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.
Being 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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.