Let My People Think

Happy MountainThis might be fiction, or this might be what really happened. And I ain’t telling which one that is …

MY ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS

Invitation

I heard a gentle whisper in my ear: “Come, follow me”. I turned around, but there was no one in the room. But I knew what I heard was real.

“Who are you?”, I asked, in childlike awe and wonder.
“I am Jesus, who you have been reading and hearing about.”

When Jesus was speaking, his lips weren’t moving at all, for whatever reason. I heard and understood everything he was saying, though.

“Follow you? Follow you where?”
“Wherever I call you to”.

This didn’t seem scary at all. Rather, an intoxicating sense of excitement and fascination welled up in me, sending shivers through my entire body. Finally, I was starting to get a sense that all my searches have led me to the One.

Plus, there’s only so low you can fall. And for a while, I have really felt like I hit rock bottom.

“Sure, I want to follow you Jesus!!”

“Good choice. But first things first. I am THE way. But the way is narrow, and there are few who find it. You have finally found it. But before you can follow me, you need to go through baggage checkpoint”.

Finally, it was time for me to turn all smug.

“Oh, that part is easy. Let’s do it!”. Sure thing, a mere formality. No problemo, senor!

Baggage Checkpoint

I went into the weigh-in area with him, and stepped up on the scale. The red arrow wildly swung to the right and loudly clanked against the metal peg.

“What?! The scale must be broken, or rigged, or something. I mean, look at it – it must be mistaking me for a pregnant T-rex or something”.

“Well, that would be a T-regina, not a T-rex.”

I turned around and give Jesus an incredulous glance. I can’t believe he would joke around about serious spiritual matters like this. This kind of behavior could be expected of me, but definitely not of Jesus. “Conduct unbecoming of a king”, I thought to myself.

At that point, I heard a loud snapping noise, and the scales platform immediately sunk lower before it settled with a halt. I looked at the scales again, and the red arrow was snapped clean off.

“Ok. That was really weiiiird”, I thought to myself. I started getting a little scared now. I looked at Jesus, he was no longer smiling. “You can get off the scales now. Let me show you something”.

He pointed at the screen that was to the side of the scales, which was now lit up. There was a ridiculously high number on the screen. I didn’t really understand the measurement units, but they didn’t matter. What drew my attention was what looked like some sort of an infographic, with one huge line item. It was in blinking red color. It read “self”. And directly within it, there was a smaller one, that was pulsating just as ominously. It read “religion”.

Shocked, I kept looking at the screen I didn’t get it. I mean – I was a good person. I didn’t get drunk, or get high, or cavort with girls in seedy motel rooms. At least, that must have explained why I wasn’t weighted with sin. But religion?! Come on! Wait a minute … Didn’t he himself say …

I turned toward Jesus. I was more than mildly irritated. That was getting serious. I didn’t watch my TV for years. All the good movies I’ve missed! All the playoff games for my home team (well, OK, those were a joke, but still). I just about opened my mouth to tell him about me faithfully coming in to church Sunday after Sunday, giving him my 10% of take-home pay (OK, maybe not all the time) and of and even getting the sick healed in his name (yep, I figured out how to do that one!). Religion? Seriously?!

Before I could open my mouth, the screen glowed brighter, and the infographic swept off the screen. Instead, this Bible passage lit up on it:

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

– Matthew 7:22-23

“Oh, ok”. I thought a little more, and was about to ask another question. Before I could open my mouth, the screen flashed off and on, and this was on it:

“I never knew you”.

That stayed on for a few seconds, before it all faded away, except for the word “never”. I finally started catching on. I heard about Jesus, prayed to him, sang songs to him, and did things in his name, but never knew him. I became a Jesus biographer, as opposed to his friend.

Ahh, but wait! I knew the word of God! I won a Scripture contest in a New Year church party once. I taught myself Greek grammar, and I could semi-decently pick apart just about any New Testament passage in a few minutes. I would sometimes meditate on Scriptures for hours at a time.

