Don’t you love going to conferences and seminars that hand out those cheesy “Hello, My Name Is ______” nametags? You could put just about anything you want in there and just mess with people all day.
“Hello, My Name Is Indiana Jones.”
“Hello, My Name is Bond, James Bond.”
“Hello, My Name is Hard to Spell and Even Harder to Pronounce.“
What does all this have to do with Radical Faith? Nothing really, it was just sort of a random thought. But it does sort of lead into some thinking I’ve been doing lately about how we encounter Jesus.
Hello, my name is Saul. Some folks call this the Damascus Road experience. Here’s Saul, just toolin’ along on his way to Damascus in Acts 9, persecuting the folks in this new religious sect, just doin’ his job, when—BOOM!—everything changes. Bright lights, a booming voice: “Saul, dude, why you gotta hate on me?” Blinded for three days. Nothing to eat or drink. Then the scales are lifted, sight is restored, and life has changed forever. I personally don’t know many people who have had this kind of encounter, but it certainly still happens today. That dramatic, instantaneous, turn-on-a-dime life change. It often comes out of some type of tragedy, crisis, or loss, but I’m sure there are some folks who are just toolin’ along, mindin’ their own business, when God decides that it’s time for them to meet Jesus.
Hello, my name is Cleopas. The Emmaus Road encounter. In a sense, this may be the most common sort of encounter with Jesus. Here’s this disciple named Cleopas and his buddy in Luke 24:13-32, trudging along the 7-mile route from Jerusalem to Emmaus, feeling sorry for themselves, when this stranger saunters up alongside them. They get into this whole conversation about Jesus being crucified and his grave being empty, and the stranger goes into this long explanation about how all of scripture up to that point had led up to this very moment. They still don’t really get it, but they like the guy, so they invite him to stay with them. So when they sit down to eat, the stranger blesses the bread and breaks it, and all of a sudden they recognize him and realize they’ve been talking to Jesus all along! …And he disappears. And they’re all like “Dude! That was HIM! How’d we miss it?! It was so OBVIOUS!” I think many of us encounter Jesus this way. We know about him, we’ve probably even seen some of his work, and we may even be following him in some sense of the word. We might even talk with him from time to time. But we don’t really know who he is. Over time, though, he reveals himself to us. And when we finally get it, we say, “Dang! That was him all along! How’d we miss it?!”
Hello, my name is Thomas. The “You’re gonna have to prove it to me” encounter. Thomas was out of the house when Jesus appeared to the other disciples in John 20:19-23. So when the other disciples tell him about it, his reply is, “Yeah, riiiight. You’re gonna have to prove that one to me.” So a week later, Jesus appears again, and this time Thomas is home. And Jesus said, “You wanted proof, you got it!” and has Thomas touch his wounds to know that he’s real. And Thomas just breaks down. The reality sinks in. I think this kind of encounter happens a lot with folks who have been in and around churches for a long time, but are mostly just Sunday morning consumers. Like those who have the Emmaus Road encounter, they know the stories and have seen some of the work. They hear folks talking about Jesus all the time like he was still alive and standing right there. But they don’t really buy into the whole program until, unexpectedly, Jesus shows up, and they’re there, and it’s real.
Obviously, these are only a few of the kinds of encounters we have with the resurrected Christ. I hope some folks will feel free to comment and add their own ideas. But the one thing they all have in common is that they change lives forever. Whether it’s Saul’s lightning-flash conversion, the slow realization on the road to Emmaus, the overcoming of Thomas’ doubt, or any other type of encounter, once you’ve really met Jesus one-on-one and face to face, things change. For one thing, you’re compelled to share the story. Because you want everyone you know to have that experience, too.
Unfortunately (hey, there’s always an “unfortunately…” in my rants!!) I’m afraid that lots of the folks sitting in churches every week have never really had that authentic encounter with Jesus. Many are like Thomas, just hanging around with the whole Jesus gang, but refusing to really believe until they see for themselves. Others are like the disciples on the Emmaus Road, feeling sorry for themselves and not recognizing that Jesus is walking right beside them. And—probably more than we’d like to admit—there are a few Sauls in the room, not liking the way things are going, standing on tradition for tradition’s sake, and persecuting Christ by persecuting those who have had that authentic encounter and are trying to live as a Christ follower instead of a church follower.
So what does your name tag say? Fill in the blank.
“Hello, My Name Is _________________.”