just despise one sect of Pharisee? Did he conduct Himself more like a grandfather figure or did he look like a hippy? Some say he was a self-absorbed liar that somehow concocted a brilliant movement to change history; some say He was a great teacher; some say He was a crazy man that truly believed He was the son of God; and some actually say that He is the son of God.
And the people who wrote about Jesus only gave us 10% of His life story. We know nothing of what He was like when He was a child, or whether He attended school and eventually became a rabbi, or whether he dropped out and started working with His dad building stuff when He was an early teenager. And when challenged by skeptics, Jesus never gives airtight proof of His identity. Yet one scholar estimates that more books have been written about Jesus in the last 30 years than in the previous 1900 years.

Most people in the US have an opinion of Him; usually a somewhat negative opinion of Him if they only went to church as a kid. And even if they’ve never been in church they have perceptions based on cultural media, what they’ve learned from teachers and parents, and what they’ve seen from skeptics and fanatics. But how many of the perceptions people have about Jesus are true? And how many of us sit in church every single week blinded to who Jesus actually is. No matter who you are, you can’t deny that there is something mysterious about this man, something about him that forever inscribed His name on the pages of the history books. And just like everyone who came before us and everyone who will come after us, we have to answer the question, “What will you do with Jesus”? So I think we should all set out on a journey, examining the question: “Jesus who?”.

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