Who knew that all those times you've sunk your teeth into some sushi you've likely been supporting a self-proclaimed Messiah's dream (i.e. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church). Lately, I've been noticing stories such as this on an increasing basis. Not about sushi lords, but just about people with a Messiah-complex. Jesus warned us about those who would come after him and claim to be a savior. Author, James Tabor, is now questioning much of what we hold true about Jesus Christ. In Jesus Dynasty, he says that in fact Jesus never claimed to be a Messiah and was a twin-messiah, with intentions of building an earthly kingdom. What will they think of next?
Time and Newseek and CNN cover stories about the historicity of Jesus Christ. Mass culture is exposed to movies and books that illuminate the life of this man we know as Jesus Christ and bring to the forefront of American culture's mind many questions about this man. And of course there is the battle between the right and the left over what it really means to emulate Jesus Christ in the context of faith-based politics. Liberals would argue that conservatives have sacrficed loving like Christ in the name of holiness. (see Francis Schaeffer for a discussion on the harmony of love and holiness). Our current President is certainly widely known for his faith in Jesus Christ. We even see President Clinton and Senator Clinton talking about Jesus in recent dialogues about the realities of value-based voting in America. And who could forget Buddy Jesus?
The reality is this. Jesus is on the brain of American culture. Whether he is living in the hearts of Americans is an entirely different debate. But Jesus Christ was a real man. He was a man who claimed to be the Messiah. He went so far as to tell us that he is the only Messiah--the only way to a restored relationship with God.
C.S. Lewis offers his thoughts on Jesus:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon and you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Let's not get wrapped up in false claims, irreverant behavior or the debate over "Christ-likenss" of right and left wing individuals, but instead fix our eyes on truth. Open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, the Good Book says.
I suppose it is only fitting to write a piece about Jesus Christ, with today being Passover and Good Friday and Easter Sunday just around the corner. On this day, two thousand years ago, Jesus enjoyed his last big meal with his disciples, his compadres, his brothers. He tried to help them open their eyes a bit more on that evening, in the upper room. He tried to help them see that he came not to be served, but to serve. And that is what sets Jesus apart. I love John's account of the Last Supper, because he includes the part where Jesus totally forsakes his position as King of the universe and humbles himself to wash the feet of his followers. And He was their teacher!
This is what sets Jesus apart from any other man who has ever walked this earth and claimed to be the Messiah. In my mind, there is no question about choosing between the three options that Lewis presents. Lunatic, Devil or Son of God? I'll take Son of God, Messiah. He showed us his love time and time again. It was NEVER about him. After Peter felt so awkard for having Jesus wash his feet and tried to refuse him, Jesus replied, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." And that is why he came. That is why Easter is celebrated. It's not about Easter eggs, as fun as the hunt may be. It's about sucking up your pride and letting the Rabbi--the Teacher, the Master-- wash you clean.
The disciples may or may not have eaten sushi on that pivotal evening, but they certainly got more than they were hoping for, or could have ever expected.