As we talk about the kind of honesty and authenticity that the Good News of our Gospel ought to encourage in us, today, I want to offer an alternate reading of the Gospels (in other words, a made-up version) and see how much that inspires us to continue in the kind of Christianity that we are too often living, a shallow kind of Christianity.
Imagine, if you will, a blind man on the side of the road. He's surrounded by a crowd of persons who are clearly excited about this man named Jesus who is somewhere in their midst. They are all remarking about what a sight it is to see this Jesus in person, to witness the kind of incredible mercies He is performing for the people. The blind man, not wanting to be left out, starts talking, too. He starts talking about this Jesus that he can also see, about all the things that are going on around him. Except, of course, he can't really see this Jesus. Not in the slightest. He's just making things up and hoping they don't sound too ridiculous, taking his cues from the crowd around him and the things they are saying. Eventually, he convinces even himself that he has truly seen Jesus and rests content in the knowledge of how close he was to this incredible Savior once the moment has passed and the crowd has gone home. This is a story that the blind man will tell forever.
Or imagine that there is a man who has been paralyzed for quite some time. His friends know how much good it would do him to encounter Jesus, so they dig a hole through a stranger's roof and lower him down right in front of the Teacher. Jesus looks at the man, then turns back to the crowds and continues teaching. The man is so thrilled to be so close to Jesus, to have a front row seat to His teachings. He decides that after all of this is over, he's going to have his friends carry him home. He's going to lock himself in his bedroom and work really hard on walking. He's going to devote himself to hours of practice a day until he can finally stand on his own. And then, the next time this Jesus comes passing through town, he's going to walk right up to Him and shake His hand and say, "Remember me? I loved Your teaching so much, I went home and taught myself to walk just so I could come back and see You again."
Or imagine if there were a man whose son was possessed by a demon. He gets a second to talk to Jesus, a quick little moment when Jesus is listening to him. And he shows Jesus the kinds of things that this demon is doing to his child, throwing him on the ground in terrible convulsions. Then, he says, gosh, Jesus. I just can't wait until You come in Your Kingdom and finally put an end to all of this. I am anxiously awaiting the day that You come back and set all these things right. I'm so excited for an eternity where this won't happen to my child any more. Lord Jesus, come back soon.
Now, let me ask you something - how much do these stories inspire you to fall in love with Jesus? How much do you want to believe in Him, knowing that the greatest thing He's ever done is, apparently, to inspire human beings to work harder on their own and to wait patiently for Him to come back? Not much of a God, is He? Not much worthy of our worship.
So then, let me ask you something else - why do we think that these stories are our greatest witness to the world about who He is? Why do we think it's enough for us to claim that we've seen Him, when we haven't even asked to see Him? Why do we think it's enough for us to improve ourselves in the quiet of our own closets so we can show the world a thing or two about how Jesus inspires us? Why do we think it's enough for us to tell the world that we can't wait until He comes back and actually does what He could have done for us in the moment, if only we had asked?
Why do we think the best way to tell the world about Jesus is to tell them stories of times that we didn't meet Him, of encounters that we never had to have, of needs we claim to never have had?
The story of Jesus is in the healing of the blind man, the healing of the paraplegic, the casting out of the demons. The goodness of God is the way that He meets us in our iniquities, not in the way that He apparently inspires us to pretend that we don't have any. Imagine the Gospels if the blind man, the lame man, the deaf man, the demon-possessed, the bleeding woman, the sinner were not honest about their needs, about their hearts. Not much of a Gospel, not much Good News.
Now, imagine our world, imagine our witness, if we were honest about our need for Him.
It's not some flaw of Christianity that God's people stand in need of His grace; it's the very heart of the Gospel. Let us live it boldly, with confident assurance that our God is as good as we claim that He is.