Friday, March 19, 2010

Crisis of Character - 2

You are who you are. Not just who you think you are or try to present yourself to be to others. The first is reality; all others are mere masks.
And there is nothing like a crisis to strip away those masks and let the truth of who you really are either be exposed to your shame or revealed to His glory.
When I previously wrote in Crisis of Character about our episode with the Olympic SWAT team, I recounted my own spontaneous response to the rapid course of events. There was no time for logical, formulated response: immediate reactions simply flowed from who I am; it was me, for better or worse. In retrospect, I find it hilarious how I tried to evade the approaching gun-toting hoodie by ducking under our steering wheel and locking the door. I mean, he'd already seen us and had the guy been intent on doing us harm, our burrowing down would surely not have saved us. He could have easily shot out the window. But here I was, frantically trying to lock the door!
However, my biggest surprise was our all-too-evident innate and insatiable curiosity to try and see what was happening! Encircled by a task force of a dozen highly-armed gunmen, potentially in the middle of a terrorist shoot-out, and still Erica & I could not resist sticking our noses up above the dashboard to try and figure out what was all going on around us! Even with a highly suspect gunman coming at us, this primary need to know seemed to overrule any possible danger and nothing could keep us crouched down, out of sight. We wanted to see, and our sense of adventure overcame the possible peril.
So we are who we are, even if that means discovering certain traits and qualities about our selves we would rather not own too closely. That's still who we are and before we can change, we need to recognize and acknowledge them.
Jesus confidently knew and consistently demonstrated who He was. Even as man, He was one with The Great 'I AM' and not only clearly proclaimed, 'I AM The Way, The Truth and The Life,' but acted in accordance. He not only stated He and The Father are One, but demonstrated this with all His life. Scripture not only teaches truth about Christ, but also evidences that truth in who Christ was and is. Jesus is The Word of God. The Word made flesh. The Bible's internal evidence elucidates a Man not at all caught up with Himself, but the express image and embodiment of The Father's selfless Love. Scripture does not only talk about love, nor just say Jesus is God's love; it reveals Him to be The Father's Love in word and deed, thought and action.
God is Love. Love in its essence does not look to itself, but to the welfare of others.
Jesus is Love. These are not merely words: hypocritcal double-talk or double-mindedness. He does not only say this; Jesus Himself is the revelation of what He says and His actions clearly and consistently demonstrate this. No duplicity, just simplicity. The Man and His Message are one!
One of the most profoundly beautiful illustrations of this simple, selfless love comes in Jesus' arrest in Gethsemane. This episode is both a richly vivid drama and a poignant black-and-white snapshot of this truth in action. The lines in the battle between Darkness and Light are clear here; evil and good stand in stark contrast. There is no mixture, no grey area, no middle ground. Jesus came into the garden with his disciples to pray; Judas came with troops to prey upon Him. This is the crisis point of Jesus' life and ministry. He had said this is why He came into the world, and here we see His Person fully embrace and fulfill His Purpose. Identity Releases Destiiny in this moving portrait, especially in John's gospel.
John 18:4 recounts that in the face of this menacing attack: perhaps 100 or even more soldiers against 1 unarmed Man,
'Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward.'
Any ordinary man in such a situation would, I believe, be concerned with his own self-preservation and, desiring to protect his own life, turn and run in the opposite direction from such a mob. I would probably seek out any possible escape route or refuge: perhaps a tree, a bush, even under a steering wheel! any hiding place that would afford some shelter from the ensuing trial. But there is no indication of flight here at all. Troops, lanterns, torches, weapons... none of these caused Jesus to flinch from His purpose. He stood His ground.
Knowing 'all things that are about to come upon us' would only be more incentive for us mere mortals to make our escape ahead of time. But Jesus knew the full details of what was awaiting Him beforehand and still He did not run. Rather, He faced the crisis, confronted the confronters and embraced His Cross.
He asked them who they were seeking. They answered, 'Jesus of Nazareth'. He did not to try to evade recognition or hide amongst His group of disciples to avoid capture. His disciples were the opposite of Spartacus' who all proclaimed his name as their own to conceal their leader's identity in their midst. No: these disciples rather forsook Him and fled for their own lives while one of His own, Judas, had already singled him out with a kiss.
When Jesus replied, 'I AM HE', the soldiers did not advance to arrest Him. Quite the opposite: John says they drew back and fell to the ground! An amazing reversal of the naturally to-be-expected roles! Were Jesus only a mere man facing such a crisis: an entire detachment threatening, his own disciples sleeping, confused and even betraying Him, He could not have stood. In this scene with all against Him, you'd think Jesus would be the one falling back, trying to avoid capture, but NO! He's the one advancing towards them! and they're the ones falling back!
Then, as they tried to pick themselves up from the ground, He again answered them, 'I AM the one; so if you seek me, then let these others go their way.'
Not only does He make no attempt here to rally his sleeping troops, but Jesus does all He can to clarify their non-involvement and secure their release. Furthermore, He mounts no self-defense at all. Most would cry out like the woman driver in my story, 'What's going on here? We haven't done anything wrong! It's not fair! We were just here for a snooze in the park!'
Quite clearly, Jesus had no intention of defending Himself: He had a much bigger view in mind. He knew what this drama was all about. He had come to die and nothing was going to deter this. There was no self here to protect; never had been and never will be. He is God and has nothing to prove. His life speaks. The time had come. As a lamb led to the slaughter, He was dumb to His shearers. He did not protest, but rather submitted to the process. He gave His life and enacted The New Covenant in His Blood.
Jesus went forward and so must we. His Church can neither continue sleeping nor falling back. We must press forward. Weighing possible detriment to our own reputations if we stand and follow only exposes us as cowardly hypocrites. Nor can we react as Peter; such violence betrays the very spirit of the One we say we follow. He is I AM WHO I AM and so we must allow Him to live WHO HE IS in and through us. His purity, integrity and humility are essential commodities in even contemporary North American Christian life. They are neither fashionable, expendable nor negotiable; they are His ever necessary costly evidences of His Presence.
Jesus initiated and established His New Covenant: the Kingdom of God is now unfolding in the drama of human history. His Passion was no mere play, but Act I of an entirely new revolutionary reality. His followers are not mere actors called to mouth His lines on life's stage, but to live out His Word as led by His Spirit through who we are in Him and He is us. Agents of revelation. Ambassadors of decisive change, bringing on earth as it is in heaven. He went forward, His Kingdom continues to move forward and so must we. Let us pull down strongholds, move mountains and crash gates of hell -- for His glory!


  1. It's cetainly a gospel that has relevance for -- today. I'm glad that I don't have to wait for some day down the road when everything will be all better.

  2. There is a cynical saying that often carries some truth."Those that can,do.
    Those that can't,teach." Acts gives us the account " of all that Jesus began to do AND TEACH. No duplicity in Him.
    To be honest,sometimes i have to say,"i'm not claiming,i'm aiming!"
    Thanks ,Henry for the good teaching and a life that models it. Joe