I looked at the screen again, seeing what it would have to say about this. On it, there was this:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

– John 5:39-40

After a few seconds, the passage faded off the screen, except for this: “you are not willing to come to Me”.

I was really struggling with this now. I turned toward Jesus. Now he had his hands folded across his chest. It was harder for me to see him, for whatever reason. It’s as if he was beginning to slowly fade away.

“Why am I struggling with this, Jesus? I don’t get it. So, you you are saying that knowing the word isn’t important?”.

He didn’t say anything, but simply nodded toward the screen. I turned to it:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us

– John 1: 1, 14

I waited for a few seconds. I knew there’s a second part to this strange Powerpoint presentation. Sure, enough, in a few seconds this came on:

He came unto his own, and his own received him not

– John 1:11

This was confusing. If not the Bible, how am I supposed to be guided through life?

I was trying to frantically think of other things. The pastor of the church I was going to was an amazing man of God, always willing to help, no matter what. He was like a father to me, in a lot of ways. I know I sometimes argued with him. Yeah, that was probably it. I think Jesus was trying to straighten that out. I just needed to take that relationship a lot more seriously, it looks like.

Right? I turned to the screen once again. It was a double whammy this time.

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

– Matthew 23:9

We ought to obey God rather than men

– Acts 5:29

This was seriously messing with all of my theology. Aren’t I supposed to be affiliated with some sort of religion?

I turned to Jesus again: “Ok, what’s the religion that I am supposed to follow then?”

He kept silent, and wasn’t looking me directly in the eyes anymore, as he did before. He looked to the side, at a blank spot on a wall. He unfolded one of his hands and pointed toward the screen once again.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

– James 1:27

I really didn’t understand this whole Scripture volleyball with Jesus. I would much prefer to talk to him live. I felt like I was trying to relate to Bumblebee the transformer. I was now talking to the Bible, as it were, rather than Jesus. This was beginning to seriously frustrate me, and to fill me with tangible desperation.

My meeting with Jesus was turning out into a disaster. He wasn’t looking at me or talking to me anymore, and I could barely see his outline. He was now dim and translucent, like a ghost. Everything around me grew dim, and the screen was flickering on and off. I knew that my personal audience with him is coming to a close.

My eyes got clouded with tears, and my eyes filled with desperation. I dared not look up. All of my arguments have vanished, and all I could think of was: “How could I have blown this opportunity of a lifetime? Where did I go wrong?”.

Dark Mountain

I didn’t feel the love of Jesus anymore. A sense of stern majesty filled the room. It felt cold and dark. I was really scared. The foreboding silence seemed unbearable. I finally lifted my eyes. The friendly Jesus was no longer there. The walls and the ceiling had disappeared. and I was on a black mountain in the middle of the desert. Around me were rumblings of thunder, dark clouds. A flash of lightning struck the ground near me, leaving a scorched, smoldering crater in the ground. Gusts of howling wind were blowing right by me, lacerating my body with clouds of small specks of sand and little sharp rocks.

I looked up, and what I saw terrified me. I saw a massive figure with the head going all the way into the clouds. He didn’t have any eyeballs. Instead, rays of extremely bright light came out of his eyesockets and incinerated everything he looked at. Somehow, I knew in my gut that it was Jesus. And then he started turning his head toward me. I knew I was finished.

I collapsed on my knees, and cried out at the top of my lungs: “I cannot go like this! Not like this, Jesus, not like this!”. The howls of wind grew stronger. A sharp rock carried by wind blew right past my nose, taking off a chink of flesh right from the middle of it. I didn’t care.

I knew I was finished. If I was going to go, I was going to go. All my past life flashed before my eyes. My family, my friends, and all that religion that couldn’t save me when it mattered most. Suddenly, my heart was filled with anger. How could have I been so deceived?!

