It’s 10:30 on Sunday night and I sat down to quickly finish the post that I began on Saturday. It was one paragraph long. Somehow I had convinced myself that I had begun a lengthy post and all I needed was a little time to complete it. Sigh.
But I was set on posting something, so post something I will. I was going to start this week by posting some thoughts on Jesus and his life and his death. It seemed like the perfect way to mark this week. Blogging through Lent has been such a blessing to me, but I haven’t actually spent any time blogging about Lent itself, so I thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to do that.
When I think of Lent and Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter) I think about the stories. I think about the stories of Jesus’ life and how it culminates in his arrival in Jerusalem, his celebration of the Passover with his disciples, his night of anguished prayer in the garden, his arrest, his trial, his death and then his resurrection.
But I think that I would like to spend this week talking more about the resurrected Jesus – the Jesus that is much harder to see and much harder to grasp because he no longer walks among us in a human body. He is spirit.
I have heard stories about Jesus appearing to people in dreams and in visions. I have heard stories about people seeing a man in a vision who they later find out is Jesus even though they’d never heard of Jesus when they saw the vision. But I don’t have any remarkable stories like that to share.
My experience of the risen Jesus has been much less concrete and much more intangible. It seems to me strange to talk about a dream or a vision as being tangible, but even though it isn’t something that can be touched and experienced with the physical senses, it is something that is experienced through the imagination in the mind and this can be so powerful at times as to be almost concrete.
My experience has been the kind of felt experience that comes from within in such a way that it is only through faith that I can even say that it is Jesus. I cannot answer questions like, “What did he look like?” or “What did he say?” I can only say how I felt and how it changed me or moved me.
I’ve always felt underwhelmed by this experience of mine because I recognize that it is not as compelling as a more concrete experience, such as a dream or a vision or some miraculous encounter. On the other hand, unless there is some kind of evidence of such an experience these types of experiences leave anyone open to simply be disbelieved. Anybody can lie about a dream or a vision, and I’m sure that there are people who do.
So, really, once Jesus has left this earth (as he has) the strength of our testimony about our experience of him is very tenuous. It is always subject to being believed or not believed, and so as I write this I find myself coming back to one of the things that Jesus said to his disciples before he died as recorded in the gospel of John.
It’s in chapter 13 where there is a long record of all the things that Jesus said to his disciples on the night when he celebrated the Passover with them prior to his death – the Last Supper as it is known. It is a beautiful passage that I love dearly, and one of the things that Jesus says is that, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus speaks to this whole problem with real clarity. The problem of our credibility as far as our experience of the risen Jesus is solved by a very simple (if not easy) thing – how we love each other. You might interpret this to mean that Jesus is saying that people will know his disciples in the way that the love everyone around them, but you could also make a strong case that he’s not even talking about it so broadly – he’s actually suggesting that people will recognize them as his disciples simply by the way that they love each other.
So maybe my experience of Jesus is based on feeling and my own personal subjective experience, but how do I love my brothers and sisters? How do I love my fellow disciples? When you walk into my church and see the way that I interact with my fellow members and all the people who are a part of my church, what do you see?
It’s a bit of a scary thought when you think about the way that we can treat each other at times. How badly do we treat the members of our own families sometimes? Our testimony of Jesus and how he has changed us is only as effective to the degree that we love one another. You may not be able to believe the things I tell you about how I have encountered Jesus and what he is done for me, but you can see for yourself how I treat the real people in this real world and that is the thing that will speak the loudest of all.
We put a lot of value in people who know how to talk – people who know how to tell a story. Christians have often put great stock in the preachers of this world who know how to raise the rafters and hold a congregation captive, and there’s certainly good things about people who can do that, but that’s not really the most important thing, is it? It’s much more about the way that we love each other, and for all those people who aren’t so good at talking, that must come as a great relief, because it’s something we all can do in our own way and in our own lives.
We introduce Jesus to others by loving each other in the way that Jesus loved his disciples – and that’s a lot, in case you weren’t sure.