“Who made off with Jesus?”
This question was the lead sentence in a New York Times story several years ago. It seems that thieves broke into the building of the “Church of the Holy Cross” in Midtown Manhattan and stole a 200-pound plaster image of Jesus. It had been removed from a wooden cross that hung near the entrance of the building.
The caretaker, David St. James, wondered why they didn’t just take the whole crucifix. Then no doubt unwittingly quipped, “They just decided, we’re going to leave the cross and take Jesus.”
This weird story serves as a metaphor for the approach many people have when it comes to Jesus.
Some delight in the birth, but not the cross. Others seek the crown, but not the cross. And still too many wear a crucifix, but fail to really make a commitment.
If you accept Jesus, really accept Jesus, you must take the complete Jesus. The virgin birth. The miracles. The ministry. The cross. And, of course, the empty tomb.
Everyone has an opinion about Jesus. From the news commentator, to the Televangelist, to the skeptic in the street.
I hear the songs of the season, and watch the specials. People talking about Jesus. People taking a little bit of the Jesus they like. Some people mocking Jesus.
And I wonder, “Who made off with Jesus?’
The real Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible. He was born of a virgin. Grew to manhood in obscurity. And lived a common life. Through divine revelation John the forerunner pointed him out, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
And from that time forward everything about his ministry was all about that singular mission. He came to save sinners. And so He taught. Preached. Trained. And prepared His disciples to carry on His mission and spread His message after His work on earth was completed.
For three and a half years there was Jesus bonding with His people. Eating with sinners. Feeding the 5000. Spending time alone with his friends. Enjoying the merriment of the wedding feast. Shedding tears at the death of a friend. Showing compassion to the broken. Hurting. And helpless.
But it was inevitable. It was his purpose. God’s plan. Eternal destiny. Friday had to come. The cross had to occur. Jesus must die. You can’t separate Him from the cross. On it sinless blood was shed. A perfect sacrifice was offered. Atonement was proffered. Reconciliation was made possible. You can’t have salvation without the sacrifice. You can’t receive redemption without the crucifixion. You can’t find forgiveness without the cross.
“Who made off with Jesus?” Friday happened. The cross was crucial.
Yet, there was another day that our world today likes even less…..Sunday. Resurrection Sunday! You see without it the cradle where the Christ-child was laid is meaningless. Apart from the empty tomb, even the cross becomes an exercise in futility. And our faith, the foundation of our Christianity, and our preaching is in vain, if He is not risen.
And so this day. This month. And every day of every month, I point people to Jesus. The real Jesus. The Biblical Jesus. While some folks have “made off with Jesus,” He is alive. He is real. He is reigning. And He wants to be your Redeemer.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman