This WORKTALKweekly is in two parts, both being broadcast together. The same edition will be broadcast next week.
Here is a question that has intrigued me for years. Perhaps it does you? What was it about Jesus of Nazareth that fascinated all those he met? It’s a question that needs to be expressed in several formats. Why were all types of people so drawn to him? What made people want to fall at his feet or strike at his head? Why were women and men inspired to express profound love for him? Why did others hate him with venom?
You might want to imagine how people would react if Jesus of Nazareth walked right into your room this minute. Suppose he was round the table at your meeting today?
I suggest there are a thousand answers to these questions, but I would like to explore one with you.
There is a phenomenon in human behavior that has been labeled ‘projection’. It has to do with attributing aspects of ourselves onto someone else. It is a habit of seeing qualities in another that belong to you and then admiring that other person. It has been described as giving someone your gold, letting them hold it and then admiring what they hold.
Some people, who we call charismatic, seem to provoke this habit more than others. So you might project your musicality onto another and then admire them for it. You may project your femininity onto another and then admire her for that. We seem to do this projection quite automatically and without choice. In fact it helps us to make friends, fall in love or form teams.
When people met Jesus of Nazareth, he provoked great projections. Men projected their manhood onto him and found great admiration for his masculinity. Women projected tenderness onto him and were drawn into his subtle nature. Children projected their playful side and were drawn to sit on his knee. In short, many people saw in him the best of themselves and him and were fascinated by it.
Don’t stop reading or you will project your disagreement onto this email! Here is the surprise. In our regular relationships, sooner or later, we realise that a person is not what we thought. The charismatic leader has feet of clay. The beautiful one has bad breath. The fascinating one was boring as well. So we take back our gold in disappointment.
But not so with the Nazarene. The more you project, the more you discover, not only the best about yourself, but that he really is the man of your dreams. He actually is the authentic, charismatic leader. In his presence you see the best of you, but then he reveals the best that there is. Finally there is someone you can believe in. He is the truth. He is the way. He is the life. Can you see it?
Here, in one person, is a character so strong he can carry your hopes, your aspirations and your ideals. Finally you can stop hemorrhaging endless longings and touch his hem to discover power comes back to your soul. You are integrated, uplifted and affirmed in his presence.
There is another side to this. You and I also project our darkness onto others. So you will see your faults in another and demonise them. This is at the root of quarrels, fights, wars, racism and prejudice. We take our shadows, throw them onto another and then make them a figure of hate. Psychologists call this scapegoating. Theologians have used the term for a long time. It is a way of avoiding responsibility for our own faults. So who do you blame for the evil in the world? A banker? A politician? A government? Your boss? – And who do they blame?
Jesus of Nazareth became the scapegoat for the faults of many and they sought to destroy him. Watch it happen. Men and women want to be God. So they throw that at Jesus and seek to destroy him. You and I want to be self-centered and worshipped so we throw that at him and despise and reject him.
Second surprise. As our faults are thrown at him, he took them to a hill and destroyed them. And the light overcame the darkness. As he was lifted up, and raised up, people were drawn to him.
Those that chose found that this was not an ordinary scapegoat. This one actually could take the strain. This one could bear the sins and carry the shadows. They accused him of being God but he turned out to be God. They accused him of wanting to be worshipped, but it turned out that he deserved to be worshipped. They accused him of promoting himself and it turned out that he was offering himself.
So do you want to know why people follow him? In his presence, we find the best of ourselves released and the worst of ourselves revealed. Our best in enhanced and our worst is consumed. Unlike any other human, whatever your projections onto him, he will bear them, and, if you let him, he will elevate you to your heights, rescue you to your depths, never disappoint you for as long as it takes and invite all comers to his party.
Maybe Paul had this in mind when he talked about how high, deep, long and wide the love of God in Christ Jesus really is.
Well maybe I am projecting onto Paul.
Either way, Jesus shines.
This WORKTALKweeekly is dedicated to David and Robin Sheffield, who, by being Christ to others, allow others to be their best.
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
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