Last Wednesday morning at the annual meeting of the Contributing Editors of the Christian Standard I encountered Jesus again.
I’ve known Jesus for as long as I can remember.
I first met him at home through the stories my parents told me about him. The Jesus my parents introduced me to was brave, strong, manly, kind, gentle, holy, loving, humble, and heroic. I knew he was someone I wanted to get to know better.
My first official encounter with Jesus outside of my home was in Sunday School. Jesus was on flannelgraph and in the hands of the teacher of my pre-school Sunday School class. He looked kind, tall, poised, important, and stiff. I was so eager to know more about him, but I could see he was busy teaching some adults, so I decided I’d just talk to him later.
Later I saw Jesus in the hallway of a church building. I remember the picture looked brown and Jesus wasn’t smiling. He looked liked he was contemplating something. He looked very serious . . . and backlit . . .and wimpy. He didn’t look like the man my parents told me about. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get to know this Jesus. He didn’t seem very approachable.
In High School Jesus and I got to be really close. He became a great friend who walked with me to class, sat next to me in the cafeteria, and read his book in my room while I went out with my friends from school on Friday night. We had a pretty comfortable arrangement: He agreed to be there when I wanted, or needed him, and I agreed that I would hang out with him on Sundays and on Thursdays at FCA and that during the rest of the week I’d try not to do anything to embarrass him.
In College I got to know Jesus a whole lot better. The Jesus I met in Bible College was the same Jesus my parents introduced me to. He was inspirational, powerful, and amazing . . . just like I remembered him. I loved getting to know Jesus again. During this time he changed my life forever, so I decided that I would spend the rest of my life introducing people to him.
Jesus and I have spent a lot of time together in the 15 years since I graduated from Bible College, but I recently realized that I had been taking him for granted and kind of forgotten who he really is. I love him . . . more than I ever have and I still tell people about him almost every day. I wake up each day thinking about him and spend each moment trying to know him more and trying to help others to do the same. I’m really comfortable around him . . . at least I was until last Wednesday morning.
In his morning devotions Paul Williams (Editor-at-Large for the Christian Standard) reminded us of the time when a storm came up on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus and his disciples were in a boat (Matthew 8:23-27). The disciples were frightened, but Jesus was sound asleep, so they went and woke him up crying out, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He spoke to the storm and it stopped immediately. The disciples responded by asking, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him?”
I thought they knew him.
I thought I knew him.
If we did, we’d know that he has the power to stop a furious storm with a whispered word.
Paul followed this story–and ended his devotion–by quoting a poem by Mary Oliver entitled, “Maybe.”
Sweet Jesus, talking his melancholy madness,
stood up in the boat
and the sea lay down,
silky and sorry.
So everybody was saved that night.
But you know how it is
when something different crosses
the threshold — the uncles
the women walk away, the young brother begins
to sharpen his knife.
Nobody knows what the soul is.
It comes and goes like the wind over the water —
sometimes, for days,
you don’t think of it.
Maybe, after the sermon, after the multitude was fed,
one or two of them felt
the soul slip forth
like a tremor of pure sunlight before exhaustion,
that wants to swallow everything,
gripped their bones and left them
miserable and sleepy, as they are now, forgetting
how the wind tore at the sails
before he rose and talked to it —
tender and luminous and demanding as he always was —
a thousand times more frightening
than the killer storm.
There he was again . . . the Jesus I first met . . . the Jesus I used to know . . . the Jesus I want to spend my life serving, loving, worshipping, and introducing other people to: tender, luminous, demanding, a thousand times more frightening than the killer storm.
He is my friend, but he’s also God.
He is my helper, but he’s also my Judge.
He is loving, but he is also frightening.
And, although he is knowable, we must never forget who he really is.