There’s something about encountering Jesus. When we’ve seen Jesus for who He really is, we can’t help but be changed. Some worship and others riot, but no one walks away from an encounter with Jesus unchanged! It’s all over the New Testament:
*The crowds hear Him teach, and they’re astonished.
*They see Him perform miracles, and they’re overcome with awe, even fear.
*People came up to Jesus and fell before Him, bowing, kneeling, falling flat on their faces at His feet!
*Some people even break into spontaneous worship. They break out into praise and fall at his feet right in the middle of the road or at the city gates. They couldn’t wait for the so-called appropriate venue. When people caught a glimpse of who Jesus really was, they threw aside social norms and expectations – they were simply gripped by His presence!
*When Jesus spoke, He silenced the religious scribes and lawyers. These are people who lived and died by their words. But when they encountered Jesus, they were silenced; they had no reply, no retort, no response!
*But of course, sometimes people encountered Jesus and they picked up stones to silence Him – to kill Him.
Some fell at his feet in worship and others picked up stones to kill him, but no one was indifferent and unaffected after an encounter with Jesus.
I believe this with all of my heart… today. But growing up in the church, these stories of encounters with Jesus were hard for me to understand. Honestly, these stories seemed a little far-fetched. I had tamed Jesus. I was not encountering the Jesus of scripture – the Jesus who turned people lives inside out and upside down. Too often I had this sort of American, cultural Jesus in view: moralistic, safe, predictable; a Jesus who would reward my faithfulness with prosperity; a Jesus who resembled a cosmic therapist more than the Lord of the universe!
This cultural Jesus is not the Jesus that we read about in scripture. Maybe you’ve encountered the Jesus of culture: Jesus meek and mild; buddy Jesus; Jesus the great teacher or moral philosopher. Maybe you’ve seen someone else’s projection of Jesus… but have you dared to encounter the Jesus described for us in the gospel accounts? Here’s what I know: worship or riot, when we encounter this Jesus, we can’t help but be changed.
Pursue the Jesus of scripture… but be warned: It will not always be easy or comfortable. I think of John’s encounter with the Resurrected Jesus: “When I saw Him, I fell at his feet as though dead…” (Rev. 1:17). This Jesus might just knock the wind out of you. But be courageous: turn your eyes to Jesus, and be in awe; turn your eyes to Jesus, and be overwhelmed by His glory and His presence.
But it’s not just holy terror… there’s grace. Even as he lay on his face “as though dead,” John experienced this grace: “But [Jesus] laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not…'”(Rev. 1:17).
My prayer for you (and me) is this: as we encounter the Jesus of scripture, may we have the courage to look upon Him, to lay everything before Him in worship… and to hear His words of grace and welcome: “Don’t be afraid.”