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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jesus is the Way, the Gate, and the Shepherd

Jesus is pretty popular today. I mean, if you were to ask a dozen people how they felt about Jesus, I doubt one of them would have a bad thing to say (to your face, at least). The thing about this popularity is, I don't think it's the real Jesus that's the popular one. I think there's a new postmodern pseudo-Jesus, a quasi-Jesus who's just a good teacher and proponent of ideals that the postmodernist strives for.

Decidedly less popular today is the idea that salvation is exclusive, that it is solely through Christ that we can come to God. This seems to be the climate that Rob Bell is reacting to in Velvet Elvis:

As a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live . . . Jesus at one point claimed to be "the way, the truth, and the life". Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality.
Ah, how diplomatic. Just a little equivocal. Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on how you feel about Jesus—he was not this ambiguous. In fact, Jesus concluded his proclamation of being the Way/Truth/Life by saying "no one comes to the Father but through me". It's strange that Jesus says the way is through him, rather than with him, or following behind him. It's almost as if Jesus considered himself as more than just a life-model, more than just an ideal to be pursued.

And because Jesus was so unambiguous, he was clear about what he did consider himself to be. The very same author who recorded Jesus saying he was "the way" also recorded another proclamation Jesus made about himself. In John 10, Jesus says he is the shepherd, and "he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice". Now this certainly sounds more like it! A Jesus we can listen to and follow. This sounds like the life-model/ideal that we're all comfortable with.

Unfortunately, his hearers "did not understand what he was telling them", so he had to expound what he meant—and ruined our paradigm in the process. Jesus said, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved". There's that word again: through. So Jesus is not simply the model for a Christian life, he is the means into a Christian life. And how is this done? Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep". And in plain language in the following chapter Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies".

So Jesus is the way to be walked, the gate to be passed through, and the shepherd who guards the way and opens the gate. If you're anything like me, this seems really small-minded, really narrow. Which should be a clue that we're on to something: "small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it".

1 comment:

John Nicely said...

You are correct sir. The quasi-Jesus you so flippantly speak of would be vying for prime time airtime against the all seeing, all feeling, and all knowing, Barrack Obama. The pseudo-Jesus has almost become a celluloid hero in his own right in today's pop culture. Somewhat reminiscent of the permissiveness and popularity that embraces the gay counterculture. Who knows how much the "feel good Jesus" would rake in at the Q-west Center? Who is his agent, and more importantly how can I hire him? This phenomenon is a mirrored image and or reflection of our post modern decaying sub-culture. I mean the economy is tanking, the icecaps are melting and Jesus is a Pop Star! Move your stuff out of the Bat Cave Adam West...there's a new sheriff in town......and his name is HEY ZEUS.....