Reflections on Being Jesus


I’ve been asked to be Jesus ten times.

The first time I portrayed Him on stage was for Bethel Baptist Church’s Easter production of God’s Masterpiece in 2009. I was 28. During Easter of 2014, I played Him for the fifth time in that same production. I was 33.

imageimageBeing a pasty-skinned red-head, my yearly transformation into a dark-haired, dark-skinned Jew was always a shock to my family and friends.

But aside from the physical metamorphosis required to portray Jesus on stage, I believe I’ve changed even more as a follower of Christ. Six years later (over one hundred shows, across multiple cities, in two states, for three different productions) . . . I’d like to share some insights I believe are extremely important for everyone who professes Jesus as Lord.

What I’ve Learned:

  1. He was perfectly bold, especially given His earthly age. The first time I played Him, I was 28. In preparation for the role, I consulted many pastors in hopes of gleaning helpful insights. But the most dramatic revelation I had when conversing with them was that the men I talked to were significantly older than I. I then realized that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day would have been equally as old if not older. Then I imagined today’s pastors hearing me, an almost-thirty-something proclaiming to be God! I’d received enough condescension in my life to realize that what Jesus had to do was extremely difficult, not simply because He was turning conventional wisdom on it’s head and manifesting His deity, but because He was so young.
  2. He was perfectly wise. Jesus knew exactly what to say and when to say it. He wasn’t distracted by His audience’s rabbit trails. He always spoke directly and immediately to their deepest need. When the woman at the well tried to distract Jesus with racial/political considerations, He pinpointed her sin and need of a Savior. When Martha rushed out to Him after Lazarus’ death, His first words weren’t empty platitudes of sympathy. He replied, “Your brother will rise again.” When Nicodemus made the observation that Jesus had to be from God because of His miracles, Jesus skipped the pleasantries and said “You must be born again.”
  3. He was perfectly focused. Whether He was twelve years old in the temple or thirty-three years old on the cross, His sole goal was to fulfill God the Father’s will.
  4. He was perfectly loving. It became a running joke over the first few years that I had to make sure to touch everyone I could on stage at any given time. Whether I was placing a hand on a shoulder, picking up a child, or giving a hug, I needed to be touching someone. This desire to physically connect with people grew out of the fact that I knew Jesus would have loved these people with His whole being. It made all the sense in the world that if He loved them that much, He would connect with them . . . and gladly die for them.
  5. He was perfectly joyful. The first (but definitely not the last) criticism I received for my portrayal came after the very first performance in ’09. A gentlemen stopped me and said that though he enjoyed the performance greatly, he believed Jesus was probably more “serious” and “grave” than I had performed Him. I thanked the man for his insights, but then politely explained that as I reflected on Who Jesus was, I realized that He was not only perfectly holy and just, He was also perfectly joyful. Would someone with an infinite source of divine contentment, joy, and peace never smile? Is it possible He never joked with His disciples? I think not.
  6. He was perfectly serving. Christ’s entire ministry was one of service. Everything He did, He did for others. Coming to the earth, casting out demons, healing sickness, preaching, washing, dying, rising. It was all done out of obedience to the Father and as a sacrificial service to the people He ministered to.
  7. Lastly, and most uncomfortably, He was perfectly exemplary for us. Whether we’re playing Him on stage or not, we have the responsibility to be just like Him. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son [emphasis mine].” The passage continues by laying out for us God’s eternal purpose for His children. He predestines, calls, justifies, and will eventually glorify us. This whole process is designed to transform us into the image of His Son. When we’re finally glorified, we’ll be as much like Him as we possibly can be, yet in the meantime, we’re to be consistently being changed into His image (progressive sanctification).

I made the observation that first year that everyone should have the opportunity to portray Christ on stage, because that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do in real life anyway. We’re supposed to say what He would say, the way He would say it, for the reasons He would say it . . . all the time.

What this Means for Us:

    1. What if we were bolder in our proclamations? We would be far more passionate about our Lord regardless of the age of our audience or the situation we found ourselves in. Whether posting on Facebook or conversing in the office, boldness would radically change our interactions.
    2. What if we thought and analyzed in line with Christ’s wisdom? The rabbit trails and worldly philosophies wouldn’t distract us or cause us to stumble. God’s wisdom would perfectly answer each situation, and, if we plumbed its depth, we wouldn’t needlessly flounder in our culture’s Disney worldview and pre-pagan mindset.
    3. What if we were focused on the mission of our Father instead of being distracted by the temporary and sinful foolishness of this life? If Christ’s one goal was to fulfill the will of the Father, why are sports and relationships and diplomas and careers so all-consumingly important to us? With a sanctified life-goal like that, we could continue the apostle’s ministry of turning this world upside down!
    4. What would change in our relationships if we loved like Christ? Goodbye arguments, gossip, bad advice, and weather-casting small talk. Hello prayer, intentional edification, wise counsel, significant discussion, and life-changing intimacy.
    5. What if our lives were categorized by joy? Imagine the griping, complaining, whining, and general discontentment that would disappear! Imagine now what would necessarily have to take it’s place.
    6. What if we served our family, friends, and foes as Christ did? Think of the bridges that would be built. Consider the example that would be shown. Imagine the work that would be accomplished!
    7. What if we were the same example to others that Jesus was to us? Spiritual multiplication produces faster than any math equation! We have countless peers, coworkers, children, parents, friends, and strangers who would benefit from seeing Christ in us.

