The question always arises for me, is the Jesus so many love to hate the real Jesus, or the Jesus they perceive through the filters of 1) their own uninformed opinions, or 2) the false Jesus often presented through “church” dogma and/or the behaviors of its representatives (who may not know Him for themselves)?
I’m not so sure that Jesus is offended by their offense based upon personal bias and distorted impressions. If that were the case, Jesus would be a very little Jesus indeed.
The answer to this dilemma is to ask Jesus to introduce Himself to you personally, get to know Him, and build a relationship with Him by seeking Him and Him alone.
He always reveals Himself and His Truth to the one who sincerely and perpetually seeks Him – the one who asks, seeks, and knocks.
He promises this revealing to us in this manner: that if we ask for bread, we will not be given a stone. If we ask for a fish, we will not be given a serpent. If we ask for an egg, we will not be given a scorpion.
How much more greatly, He promises, will the Father give the Holy Spirit to the one who hungers and thirsts for His Truth and Righteousness, and who asks and keeps on asking.
These promises were shown to me many years ago in the first phases of my “conversion” – the journey out of darkness into the light of God’s glory. They have never failed me. They were given because the Way Home is strewn with many dangers: stones of stumbling, the twisted cunning of serpents, and the poison sting of spiritual scorpions.
This is the stuff of a trek through a desert. These could be places of stumbling and great wounding, but the Holy Spirit transforms them all into a feast, a banquet table in the presence of deadly spiritual enemies powerlessly looking on.
This is the Jesus I have come to know, as He safely walks me through barren wastelands and wanderings. He transforms all of it for my good, which is His glory.
Yet the greatest transformation of all is that which He works within me through the Holy Spirit as I walk and journey together with Him. Then the “outer landscape” of life changes as He transforms the inner one! All the outer things only “mirror” what the Holy Spirit does with me inwardly, as He transmutes the heavy stones into the bread of life, makes fish out of serpents, and turns deadly scorpions into eggs.
The journey is not yet complete. I can see this because I’m not complete, or “perfect”, but manifestly a work in progress in His gentle hand. Thus my prayer and affirmation does not change, as it resonates in an old hymn I learned as a child:
“Let us ever walk with Jesus, follow His example pure,
Flee the world which would deceive is, and to sin our souls allure,
Ever in His footsteps treading, body here yet soul above,
Full of faith and hope and love, let us do the Father’s bidding;
Faithful Lord abide with me; Savior lead I follow Thee!”
These old hymns were always based on Scripture texts. As I meditated upon these words, a gentle reminder, I noticed that this one was based on a very obscure passage, which is hidden in the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Thomas called Didymus invites us to follow Jesus. He says in John 11:16b, “… Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” At first glance I thought this was some mysterious reference to Lazarus, but Thomas is speaking of “dying with Jesus!”
When we affirm and abide in this walk and relationship with Jesus, all within us that is hard (stones), twisted (serpents), and spiritually deadly (scorpions), falls away from us: That part of us “dies with Him!” This dies and the New Man of the Spirit arises at the Word of Jesus, just like Lazarus! This is the path of the Cross.
This is the Way, leading through the kingdom of Heaven within us – setting us free (first of all inwardly) from stones, serpents, and scorpions – as He restores us back into full fellowship with our Supernal Heavenly Father. In this Way, all is removed by Grace, through this intimate one-on-one fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ, as we surrender ourselves fully to Him. Then we can proclaim with the psalmist, as he reminds us and affirms, “He restoreth my soul for His Name’s sake, ” because we know from experience that this is so.
Scripture References: Luke 11:11-13, Matthew 7:7-10, John 11, Luke 10:19
See also Hymn 409, The Lutheran Hymnal © 1941