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The irresistible Jesus

Moderator’s Message February 2008

My first conscious memory of Jesus being an important part of my life comes from age seven. The image relating to that memory is still vivid.

My father and I, as we regularly did on a Sunday afternoon, were visiting my grandmother and aunty. My aunty and I were at the piano singing:

Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong,
they are weak, but he is strong.

I knew at that moment that Jesus loved ME!  More than that, in my seven-year-old heart I knew that I loved him.  It was a theophany.

I was just a boy, but Jesus was calling me into a relationship that has shaped my life and determined its direction ever since.

Quite soon after that, as I recall, my first real introduction to the Gospels came in the form of a Christmas present.

It was a substantial rendering of the life of Jesus in comic-book form, an effective way of introducing young readers to stories of Jesus.

I was already an avid reader by that time and the drawings were an added attraction. I read the book from cover to cover on numerous occasions.

There is no doubt that in my own childlike way I was immensely attracted to the Jesus who came to life for me through those stories.

Over the years I have come to describe that attraction as irresistible.

There is an amazing scene in the movie Amistad in which a Negro slave, who cannot read or write, recounts the story of Jesus to a companion entirely on the basis of the pictures in a copy of the Bible that has been given to him.
That is part of the power of the Gospels.

Down through the centuries that is why there have been those, like Mahatma Gandhi for instance, who have greatly admired Jesus even though they found many aspects of the Christian religion as practised by his followers to be abhorrent!

I believe we are most at risk, in regard to both faith and conduct, when we lose touch with the message and spirit of Jesus as the Gospels reveal that to us.

That is why I often turn to the Gospel of John and read chapters 13-17 as a whole, just the way I think John intended.

This is because the prayer of Jesus in chapter 17 is the culmination of all that is contained in chapters 13-16: the washing of the disciples’ feet, the promise of the Holy Spirit, the teaching about the Good Shepherd and the sheep, and the vine and branches, and the exhortation to love one another.

All of these themes are gathered up in this prayer of Jesus for his disciples, and the essence of his prayer is that everything he has taught them will take root in their hearts and minds and be expressed in and through their life together.

In John’s account, this is the last intimate moment that Jesus and his disciples spend together before he goes out to face his arrest, trial and crucifixion.

We all need to take to heart the enormous significance of what Jesus says and does in those final hours of his earthly life.

Here we have a vision of the unity of the people of God, a people who truly have become one in the Body of Christ.

There is no clearer or more compelling insight anywhere into the nature and purpose of our relationship with God in Christ and our relationships with one another, both personally and in Christian community.

The Gospels tell of a God whose love can be experienced.

They promise a transformation of the relationships between human beings who accept Jesus.

God, living now in our midst, communicates with us through the love relationships that develop.

The Christian community’s acceptance, forgiveness, and commitment to one another, gives God’s love living and visible expression.

What could be better than that!