May 8, 2009 § 2 Comments
Years ago, when we worked with Young People, we took them to Central Florida for a huge outdoor performance of the Passion Play. As the title implies it was a re-enactment of the sufferings and resurrection of Jesus. For decades Youth ministries from the region (including the one I grew up in) would travel to Lake Wales just to see the Floridian equivalent of the silver screen blockbuster, ‘King of Kings’ starring Jeffrey Hunter (the original Captain Christopher Pike, of the first USS Enterprise on Star Trek, in a later episode, I might add).
On this particular night however, shortly after the play opened, rain began to fall. In fact it poured, and it didn’t take long for the play to close and for someone to come take the stage and offer rain checks for another show. But we were on the first leg of a three-day retreat with our Young People. There would be no opportunity for us to see the Passion Play the next evening, so after the rain died down I left the stands and behind the stage, to the dressing rooms where I found the actor who played Jesus removing his makeup. He also happened to own the Passion Play and the people at the ticket booth told me that he had to approve any refund.
The funny thing is that even as I was talking with this guy I couldn’t get past the fact that he was dressed in a white robe with all the ‘Jesus’ trappings about him. Unfortunately that is where the similarities ended. The man wasn’t about to give up the money he had just collected. So there, backstage, for about fifteen minutes I fought with Jesus for our money. And amazingly, he finally relented.
To this day I still laugh out loud about that incident. But it struck me this week (as I recounted the story to our Staff), that where this man was uncomfortable with my resistance, the real Jesus never would be. In fact I think He invites our fight and is always ready for us to come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30), because there is something deeply honest and intimate about someone who has issues with God, and then takes them to Him before sterilizing themselves with religious buffers. Jesus’ offer in Matthew 11 comes in the context of His denouncements of weighty legalists, so the promise of ‘rest’ is an assurance that regardless of what we ever bring, the response will always be laced with His Mercy.
A willingness to take Jesus on is evidence that we are God’s sons and daughters, or that we are headed in that direction. Only because He is real, Jesus invites our fight, but also our sorrows, our weaknesses, our failures and our cries. It isn’t an either-or thing. Any true relationship demands the entire package.
My guess is that the Jesus I fought with gave in because he was old and tired. He was the same guy who played Christ when I was a kid and so up close he looked old and weary. He no longer had it in him to go 10 rounds. But the real Jesus does – and He invites us to ‘bring it on.’ The Faith is that personal and we couldn’t have it any other way.