I knew I was done for. But for just once in my life, I decided that I don’t want to be a slave. I looked directly at the face of Jesus. All of a sudden, everything around me turned pitch-black. I sensed my eyeballs began to melt away in my sockets, and warm gelatin was now running down my cheeks. My face was in excruciating pain, my flesh began to sizzle, as if on fire.

I could still feel my tongue and my lips. I breathed in a chest full of scaldingly hot air. I felt it scorch my throat and my lungs as I did. With what was probably my last breath, I yelled out as loud as I could: “Jesus! I wanted to see you all my life! I read about you, but now my eyes have seen you. I don’t care about what happens to be now. You don’t like religion – fine! F*** religion. I have seen you, and all I ever wanted is you anyway.”

Happy Mountain

Suddenly all the rumblings stopped. There was a pindrop silence around me. I tried to regain my breath, and suddenly a coolness of fresh mountain air filled my lungs. I lifted up my hands to my face. I didn’t feel any pain. My eyes were back where they should have been. I tried opening my eyes. What I saw around astounded me.

I was standing on a snowy mountaintop. Giant soft bluish-white clouds were slowly floating past me. The sky was unbelievably blue and bright. There were flowers under my feet growing right throught the snow. I have never seen colors so bright, and have never breathed air so fresh. I could not see any sun, yet everything around me was so very bright.

The were many trees adorning the mountainside. The blossoms and the fruit on those trees were very different from what I have ever seen. Several crystal clear waterfalls carved their way through the mountain slopes. I was beginning to hear their sounds.

It’s as if my senses were opening up to seeing and hearing more and more things, with each passing minute.

Soon I started to hear the songs of many beautiful birds that were flying around the trees. Winged insects were busy flying from one flower to another. The mountain was bustling with life and beauty.

Suddenly I noticed a melodious hum that was gently coming across from all sides. I looked around, and I saw countless multitudes all over and around the mountain. They were all dressed differently: togas, tunics, sandals, shoes, boots, jeans, T-shirts, turbans, baseball caps, simple dresses, shorts. I didn’t see anyone wearing suits, ties, or formal dresses. They were singing a song which I have never heard before. There are no words that can describe it. Enchanted, I listened to its joyful sounds. Unexpectedly, I felt like warm honey was flowing on the inside of me, and my mouth was started to get filled with a sweet creamy flavor, like caramel or butterscotch candy. I realized that I could actually taste the music.

This was pure bliss. I wanted to stay here forever. Suddenly, my heart sank. There was one person who was missing from here – Jesus. My eyes welled up with tears, and I realized that in a heartbeat I would give all of that away, just for the privilege of seeing him one more time. I didn’t care about the pristine beauty around me anymore. That other mountain had removed all the fear from me.

All of a sudden a sense of the old me came rushing back into my psyche. “Nice special effects!. You can film the “Avatar” sequel on location here.”, I thought to myself, in an attempt to shake myself free of that enchantment. As soon as I thought that, the entire mountain exploded with joyful laughter. Apparently, my thoughts were loud enough, and those folks had a sense of humor. And they must have seen the “Avatar”.

I took in a giant breath of mountain air, cupped my hands around my mouth, and yelled at the top my my lungs:

“If I can’t see you again Jesus, I don’t need any of this!! I just want to see you and talk to you one more time.”

A New Beginning

That lead to another explosion of laughter and happy shouts. I began to turn my head around, trying to get a 360 degree view of the happy mountain. Suddenly, I caught view of Jesus standing a couple of feet away. He was looking at me with a mischievous look on his face, his hands folded, right leg forward and slightly bent at the knee, head cocked to the side.

I looked straight into his eyes. I was not afraid anymore. An amazing feeling of love streamed into my heart and into my entire being. I have never felt so loved into my entire life. I felt so vulnerable, so known, so naked before his sight, and yet I was completely unafraid. This moment seemed like it lasted for all eternity.

Finally, Jesus broke the silence.

