Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why Jesus?

Why read Why Jesus?

Bishop Will Willimon has written a concise and helpful introduction to Jesus- with wit and wisdom. Readers will benefit from his breadth of knowledge and depth of insight. This is a solidly biblical presentation of Jesus Christ. To do this, he uses only 137 pages and all of the notes are Scripture references, with most from the Psalms and the Gospels/Acts.

But the book could also be titled Why, Jesus? In each chapter, Willimon includes several "asides to Jesus," making it more of a three- way session between the author, us, and Jesus. Too, the technique encourages the reader to ask questions, to admit or surrender their doubts. "I've spent my whole adult life studying the parabolic teachings of Jesus. And yet I confess that, to this day, I really don't know for sure why Jesus told the parable of the dishonest manager who swindled his boss and who, in turn, was goofily praised by his boss. I don't know what to do with such a patently absurd story. Why, Jesus?" p.32

Thus, the more I read, the more I discovered that my thoughts were transformed into prayer. This is what the spiritual discipline of study is meant to bring to us. Using the words of another servant as catalyst and spark, you begin to receive blessings and wisdom that make the printed words bread for the day to come. One example of blessing is Willimon's brief reference of "green grass" in the middle of the desert, the setting of the Feeding of the Five Thousand stories. All four Gospels are referencing Psalm 23 (the Lord making us lie down in green pastures) and Isaiah 35 (the Messiah making the desert bloom). pp.67-68

Why Jesus? So I can get what I want or because Jesus works or because I've tried everything else? Willimon argues that framing the answer this way is misleading: "Jesus is God's means of getting what God wants out of you...Jesus is God's self-appointed means of getting down to us...Really now, if you were dreaming up a useful god to fulfill your every wish and run your every errand, would you have dreamed up Jesus? No way." p. 116

Willimon answers for himself, why he is a Christian: "Because Jesus called me. To be a Christian is to be someone put here by the great delegator. If the world doesn't like the idea of your being a follower of Jesus, a Christ- bearer into the world, you can say 'Take it up with Jesus. This whole thing was his idea. I tried to beg out of his assignment, but you know Jesus; he won't take 'no' for an answer." p.117

Call it Celtic or post-modern, for Willimon, Jesus is followed before he's known. Christian practice precedes understanding. And even then, it's a matter of faith, not certitude.

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