It is a fact. It can’t be denied. I’ve worked with it for years and the only thing I can come up with is that there are many who follow a different Jesus than the one I attempt, in my feeble way, to follow. Now, it is historically true that many Jesuses have come and gone. The Book of Sirach in the Old Testament Apocrypha was supposedly written by a Jesus (Jesus ben Sirach). The early historian Josephus and other sources name many Jesuses: Jesus ben Saphat, Jesus ben Ananias, Jesus ben Gamalia, etc. Even in the New Testament we find one “Jesus Barabbus!” Barabbus, by the way, means “son (bar) of the father (abba).
There is only one Jesus of Nazareth, however, and Christians of all stripes and colors (evangelical, progressive, liberal, conservative, etc.) say they believe in him and seek to follow him. How is it, then, that we seem to be following different Jesuses?
In fewer than ten years after Jesus’ crucifixion. different Jesuses begin to be followed. Some became part of the Jewish Christian Community in Jerusalem who understood Jesus in a different way than those who became part of Paul’s Gentile Community. Later came the Roman Church and the Eastern Church, each seeing and following a different Jesus. The pattern has continued through the long centuries and is demonstrated now by the wide variety of denominations—and by the widespread division among Christians as to the content and meaning of Jesus’ message. Many of these divisions have to do with interpreting the Bible, but it is a serious mistake to assume that the Bible is the only basis for “knowing” Jesus.
Well, I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this train of thought. I guess I’m simply stating this simple fact—the Jesus followed by some is not the same Jesus I know. Perhaps this is why I’ve always found Albert Schweitzer’s words meaningful:
“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”
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