Have you ever pondered what kind of soul jerking, reality wrecking experiences twelve men must have had that would cause them to run, not walk into a life filled with persecution, pain and ultimately brutal death, simply because they refused to deny what they experienced and were compelled to share it with all.
Sure, they saw miracles, so did thousands of other people while Jesus was alive. But when they watched the life drain out of him as he hung between two grimy criminals in what would have seemed a shameful display of defeat, why didn’t they go back to life as usual and save their own skin?
What about those like the apostle Paul who didn’t know Jesus in life, but who after having a killing spree interrupted by a dramatic encounter with Jesus Spirit, immediately went from being king of the Christian killers to being a man permanently punch drunk in love with Jesus and desperate to declare His identity as God and savior to all of mankind until his gruesome death because of it?
What did these people feel? What did they see? What did they encounter that galvanized their resolve and flooded their soul with such unrelenting truth that often death was welcomed over denying the one they called Lord?
I’ve had dreams that shook me to my core and then as the reality of the day wears on, the lasting impression of the dream that seemed so real fades to the corners of my mind without much afterthought. In the same way I’ve heard inspiring teachings, even moving sermons that I would describe as life changing, that once I’ve left the building, seem to leave me. That’s human nature. When the emotions wear off and life is present in all its urgency, we focus on that and big ideas can often stay… ideas.
There was a reality that demanded more from the fathers of our faith, those misfits who became the mouthpiece of God to their world. It must have been a haunting reality. His words would have rung in their ears. The image of his face, etched permanently before their eyes. They. Saw. Him. They saw Him. They saw him in life. They saw him in death and they saw him live again. They encountered him. They knew him. Like a wife knows her husband, they knew him. They felt their souls shake. They buckled under the supreme pressure of what they expressed was irresistible love, wreckless forgiveness and utterly undeserved grace by a God they tangibly encountered. Their hearts were branded by the hot iron of his fiery touch. They could not ignore him. They could not forget him. They could never be the same.
What these people saw with their eyes and felt with their hands, millions more for two thousand years have been disrupted in their souls by with such gripping reality, that they can’t refuse it. What love is this? What grace is this? What truth is this? What God is this that apprehends the mind, the will, the heart and the purpose of those who encounter him, so completely that all other pleasures in life become filthy rags compared to the joy of knowing him?
His life was holy, his love scandalous and unrelenting. His sacrifice was real. He lives today and he is searching for the next heart to wreck, the next past to heal and the next purpose to give.
This is Jesus.