Build-a Bear Jesus
Jesus saw more people walk away from him than toward him. If the success of Christ’s ministry would have been measured by modern day standards he would have been declared a great failure. He didn’t have the numbers. He wasn’t pastor of a great mega-church. He wasn’t surrounded with entertainers. Jesus was aware that he was losing many followers so he asked this question, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” (John 8:43)
Jesus understood why they were leaving: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (John 6:26) Few people want to come to church to hear the hard words of truth but if you pass out free hotdogs many more will be persuaded to come. Paul’s word to Timothy encases the problem perfectly, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Four years ago my wife and I adopted a precious, four month old little boy. It had been a couple decades since I had been connected to the world of infants and toddlers. Kameron received a Teddy Bear as a gift from some friends of ours. I learned that it was a Build-a-Bear product. If I understand correctly, you can pick and choose so as to develop your own creation. You can even put your own voice in the bear!
Isn’t that what so many people are trying to do today with Jesus? They want to create their own Jesus. They decide what he looks like, they decide where he goes and what he says. They worship their own idol and they call him Jesus. I witness a sort of “Jesus Cult” going on in our society. People make a lot of money selling Jesus songs, Jesus T-Shirts and Jesus jewelry. Sometimes I cringe when I see the precious cross of Christ draped around the neck of some of our Hollywood celebrities whose lifestyle is contrary to what he taught.
I used to have a Jack-in-the-Box when I was a child. It had a little lever on its side. When you wanted to play with Jack you just wind the lever and he would pop out of the box. It seems many want to put Jesus in such a box. Wind it up and let him pop out only when it’s convenient or when he won’t cause any embarrassment.
We are enamored with who he is. We are fascinated with Jesus the person but so many have no clue why he came, what his true mission was. They don’t start resisting Jesus until they begin to hear his words. They accept him as an icon for moral living, as an example of love and tolerance but they resist him when he presents himself as the only way to salvation, as the only solution to their problems. Cultural icon, yes. Savior and Lord, no. That’s too hard to accept.
Jesus asked his ‘followers’, “Does this offend you?”. Do my words trouble you? The truth cuts like a two-edged sword. Maybe that’s why we like Christmas so much. Jesus is non-threatening laying in a manger unable to say words.
Jesus spoke only words that were true: He said he was the bread of life, he said he was the only way to the Father, he said he was he only path to heaven, he said he was the living water, the only water that could quench the insatiable thirst in the human soul. He made it simple and there are only two ways to react to his words: rejection….”This is a hard saying, who can receive it?” or acceptance. Jesus asked Peter if he too, would leave and Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”