in Tall Tales

Which Jesus?

A while back I had the opportunity to talk with a class of undergrad students about journeying in love relationship with the marginalised.
On the evening I spent with them we went on a walk through some neighborhoods in Toronto stopping at various places: a hospice where people with AIDS go to die, the “romper room” (a street where johns go to find child prostitutes), Regent Park (a neighborhood of intensely concentrated poverty and violence), etc.
After the walk the professor asked her students, “Where do you imagine Jesus being in those places? What do you imagine him doing?”
One by one the students responded in pretty similar ways, “Well, I imagine him on the basketball court playing with the boys there.” “I imagine him holding hands with a girl walking home from school.” And so on and so forth. All playful, happy pictures of Jesus as the strong, loving friend.
I looked hard for that Jesus in those neighborhoods and I never found him there. I don’t think he is there. The only Jesus I see in those neighborhoods is the Jesus that is crucified. I see Jesus stabbed with the boy on the corner, Jesus weeping with the girl turning a trick in a stairwell, Jesus bleeding to death on the sidewalk. I see a Jesus that is weak, powerless, bleeding, and dying.
The reason I don’t see the other Jesus is because the people of God have abandoned these places and these people. Until the people of God return to journeying in love relationships with the marginalised, the marginalised won’t have much of a chance to know Jesus in his strength. Jesus as the resurrected Lord of the cosmos will only appear when the people of God return announcing the good news of the kingdom – freedom for captives, sight for the blind, the forgiveness of sins, and the new creation of all things.
I looked over the class and told the students that the only Jesus I saw in the neighborhood was their presence. The only hope that these people have is that maybe some of us will return. Until we return they will only experience the hidden dying Jesus.
So come, children of God. Come, let us journey alongside of these precious ones. Let us bear on our bodies the brand-marks of Christ so that these beloved but broken ones may come to know the strength and love of the risen Lord. Let us move into crucifixion so that others can experience resurrection.

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  1. Dan I totally agree with you, one of your other blogs caused me to start thinking of what kind of friend do i want to be to Jesus…and this is what I have come up with so far. Do I want to be the friend who just casually says hi and not really there just more of an acquaintance. Or I could be the type of friend who only is in and out for a short period of time maybe like the students in this article. Or do I want to be the type of friend you meet once and never see again. Or do I want to be the long term close friend that is always there even though I am not always around or the friend that knows what the other is thinking despite not talking much with that friend the friend who makes you light up when with each other. The friend who gets excited for the other in times of joy and upset in times of sorrow. Of course I want to be the last friend and I think you have clearly outlined this in your blog that it is necessary to morn in times of morning and rejoice in times of joy. This also can be attached to your christmas blog as you were happy and sad with your fellow friends. I guess to be honest I don’t feel that close with God and Jesus right now but if I have never met him I want to be the type friend that you meet and you just click you get excited about the same things, upset about the same things share similar interests and overall just feel close. This type of friend is rare to have but I am sure at some point in all of our lives we have that type of friend and we don’t know how we feel so close to them or how it became like this but we know that there is a bound that holds strong as if the relationship was always there. I hope to be one of the last two types of friends, either a friend that is always there or the friend you just meet and click I would be satisfied with either one. I guess I have to question myself how do I maintain this friendship what does my friend find important and love and what does he get upset about? What makes my friend happy? what makes him sad? What is important what is not? So many question so many ups and downs? A friendship I think is the hardest thing in the world to maintain it is not like a car where you can just fix it even is it is a ford. Your last paragraph is of a friend expressing to his friends about the importance and struggle the one friend is having. What kind of friend will I be? I know what kind I want to be? and i ask myself how can I help my friends?
    Egg thanks for helping me think again

  2. Egg!
    As always it’s a delight to hear your thoughts. I really (I mean REALLY) like what you say about the two kinds of friendships you hope for with Jesus. Longing for the close friendship but also seeking to be the kind of friend that, when you meet, you just hit it off right away the first time. I think that’s a pretty brilliant approach… I feel like I could write another whole entry just about that idea.
    Love you muchly brother.

  3. Go for it I would love to hear it…I was thinking about this stuff from an earlier post of yours so maybe I should have cited you haha.. I was thinking while I was writing believe it or not that hey maybe the whole Jesus relationship thing is only available if we have an understanding of friendship first.
    Love you Egg

  4. Hey Dan.
    I like this post – especially the call; to come alongside the “precious ones”. To be honest, though, it took me a little while to understand what you are saying here, but I think I get it? You are contrasting the Jesus you have seen in these neighbourhoods – the suffering Jesus – with the Jesus that the class was identifying – strong, happy Jesus. And that strong, happy Jesus is only possible when Christians also are living to help suffering Jesus’ (or is that Jesuses or Jesi)…etc
    The part that got confusing for me was the shift…where you went from talking about the marginalized as Jesus, to, saying that the only Jesus you saw in the neighbourhood was the presence of the students. Are the students strong, loving Jesus and the marginalized weak, broken Jesus? Maybe I’m getting caught up in words and drifting away from the call to journey in brokeness with the broken, but I’d be curious for you to say more.
    peace, that’s me checkin’ out, later, roger roger niner one two three, wup wup, cheerio, seven eight gotta go, well well, bye and buy the by,
    Jude “gotta lay off the Kenyan tea” Oudshoorn

  5. Sorry Jude, I see how that transition can be unclear.
    Yes, when I said the only Jesus I saw in the neighbourhood was in the students I was referring to the strong, victorious, joyful picture of Jesus. The presence of the students, who are beginning to explore journeying in love relationships with the marginalised, could be the first hints of that Jesus becoming present in those neighbourhoods.
    On another note it’s interesting how our own experiences dictate our pictures of Jesus. These kids probably pictured Jesus in this way because that’s probably how the feel they experienced him growing up in their more comfortable neighbourhoods… which is why I think it’s so important for the church to move to the margins in order to gain a more full (or proper) perspective on something so basic to Christianity like who Jesus is.