Originally posted March 20, 2013;
reposted here with minor edits.
reposted here with minor edits.
When I was a kid, my sister and I used to do what were called “specials” in church. That is, we’d sing a Gospel song together; her singing and playing the piano, and me, standing behind her as much out of sight as possible, the introvert with a good voice, singing and keeping rhythm with my nervously knocking knees.
A favorite was a song written by Rev. Charles B. Wycuff and recorded by Hank Snow, with Floyd Cramer on the piano, on his 1966 album, Gospel Train. The song was “I See Jesus.”
The song tells the story of another Stephen found in the Bible in Acts chapters 6 and 7. He was schooling the legalistic and hypocritical religious authorities of the day. As he stood before them, he exclaimed, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man [Jesus] standing at the right hand of God.”
After seeing Jesus he was taken out and stoned.
Many people have seen what they believe are images of Jesus in all manner of earthly objects and earthy settings.
A couple of years ago a man claimed to see Jesus in bird poop on his car’s windshield. He’s reportedly selling the windshield to a collector of these pop-culture relics.
Another man, Brian Krantz, discovered Jesus on the drop cloth he was using, exclaiming, “My heart went a million miles an hour. I was hyperventilating.”
Whether on toast, a potato chip, in tree bark, or a streak on a window, I have a hard time believing that Jesus would make such an appearance.
Sometimes I wonder if a different kind of “stoned” isn’t going on, other than what Stephen experienced. Know what I mean?
While I do believe that hyperventilating is an appropriate reaction when confronted by the presence of God – after all, Moses, Isaiah, the shepherds abiding in the field, and others all more or less fell to the ground overwhelmed by their encounters with The Holy – I’m thinking paint stains on a drop cloth or a poop splat on a windshield aren’t exactly of the same caliber.
But I could be wrong.
I mean, how do they know it’s Jesus they’re seeing and not, say, an image of Max von Sydow, Robert Le Vigan, Jim Caviezel, or any number of other actors who have portrayed Jesus in the movies?
Or, perhaps, they’re imagining the vestigial visage of John Lennon, Tommy Chong, the Big Lebowski, or anyone else who ever had long hair and a beard.
The truth is that we really don’t know what Jesus actually looked like.
Most sightings are probably being ID’d against one of the more popularized Christ images of the 20th century, Warner Sallman’s “The Head of Christ.”
But in reality, every image of Christ we’ve ever seen is only a representation of how various individuals have imagined he looked.
So, when someone spots the Savior in an oil slick, they’re not seeing Jesus, but just an idea of Jesus.
Hooey or holy?
It’s easy to dismiss these spottings as a bunch of hooey rather than something holy.
So I wonder, what are these Jesus-in-stuff spotters actually looking for?
Are they looking for an encounter with the real Jesus or something else? Why are they so ready to see Jesus in a candy bar, a chunk of wood, or a frying pan?
It’s easy to blow these people off as less than bright, but I doubt Christ would. I’m guessing that for some reason Jesus is on their minds.
Seeing the reason for the seeing of Jesus
This raises a couple of questions:
- Why are they looking for Jesus?
- What Jesus are they looking for?
Or are they looking for the Jesus who can and will change their hearts if they let him. Do they really want to be changed or do they just want to improve their luck?
Perhaps all they really want is to make a little extra cash from someone who collects these quasi relics. Perhaps they’re looking for a Santa Claus effect: give me a better life but leave my life alone at the same time.
It’s pretty common for people to suddenly “need” God (and Jesus is God’s Son) when they’re in trouble or have an intense want.
So maybe these people are doing some soul-searching, looking for an answer to a problem, when “Voila!”, they see what they believe is the face of Jesus in a stain and feel saved.
The thing is, they really aren’t. Saved, that is.
Seeing but not seeing, hearing but not hearing
A lot of people encountered Jesus when he was alive. They saw him and experienced him in person. They heard him speak. They saw him heal. They witnessed his miracles. They filled their bellies from the multiplied loaves and fishes.
And then they crucified him on a cross and walked away.
Today, you can spot decorative crosses hanging from the necks of just about everyone as a sort of good luck charm.
The thing is, Jesus will show up where and when you need him if you call on him. He’s not too proud to get low to be where you are. After all, he made his first appearance on earth in a smelly, muddy stable.
And he did come for your benefit. He said, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
He further explained, that his Father “God so loved the world that he gave [me, Jesus] his one and only Son, that whoever believes in [me, Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send [me] his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through [me, Jesus]” (John 3:16-17).
So looking for Jesus is not a bad thing, but it helps to know what to expect and how to react when he shows up.
When Jesus gets close, maybe from time to time he does leave a mark on everyday objects. If you spot him in your soup or the foam of your coffee, perhaps you should perk up and pay attention.
Think about what’s going on in your life that is opening you up to a visit. Why are you seeing Jesus and what are you looking to get from him?
What he really wants is to leave a mark on you and change your heart.
To move beyond merely seeing an image of Jesus and being transformed by Jesus is simple. Paul outlines the steps in Romans 10:9-13:
“…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’Wearing a cross doesn’t win you blessings. Jesus is not and won’t be your talisman, good luck charm, or relic.
However, seeing Jesus on your windshield could be a clue that he’s near you, cares about your situation, and is just a belief away from becoming your Savior joining in relationship with you.
It’s your choice.
Letting others see Jesus in you
The amazing thing that happens when you take Jesus on as more than just a piece of jewelry is that your life begins to reflect Him.
Stephen from the song was viewed as “a man full of God's grace and power, [who] did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). He had committed his life to Jesus, was in relationship with the risen Christ, and it showed in his courage and care for others.
And when Stephen saw Jesus, he wasn’t looking for some holy handout; he was laying his life down for the Cause and looking forward to being welcomed into heaven.
The song ends,
He prayed, “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”Are you looking forward to being welcomed “home”? I am!
Through the gates of glory down the streets of gold
Marched the hero of the Lord into heaven’s fold.
When he met the Savior at the great white throne
I believe He smiled and said, “Stephen welcome home.”