by Tim Mooney
We point at Jesus. Look at him. His wise teachings. His confounding parables, that almost seem nonsensical or crazy, until the deeper message gets through and we realize it’s too late for our defenses to get in place, it’s too late to deny the truth in his words. We feel that truth, experience God’s presence, and we are transformed a little bit more.
We point at Jesus. Look at his miracles. His touch heals, his words cast out demons. He restores sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, dignity to the outcast. He feeds the hungry, cures the sick. He restores our soul.
We point at Jesus. Look at his love. He breaks down the walls and reaches across cultural divides, he touches the untouchable, he talked with those he wasn’t supposed to talk to, he healed on the Sabbath, he forgives when others are ready to stone.
We point at Jesus. Look what he gave. His life to ministry, his time to his disciples, his heart to those he taught. When push came to shove, he gave all that he had, everything. He gave his life for us, the world. Even in his dying he was all about love and grace: “God, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
We point at Jesus. For good reason. He is the Son of God. The Incarnate One. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father; and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
We point at Jesus! This is what Christmas is all about. Let’s put Christ back in Christmas! This is what Easter is about. It’s not about bunnies and eggs, it’s about him. It’s about him! It’s about him! Look at him! Look at him! Look at him!
But a question arises. Did Jesus ask us to point at him? Is it about him? Or is it about what he is about?
Jesus does point at himself a couple of times. The most well known of these instances are found only in the Gospel of John:
I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, they will be saved, and will go in and find pasture.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Before Abraham came to be, I AM (John 8:58).
Following Jesus is not an entirely safe path.
Jesus saying “I am” 118 times, more than the other three gospels combined. And the Gospel of John was the last gospel written, 90 years after Jesus’ death. Many scholars believe that in the Gospel of John we are seeing how the young church began to point more and more at Jesus, because they found so much life and love in him.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus – by and large – does not point at himself, and even seems to go out of his way to not point at himself. After healing someone, Jesus often strictly forbid that no one should know what he did. He tells people not to say anything about him. Jesus most often refers to himself as the Son of Man, a humble reference, while others claim, “Surely he is the Son of God.” Pilate asks him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” and Jesus responds, “So You say.”
As a kid, I loved hiking in Yosemite with my Dad. He would often stop and point to a waterfall, a deer, a bear! “Tim, look!” and he would point his finger. But at first I would look at his pointed finger. “No, Tim, don’t look at my finger, look at what it’s pointing at!”
We point at Jesus. But what we miss, what we don’t notice, is that Jesus is always pointing at something. And what is that? He’s always pointing at the Kingdom of God, the Kin-dom of God. How many times does he begin his teachings, his parables, with this phrase – “The Kingdom of God is like a…”? And then he tells a story of outrageous grace, love undeserved, unforgettable forgiveness, unheard of generosity, deep justice. And the heroes of his parables are often considered the scum of the earth: the outcasts, the unclean, despised Samaritans, the ones who we think are the farthest from the Kingdom of God.
Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” It’s about the Kingdom right here and now. And then Jesus stops reading the scroll right there. On purpose. Because the next line says, “to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.” The Kingdom of God is never about vengeance, it’s about love and justice.
When he points at the Kingdom of God, he is not just referring to the afterlife where all us saved folks get to go to heaven. The Kingdom of God, says Jesus, is in our midst. He invites us to pray for this Kingdom of Love and Justice to be fully realized “on earth, as it is in heaven.”
There’s one other way we find Jesus pointing at himself. He points at himself, in you and me, in others. “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.” It’s about him, and it’s about what he was about.
We point at Jesus. And we should. But when we look at him, may we truly see him, and see what he is pointing at. We are invited to love Jesus, and love who and what he’s pointing at. We are asked to be about, what he is about. The kin-dom of God in our midst, the kin-dom of God on earth. Amen.