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Excerpt from Jesus Was Not Just A Nice Man: On The Nature Of Christ And The Dangers Of Discipleship

We are Christians, which means we are followers of Christ and imitators of his life. The title “Christians” was given to the early followers of this religion by observers, and at the time, this name was not always as glorious as it might sound to some ears today. This name was tied directly to Christ and his death on the Cross, and, understandably, some people mocked Christians for their association with “a crucified God”. I can imagine that some were discouraged by shame from following Jesus because of the mockery that followed believers. But the power of the Cross destroyed every shame when the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of the humble to see its grandeur. These men and women gave their lives following Jesus and proclaiming his love, which, in my estimation, was a miraculous accomplishment.

Even though the people who ridiculed and persecuted the Church had no idea who Jesus was, it seems many of us today who claim to be members of the same Church have no idea either. 

For some reason, we carry the scar of this 2000-year-old ridicule and do everything we can to remedy it as though we should be ashamed. So we begin to preach prosperity, miracles, and many other things that distract from the truth of Jesus and the sheer ridiculousness of our Faith. But the facts are we believe that Jesus is God, who pre-existed all things and, in time, took flesh from a virgin who knew no man and was born without ruining said virginity. Then, he taught among the Jews and was eventually caught and killed like a criminal. He died, and his followers dispersed. After a while, they re-converged and could not find Jesus’ body in the tomb where he was buried, and what do you know? He rose from the dead!

Does not all of these sound ridiculous when you want to get into the details of what we actually hold to be true? And the fact that they are true does not mean they cease being ridiculous because who would want to believe all of that? Maybe this is why God gave the apostles the power to work miracles to add a layer of proof so that it is easier to swallow. Still, the goal was that, in time, we would believe in the actual Jesus himself so much we would give up everything without needing miracles or anything else from Him other than his presence. However, some never stop chasing miracles and other gifts of God in place of God himself.

Wouldn’t it be easier to focus on miracles and wonders to distract from raw facts and brutal, drab truths like these? We have always found it difficult to see truth in simple words or beauty in simple works of literature and art. We need embellishments, literary equivalents of bejewelled pieces to get us to look at something for a second time and feel something. We cannot see beauty in the plainly dressed woman unless she wraps herself in so much artificial clay we can barely recognise her as human. So to us, if that beauty is not transcendental, we cannot hold onto it as such – but this is us chasing a human beauty that isn’t even human at all because if we wanted human, we’d look in the ordinary and the mundane. Even in Christian art, a saint is boring to many unless there’s an angel perched beside him or he is rapt in ecstasy or some vision. 

Holiness eludes us in the depiction of a man as ordinary as us, struggling with sin. We are too lazy to dig into the drab soil of the common and the ordinary in search of nourishment; we must be thrilled at every step. This quest for excitement keeps us away and unable to permeate the simplicity of the actual Jesus. This quest for trinkets makes us rejoice in his presence but only focus on the stuff hanging on his Head or the gifts in his hands. But we can never look at his bare feet, nor can we look at the ordinariness of his humanity and see His magnificence. We want to see a glorious king covered in precious stones commanding an army, but God has given us a peasant, a carpenter, washing the feet of a few fishermen and tax collectors! And this is who we worship, a lowly carpenter convicted as a criminal.

Oh, how much we will have to dig, and how far we will have to journey to find the treasure that this ordinariness must hide from the wise of the world. How lowly we must become in spirit to see the greatness of Jesus, who is the God-man; how amazing that the Father has consciously hidden the identity of his Son from those who only want fireworks but has chosen to reveal it to little children! We expected the warrior-God who quite literally “will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies” (Isaiah 42:13), but God has accomplished this in the feebleness of the infant new-born of Bethlehem whose existence could be wrapped in swaddling clothes but still casts fear in the hearts of the most powerful of the day. Whose hands were bared (cf Isaiah 52:10) and raised on the Cross in seemingly helpless death, but who this way conquered the world like a silent but mighty warrior. 

Jesus was, and still is, a scandal and disappointment to many. Jesus’ victory was foretold many years before his birth, and the Israelites awaited in lively hope for him, but many did not recognise him upon his arrival. Because many people assumed they understood God’s mind perfectly, as though they could guess what God was thinking in carrying out the specifics of his promises. They knew God would triumph over the world in the Messiah, and he did, but some of them never saw it. They knew He would be King over all he is, yet so many people still don’t see it.

To most Christians, Christ is but a distant idea – something other, someone slightly far removed at best, or at worst, an enemy of our fun lives. If he keeps being theoretical, everything about him would remain so. His commands will have no practical bearing on our lives, and his way remains impractical to us or a relic of long gone past. Jesus becomes transcendent to us in a way that destroys even the efficacy of his name – Emmanuel – A God who is with us and is one of us.

But we want Jesus nearer; we sense this intense need for closeness with him when tragedy strikes when we crave the order of his power over the chaos of the many unknowns of life. Even then, we do not crave after the person, but for what he can do, for his power and not for him. Because no matter how many blessings we seem to receive, we never really try to be close to him but only seek after the gifts he offers.

In truth, for the faithful follower of Jesus, no one can be nearer than Him. And His laws are a true light for one’s steps as they are genuine manuals for living a fruitful and fulfilling life.

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Kenneth C. Alimba

Kenneth C. Alimba is a Catholic who believes that the only RIGHT way to view the world is through the eyes of God - so he spends his life teaching people how to attempt to make this a habit as he tries to do the same.

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