Jesus in Blue Jeans
One of the great mysteries of our faith is the mystery of the Second Coming. There are many passages of scripture referring to it. There are equally as many interpretations of these passages. Will He come again? When will He come again? How will we recognize Him when He comes? Is the second coming a physical, full body representation, or is it to be a spiritual ‘gift’ from God?
Let’s look at some of these passages and think about their meanings:
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (NAS, Luke 21:32-33)
This generation will not pass away? This suggests that Christ will return within the lifetimes of the disciples. But in the very same paragraph it also says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not.”
In the letters of Paul, it is very clear that the apostles expected Jesus’ imminent return, in full body form. After all, wasn’t this the Messiah who had performed a bounty of miracles, including raising his friend, Lazarus, from the dead? And did He not promise to do the same to Himself? Well, maybe…and maybe not. You see, Jesus also said this:
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." (NIV, Mark 13:32-33)
So, not only can we not know when this will be. We don’t even know how it will happen, since there is no description of it. Stranger still, Jesus says, not even the Son - meaning Jesus Himself - will know, not even the angels in heaven, but only the Father. Not even Jesus Himself will know when He will return? Certainly, these words are a superb mystery, and they can only have one ultimate meaning. Like everything else Christ has passed on to us, this is something we must accept not on the evidence of our senses. Not by what we have seen, or heard, or physically felt, but by virtue of our faith. We hear the words, or see them written, and we believe, because we have been given the power of the freedom of choice. We believe because we choose to believe. Or, we disbelieve for the same reason, because we choose to disbelieve.
But let’s assume for a moment that Jesus will come again as a complete human being. Let’s assume he came walking from the south across the mountains. Maybe he crossed the border below the First Concession and walked across the fields of Marilyn Partridge’s farm. Is that a serious challenge to your beliefs? Do you really think He will come descending from the sky, fully adult and wearing shining white robes? Or, will he wander into town as a stranger, wearing a denim shirt and blue jeans, with a wild black beard and a huge, heart-warming smile. Maybe he’ll wear a Montreal Canadiens hat? No, no. That’s going too far. Lord knows they need a Messiah, but he’ll have to wear skates.
But with all this speculation, added to a long list of speculations stretching back 2000 years, are we any closer to knowing the reality? Maybe not.
I am calling this message I decided to pass on to you, “Jesus in Blue Jeans.” The title is not mine. I took it from a book by author Laurie Beth Jones. In it, she responds to the question, “Who was Jesus and who would he be today?” I’ll approach it this way.
Since I live in Huntingdon, I’ll approach it from my familiar territory. I’m crossing the Walker Bridge one Sunday afternoon on my way to the Little Green Library to drop a book I borrowed into the return slot, when I see this lean stranger walking towards me from the direction of Athelstan. “Good afternoon,” I say. And I nod. “Hello,” he replies. Then as I’m about to get abreast of him, he stops and gazes deep into my eyes. I stop also and am mesmerized by this gaze. His eyes are a dark chocolate brown, his beard is somewhat wild and unruly, he has a tan worthy of an inhabitant of Calcutta, and his overall expression is that of a Buddhist monk, calm and serene, yet with a kind of underlying nonchalance and humour, as if anything going on around him just doesn’t matter much. He isn’t young, but then he isn’t old either.
“Can I help you?” I ask. “Yes,” he replies. “Come, follow me.”
And with these words, I forget about the library and I go with him. Thus begins a journey I have often formed in my own mind as I attempt to answer the group question, What if Jesus comes again in my lifetime? What if he shows up in Huntingdon? How would he look? What would he wear? Would he come as depicted by artists, wearing a long white robe and descending from the clouds? Or, will he come as he always came, dressed like a common man and mingling with us all. In that scenario, he’d maybe still have a beard, maybe wear sandals or Nikes, maybe be dressed in blue jeans, a bit faded, a bit worn.
So, I turn and walk with him crossing the bridge and talking. And I’m reminded of the song,
“And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
As we hit Chateauguay street, he looks up and sees the United Church in front of us. “What building is that?” he enquiries. “Why that’s the United Church, a house of God,” I reply.
“So it is,” he agrees. “Let’s go inside.”
“I’m afraid we can’t.”
“Well, Sunday service is over and the door is locked. I don’t know who has a key.”
“Will I have to wait until the Sabbath?” he asks.
“Today is the Sabbath.”
He looks at me kind of sternly and says. “No. Saturday is the Sabbath.”
That stops me cold and I ask, “What did you say your name was?”
And he says, “Yeshua, or, in your language, Jesus.”
All kinds of crazy thoughts rush through my head. They culminate in this one huge question, “Is this really him?” Nooo way. That’s just crazy. That gaze hits me again. And then he asks, “Still having doubts, Thomas?” And I am crushed.
But wouldn’t you have doubts? Would you refuse to accept the obvious, that this stranger beside you is just that? Just a stranger, just a man? What would it take to convince you that this is Jesus Christ, the son of God, come down to earth again? He sees my confusion and he asks, “Would it take a miracle? Should I walk across your river and back? Would that do it?”
I deflect the question and ask, “Are you hungry?”
“Sure am,” he smiles, “I haven’t eaten for a while.”
I suggest we get a hot dog and continue our conversation, and he agrees. And as we walk towards Pivin’s he looks at the stores and restaurants we pass and he questions me, “I thought this day, Sunday, was your holy day.”
“It is, at least it is to some of us.”
“And yet your stores are open?” He says this more as a question, one he would like me to answer.
“You see, not everyone views this as the day of the Lord. Some people work all week and need the time to buy provisions.”
“But it wasn’t always like this, and people still bought provisions.”
“Yes, that’s true.” I’m floundering, and wishing he wouldn’t carry on in this vein. I’m feeling uncomfortable with all this talk of the Lord’s day, his day.
But he persists. “Has everyone forgotten the ten? 2, do not have idols before me. Isn’t your hungry pursuit of material things much the same as the worship of idols?”
“Some would see it that way.”
I’m getting defensive because we have also participated in Sunday shopping at times.
“And what about 4, remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day?”
“Yes, but you see our governments don’t support religions and their practices.”
“And who said anything about governments or religions. Have you all forgotten how to pray?”
“We, er, tend to do that in church.”
“You mean once a week…for an hour? And from what you’ve been telling me, very few people even attend church…or pray at all.”
“That is a shame,” I admit.
But maybe this isn’t the way it would go at all. Maybe when he does come, it will be in sounds and sights of glory, and it would be such a large, shining event that no one could possible deny him. Do you think it might happen that way? I suppose it could. I don’t know for sure, no one does. After all, he said no one could guess the hour when he would return. It’s even possible that he’s come and gone already. It’s not as if his followers have disappeared. It’s not as if no one understands his message, love God and love your neighbour. He may have come in some unfathomable way.
He may have decided that it’s up to us to keep on track, to carry on with social programs that follow his lead, to show our love by helping kids and the elderly, by providing clothes and housing to our community and to foreign communities. By welcoming strangers in our midst. By forgiving known and perceived slights against us. Yes, his message transcends millenniums. He sends us transmissions daily, if we would just pause long enough to listen, to tune in to his channel, not the hundred or more channels that brainwash us into trading real experience for vicarious experience or, in other words, experience we live through the lives or fantasies of others.
So, we stop at Leblanc’s to enjoy a Pivin hot dog and fries.
And he asks, “Can you tell me why the place where you eat is called Leblanc, but the hot dogs you eat are Pivin’s?”
“It’s a devilish long story,” I say.
“That’s all right,” he says, “I have an eternity of time.”
And so, I begin……
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.