I don’t know if the Lord will afford me the opportunity to portray Him again, but whether He does or not, I purpose to be bold, wise, focused, loving, joyful, serving, and exemplifying just like He was . . . and I suggest you do the same.

#Evermind #MoreOfHimLessOfUs

For Your Consideration:

As a writer, I’ve dabbled in many forms of communication. I’ve written short stories, books, stage & screenplays, articles, etc. But my most prolific genre is poetry. I wrote voraciously in high school and college and have recently decided I need to start scrawling again. I also figured the best writing prompts are the topics I discuss here. So, please accept this as my first poetic submission on Taking Back the Bible. Others will be appearing shortly as I write new articles, but I also plan to write poems for previous posts.

To Show the Christ

I’ve worn the mantle Jesus bore
Upon His frame.
I’ve shod my feet with sandals torn
From distance traveled to a score
Of unbelieving plains.
I’ve burned my skin with suns that scorch
My head. But despite the marks
They’ve left on me, my Lighted torch –
That leads men north –
Fades all their beams to dark.

I’ve spoken with the Pharisees who understand the law
So well they thought that they could trap
Within their tangled scrawls
The One Who sounded Sinai’s calls.
Their pride exposed their wisdom’s lack.
I’ve called the men who all
Left home and ship to follow Him.
I’ve washed their feet. I saw
Them preach, and fall,
And return again, lost souls to ever win.

I’ve preached the sermons, cried the prayers,
And healed the chosen nation’s
Pains. Their stares
I’ve met with His great love, and shared
Each word our Father gave to lead them to salvation.
I broke the bread and felt the glare
Of Satan in the garden.
I’ve watched as one who cared
Too much for silver dared
Betray the One Who’d pay his pardon.

I’ve even felt the tear of thorns and bite of flail
Announce that He would die.
But deeper still than piercing nail
Can drive, I’ve felt the bitter, ugly wail
That must have coursed when palm’s cried “Crucify!”
The cross is all too home to me. I fail
To justly tell its horror.
And though His death I’ve never shared
In truest form, I’ve experienced a measure.

Yet all these shared events can no more
Messiah of me make
Than simple dirt could form
The mirror of the world . . .
For I cannot pretend to save.
So, in the end, all I can hope
Is barely point back to the Light
Who stooped to earth, was born,
And lived, and died, and destroyed the thorn
Grown up from Eden. This is my goal – to show the Christ.


Not Unlike Church

GlobalGathering 2009

Today is Palm Sunday!

It’s today we celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

I assume we’ve studied the Passion Week enough to know what this symbolizes. I also assume that we’ve spent the majority of our study on Jesus and His crosswork.

But have we given much thought to the crowd?

Even deeper still, have we found our place in the crowd?

In my study last week I was drawn to the observation that the crowd that surrounded Jesus that Sunday so many years ago is Not Unlike the constituents of the modern Church.

Let’s see if we can gain some life-altering clarity.

The Believers

The Worshipper

“Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.” John 12:3

True, costly, extravagant, intimate worship. She didn’t care about anyone else. All she wanted was to show in a small way her deep, undying devotion to her God!

The Hiders

“Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” John 12:42-43

This group of men believed in Jesus, but were afraid of losing their position.

The Unbelievers

The Betrayer

“‘Why was the perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?’ Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” John 5-6

This man was no more than a thieving, lying, self-worshipper.

The People of the Palm

“[They] took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” John 12:13

This is probably one of the most exciting parts of of the Passion Week. Finally, all of the people in Jerusalem saw Jesus for who He was and were welcoming Him into the City to take His rightful place as Lord of their lives!

But that’s not what this was. The Palm Branch was the political symbol for a group of religious extremists called the Zealots. This group may well be compared with our modern day terrorists. In fact, many believe the Barabbas who had been recently imprisoned had been the zealots’ leader.

Their belief system saw Jesus as the man who would overthrow the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom. Hosanna means “save, we pray.”