“What are you waiting for, Christmas? Come here!”, he said with a broad smile, opening his arms wide. I ran right into his hug. Being in his arms seemed like the safest place in the whole world. It felt like the love that I have been looking for my entire life.

He let me stay in his embrace for a good long while. Finally, I let go. I had so many questions to ask.

“Why don’t we take a walk”, Jesus motioned to me toward a serpentine path that weaved between tall fruit trees down the left side of the mountain.

We walked silently for a while. Jesus kept on stopping often. He would pick a fruit off a tree and take a bite off of it, or bend over and pick a flat stone to skip it over a small pond to the left on the path. He was like a little kid. I could tell that he loved this place.

I finally broke the silence. “Jesus, sorry about the F-bomb”.

He looked at me in amusement. “Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me”, he replied semi-sarcastically. “Well, that’s one of the better things I’ve heard on that mountain. Usually, I get to hear much worse.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about people gnashing my teeth at me, cursing to me my face. I heard not so very nice things said about my mother. But mostly, about my Dad. You wouldn’t believe how much some people hate both me and him.”

“What people?”

“The same people who crucified me. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me”.

“But that was almost 2,000 years ago”.

“Their followers are alive and well today. I am still as much a stumbling block for them as I was then. If they saw me again in the flesh, they would crucify me all over again, without much hesitation”.

That seemed pretty harsh. I suspected that not everything was right about my worldview, but to hear him put it like that was quite sobering.

“Well, what was that dark mountain, anyway?”, I asked.

“Mount Sinai. The mountain of the law, of the ten commandments.”

I hesitated for a second, but I knew I had to ask this.

“Jesus, I don’t want to sound disrespectful or anything – ” He looked at me askew, with irony in his face, and stopped. He turned around, and looked me straight in the face.

“Look, I don’t like apple-polishers. Admit it, you were never a yes-man. That’s what I have always liked in you. I am not a big fan of those who shout “Amen” the loudest to everything that they hear. Those same people rarely want to get to know me for themselves, and never learn how to think for themselves. Plus, if you can’t talk to me about what bothers you, what kind of a relationship is that? You don’t need to fear offending me. I can handle your questions. Really.”

He sounded pretty serious about this. I was relieved. He was very different from what I had pictured him before.

He turned toward the path again and resumed walking.

“Ok, well, thanks, I guess. Anyway, about the mountain. Uhmmm … Why were you trying to kill me?”

“I wasn’t trying to kill you at all”.

“What was that scary stuff back there then?”, I asked.

“That was you killing yourself. With your religion. Admit it, that’s what you thought of me: you make a serious enough misstep, and you would end up in a place like that. I simply showed you a full picture of your own theology. You want to know why you turned blind?”

“I do.”

“Because when you live by the law of judgment and condemnation, you cannot see me. It blinds you from the truth, and from my love and grace. Even when you look at me, all you can see is destruction and death. And the very sight of me causes you pain instead of freedom. And instead of running toward me, you run and hide from me.”

“Wow, I’ve never seen it quite that way”.

“Most people don’t. And that’s why I came to you. I knew you were chafing under the yoke or religion. You knew there was something else. You just didn’t know what it was. You were like Neo, waiting for Trinity to come and save you from the matrix of religion. Well, I have come for you. And now, here you are”.

I was a bit confused by the fact that Jesus was up to snuff on the pop culture. He didn’t seem that churchy at all. Before I could say anything, Jesus abruptly stopped, jumped up about 4 feet off the ground, and hung in the air for about point five seconds while executing a semi slow-mo quadruple-kick aimed at an imaginary enemy. When he landed back on his feet, he looked at me. I must have had a very dumfounded expression on my face, complete with a mouth hanging wide open. Jesus looked at me for two seconds, then he pointed his finger at me, his body doubled over at the waist, shaking all over from a chortling laughter.

He was nothing like I pictured him to be before. “I could really be friends with him”, I thought to myself.

And that’s how my relationship with Jesus began …

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