What Jesus means to me

Jesus was a real person who lived on this earth in a physical body in the land of Israel, born into a human family of Jewish origin.  He walked and ate and slept and worked and lived and played and grew into adulthood learning the carpenter’s trade and learning the scriptures of his culture and learning who he was.  I believe that over time he came to understand that he was the Messiah—the Jews had been waiting for him for hundreds of years.  How did he come to understand this?  His mother, Mary told him so.  Probably from the time he was a little boy. 

“You are a gift to us.  You were born because an angel came to me and told me you would be not Joseph’s son, but God’s son.  And I know it is true.  I had no relations with your father before you were born, nor with any other man.  The angel told me to not be afraid—and that the spirit of God would overshadow me and I would become pregnant and bear a son—you—and we would call you Jesus—Savior—for you have come to save us.”

How could a little boy understand this?  I believe that as he studied the scripture, God revealed it to him just as he had to Mary and Joseph.  And—he never sinned.  Which means from an early age, he Loved God with all his heart and depended on Him and came to know Him personally from a human vantage point.  Was he tempted?  Absolutely.  In fact, that was the first thing that happened after he publicly began ministering. The Biblical writers tell that he was taken into the wilderness to be tempted by the enemy following his baptism—the baptism where God said, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”  I think Jesus had been tempted before.  And—the enemy was no stranger to him. 

Jesus knew the enemy from long ago. Actually in his God form, Jesus created the being who became the enemy.  The enemy made a terrible mistake when he decided he wanted to be worshipped instead of God.  And—he then wanted to take all of God’s children out of relationship with God so they would worship him instead of God—by giving into selfishness.

Selfishness vs. ultimate self-giving.  That’s what Jesus did.  He emptied himself and made himself nothing so he could come to his created earth and live with his created beings—as one of them—so ultimately he could rescue them from the death of selfishness.  He knows that life is only possible through him.  He created it to begin with.  Death is selfishness turned inward, ultimately imploding, collapsing on itself into oblivion—nothingness, because it has nothing to sustain it.

Life on the other hand is granted by God.  And when life is lived in giving it creates a cycle that grows—that feeds, that builds, that lifts up, that heals, that overcomes fear, that creates meaning, that loves, that is full—abundant is a word used in the Bible.

At just the right time in history, when the greatest impact would be made, according to God’s perfect plan, Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission. He came to set the captives free; give sight to the blind and to make the lame dance and to heal the broken-hearted and to feed the hungry.  And over the course of three years, he devoted himself to just that—and in doing so, taught the people around him the truth about God.  That God is love.  That God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  That God loves his entire creation and each human being personally—more than we can ever know or understand, but that we can experience.  And—God calls out to each one of us to join Him in this time and place we live in called Life on Earth.

 What does it take?  Giving up selfishness.  Following the model of Jesus—who even though He is the Son of God the Creator of the Universe, and is fully God himself—made himself nothing so he could come deliver this message to us personally.  God understands that we are like grass—that we are fragile—that we are broken and incapable of doing anything perfect on our own—and it his lovingkindness and mercy that reaches out to us and says, “I know.  I understand.  I love you anyway, in fact I delight in you—and if you will let me, I will help you.” 

Here is the thing.  He never forces himself on anyone.  Because—that would be selfish.  Even though if anyone had the right to do so, you would think the Creator of the Universe who makes life possible could—but that is not his way.  His way is to ask.  His way is to invite.  And if I am willing to trust him with my life, he will gently lead me—like a little sheep that is lost and has a broken leg and a snotty little nose, and tenderly make himself known to me like a lover.

What does Jesus mean to me?  Learning to live my life in a relationship—where my face turns toward his—letting go of selfishness—stopping trying to do everything around me in a frantic cry for approval to feed my sick need for “self-worth.” Because 1: I can’t.  And 2:  The worth has already been established.  Jesus didn’t just show up on earth to see what would happen.  He came with a plan in mind—and that was to live a human life—entirely selflessly—to the point that his voluntary death would negate the death that my selfish life deserves.  And if I am willing to accept the truth of that—then I can let go and let God.  I can stop trying and start living.  There is a paradox here – because truly living, as Jesus did—and he was the happiest man to ever live on this earth, by the way—is to truly die to self—on a decision by decision basis.  Which flies in the face of every bit of psycho-babble I know—but how happy are those folks, and did any one of them offer to die on behalf of the human race?

Yes it sounds hard, and it requires training: self-discipline, spiritual discipline, study and prayer and patience, but the more I try it, the happier and more peaceful I am, and possibly the more helpful as well.  So—Jesus to me means a lifestyle that is focused on selflessness—if I were to quantify my progress on a “selflessness scale”  I think that would be dangerously close to a selfish act. Probably better not to go THERE—let’s just say I feel I have so very far to go—but in another way, who cares—I’m on the way—and since I’m trusting Jesus as my lover and my guide and my parent and my friend—He’ll bring me through whatever it takes on this side of heaven.

Ok—I said the heaven word.  What a crazy concept that is, especially in our time and culture. As a young person, I was not impressed with what I had been taught. Eternity—wow, that’s so very long.  And what do you do for eternity—umm—sit through interminable church services?  Not to be disrespectful. My view has adjusted over time. Ultimate Creator God has made some beautiful places on this earth.  And if this is the broken version of reality—and if in heaven no one is bound by our current space/time reality—and time is just part of the construct that we live in—basically to give us a chance to choose to freely be with God forever—then the prospects of heaven begin to sound warm and exciting and beautiful. Things here with wars and famines and suffering—don’t.  So, the older I get, and the better I get to know God (because Jesus made that possible) the idea of eternal worship no longer threatens, it invites.  That is God’s way. Most days I no longer dread heaven and death. It will happen. Maybe even today.

So—heaven is part of God’s ultimate plan.  And, like the timing he chose for sending Jesus to the earth as a baby a couple of thousand years ago, he is also timing a return.  Jesus said before he left that he would come back.  And—this time not as a helpless little baby—but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords—in his true position of Creator and Ruler of all.  Wow. Yes the same Jesus who is leading me tenderly with great mercy—has a plan for finalizing this earth in its present state—and renewing it. He promises “a new heaven and a new earth” where there will be no more tears.  And the enemy?  Done for. 

Jesus might come back in your lifetime.  That is one of the reasons I’m writing this. A lot of people believe Jesus was a person who existed in history and he was a good man and taught great wisdom and loved, and la, la, la, la, la.  But—I don’t know if many of those people understand that he’s not done—and he is coming back—and when he does—he will separate those who love him and who have chosen to get to know him as lover and friend from those who have not.  That is a reality of Jesus. Again—everyone gets to choose. He will not force himself—but at some point, this construct of broken, sad earth will be done.  Death will be no more, suffering will end. Wouldn’t it be cool to go on the adventure with Jesus and bring your friends?