Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Beverly Hills Jesus

Dear Friends,

Two thousand years ago a major celebrity came to town. Riding on a donkey. The multitudes cut down palm branches to spread on the road and cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:1-9 In the time of Jesus, the population of Jerusalem was about 30,000 people and the City of Beverly Hills is about that same size today. What if after doing miracle healing services all throughout California for three years, Jesus rode into Beverly Hills as a modern-day celebrity today?

The first thing is that massive crowds would trigger a unified LA County Emergency Response and law enforcement agencies from all over the county would be responding to Beverly Hills. People cutting down the palm tree fronds along Sunset Blvd and laying the branches in the road would be arrested for vandalism of City trees, littering, and obstructing traffic. 

If Jesus rode in on a donkey, P.E.T.A – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would be protesting against the cruel and inhumane use of a domestic animal for transportation purposes. Protesters would splash red paint on Jesus as punishment for violating the donkey’s rights and humiliating the animal by riding it. Jesus and the disciples would finally make their way to the Beverly Hilton where they would spend the week and, on Thursday, celebrate Passover in the Upper Celebrity Suite. 

But controversy erupts when the National Organization of Woman joins in protest with a mainline church denomination over Jesus using sexist words such as “Father” and “He” when referring to God instead of using the more acceptable, politically-correct, gender-neutral terms such as the “Holy Life Force,” “Higher Power,” or “Divine Being.”

On PBS “FrontLine,” author of the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, appears in a segment called “Jesus: Man or Myth.” Dr Phil McGraw rushes to book the woman at the well on his show and surprises her by bringing on her five husbands. He confronts her with her past, and shows how she constructed Jesus as an imaginary, metaphoric father figure while she continues to seek reconciliation with her own father through destructive relationships with men. Oprah produces and hosts a TV special with Mary Magdalene, a Muslim Imam and a New Age Guru to explore all of the various pathways to Heaven. 

After Jesus appears on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” and announces that He is the only way to God, John 14:6 the ACLU files a discrimination lawsuit in Federal Court. The White House issues a press release stating that America is not a Christian nation and goes on to state that the President values the beliefs of our Muslim friends and apologizes for the offensive statement of Jesus when He claimed to be God. 

Some politicians proclaim that Jesus’ healing crusades are fictitious stories invented by tea party republicans to show that Obamacare is unnecessary, and KNBC weatherman Fritz Coleman does a special report on channel 4 news showing how a weather anomaly could have made it appear that Jesus walked on water. 

But the real trouble starts on Thursday morning when Jesus appears on “The View.” Jesus is asked about same sex marriages and replies that nothing has changed in the last 2000 years. He reminds them that God created “male and female” and describes marriage as being between a man and a woman. Mark 10:6-8 Whoopi Goldberg is outraged at Jesus for making statements offensive to their LGBT viewers and she storms off the set. That night on ABC Nightly News, a progressive presidential candidate denounces the words of Jesus as an example of the “Christian hate speech” that will no longer be tolerated in America. The clip from “The View” goes viral on social media, and on Friday morning, thousands of people carrying political signs stage a mass protest in front of the Beverly Hills Courthouse and yell, “Crucify Him.. Crucify Him...”

Would Jesus be treated any better today than He was 2000 years ago? I think He’d be treated worse! And, more to the question for us is what would we do? Would we stand with Jesus or shrink back into the shadows to deny Him like Peter did? Matthew 26:69-75 It’s comfortable for us to grab the hands of a brother or sister and pray for them at church, but are we embarrassed to grab the hand of a neighbor and pray for them on their front lawn? We shout out praises to His Holy Name at church on Sunday, but are we ashamed to give God the glory at work on Monday? It can be so easy to shout out “Hosanna in the highest” on Palm Sunday and so hard to even acknowledge our Christian faith when the hostile world is shouting “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” on Good Friday.. or a good Tuesday..or a good Wednesday..or a good Saturday..

We need to not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to point others to the celebrity Jesus because He is the celebrity the world is seeking. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 Jesus was the one true celebrity in the first century and He is the only one true celebrity today. Amen?

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