The Sight-Seekers

“For this reason [they heard about Lazarus being raised from the dead] also the people went and met him, because they heard he performed this sign.” John 12:18

This Jesus guy sounds like something we should check out! This will be cool!

The Pharisees

“You see that are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” John 12:19

We’re all to familiar with this group. These popularity-seeking religious leaders who saw their own laws as more holy than than Torah could not abide Jesus undermining their “righteousness.”

The Greeks

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:21

These Greeks had come to Jerusalem to participate in the passover. They were clearly proselytes, seeking salvation through Judaism.

The Religious Rejecters

“Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered.” John 12:28-29a

God the Father audibly spoke from Heaven to confirm the words of Jesus, and there were those who explained away the supernatural with a natural solution.

The Spiritists

“Others were saying, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.” John 12:29b

This group denied the direct revelation of God in their own way by making it fit into their own spiritual-system.

The Confused

“We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?”

This is the group that likes to the throw the spiritual leaders under the bus. “Yeah, but this other guy said . . . .” This is also the same group of whom it is said,

“But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet there were not believing Him.” John 12:37

What About Our Churches?

Mary – We all like to think we’re Mary, but of the ten groups mentioned in John 12, only 1/5th were believers, and only 1/10th glorified God through her worship and service. They had God incarnate physically present! What makes us think the statistics are any better today? I believe all true believers have moments like this, but are we consistent? This group is generally the 10% that gets he work done.

Camo-Christians – These Christians see the significance of worshipping God at church, but living out that faith at work is something completely different. They lack the faith in God to do the extravagant.

Judas – We would be foolish to believe there aren’t scoffers in the church. Of course, they talk a good talk, but their motivations are anything but sanctified. For this group, church is a place to get, get, get. They’re the pretenders.

Zealots – This group is passionate . . . but they’re passionate about all the wrong things. Social injustice, grass-fed beef, and free-trade coffee beans are wonderful and all, but do those siren calls drown out the real truth of the gospel? There are whole congregations who’s real bond is their shared belief in feeding the poor, not serving the Savior. People in this group can be saved, but often they accomplish little eternal good.

Sight-Seekers – Pick a church at random, and you will find it filled with people drawn for the party, the spectacle, the adrenaline, or maybe even the miracle! Church is better than 6 Flags, man! If this is the only goal for church attendance, there’s legitimate concern that real spiritual life may not be there,

Pharisees – This group is passionate too, but their fervor is rooted in standards designed to quantify spirituality. Their self-worth and others-judgementalism is born from a personal code of religious conduct, not God’s truth. These people like church because it gives them a forum to work out and parade their own “goodness.” Legalism is a spiritually dead religion.

Greeks – Though the historical narrative focuses on their race (non-Jewish), the group they symbolize for us are those trying to find salvation by the wrong means. Many today go to church to follow the dead traditions created by the legalist. Some have a half-knowledge that tells them “church is good,” but never drives them to understand what they’re supposed to be doing at church. They too, are unsaved.

Rejecters – These like to see a spectacle, but like a heckler at a magic show, they always seem to have a scientific/philosophical/anthropological explanation for everything. This groups is very similar to the self-professing atheist who attends church because they were invited or because they were tricked into thinking this group was just meeting to play basketball, but a preacher showed up!

Spiritists – This group loves believing in the supernatural, but the clearly revealed truth of God through the Word of God isn’t fantastical enough for them. Revelation must be miraculous! Tongues, visions, angels, and demons are far more interesting than doctrine! The Bible doesn’t say anything good about people who miss the truth of God for a “spiritual experience.”

Confused – “But the last guy said . . . .” This group defines the majority of pew-sitters these days. They listen and take notes, but personal study and real understanding are asking a little too much. That’s why we have a pastor, right?

What About You?

No one’s around. It’s just the two of us. Which one are you . . . really?

What’s your motivation for going to church? Is it really because God is the sole-center of your entire existence? Is church a place for service, corporate sanctification, one-anothers, praise offered for an audience of one, and learning more about your God who is all and in all?

Or are there other motivations? Is church a social club, an entertainment hot-spot, or supernatural spectacle? Does church represent a place to get, get, get for self or to give, give, give to the wrong cause?

Does church seem like a “good idea,” but you’re not really sure why? Is it too confusing to really give deep thought to?

Are you go just hoping to see the “magician” mess up, so you can continue on in life without having to believe in God?

1/5th will stand before God and be ushered into glory.

1/10th will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

No one’s perfect, but may this glimpse into the Triumphal Throng shake us out of the mindset that just because we’re gathered with a bunch of other people who seem really excited/interested in this Jesus guy, that doesn’t mean we have a saving relationship with the Messiah.