JESUS: The Accessibility Of Jesus, by Hubert van Zeller

To Be In Christ

The Accessibility Of Jesus Hubert van Zeller

In spite of the uncompromising nature of his doctrine, there was nothing of the harshness about Jesus which is sometimes found in religious people.  He could be stern as we have seen, but he was never dismissive.  Love itself, love from whom all humanity springs, how could he have been unlovable?  The word, “amiable,” (admittedly a weak word to act as an adjective to Jesus, and one which describes only a manner), derives from the Latin, “amabilis.”  Critical commentators have made much of the absence of any reference in the gospels to our Lord laughing or smiling.  The implication is that his facial expression was forbidding rather than welcoming.  How, we ask, can an unsmiling man be reconciled with the concept of the perfectly rounded human being?  This is an invalid application of the argument from silence.  It should be pointed out by way of answer that nowhere in the gospel is Jesus recorded as yawning, swinging his arms, wiping his forehead, or any of the hundred actions we perform every day and which are as instinctive as smiling.  Had he never smiled, our Lord would never have drawn children to himself, and surely the act of bringing Zacchaeus down from the branches of the sycamore tree was accompanied by friendly laughter.  And were those sermons preached without hint of a lighter side?  And were those parables – especially the ones which needed changes of voice – delivered grimly and without a spark of humor?  Also if Jesus had been even slightly unapproachable in the face he showed to the world he would not have been so thronged by people as not to have time to eat.  I doubt if people today would ask a well-known figure who glared at them to sign their autograph books.

Whereas modern theater has gone to one extreme about Jesus, interpreting his humanity as hilarity, the film world has gone to the other extreme, making him somber, dreamy, and without spirit.  To rob him of his dignity is to rob him of his divinity as well; to rob him of his joy is to rob him of his union with the Father.  There are enough barriers to our communication with him as it is, without presenting him as either an entertainer or a visionary, remote and aloof.  How can we give our confidence to someone who is either clowning or else wafting in ecstasy in a world beyond our reach?

So what conclusions can we draw in relating all this to our Christian service?  Since Christ dwells within us and is the principle of our activity, our contacts with other people must take their characters from his.  Like him and with him we must be at the disposal of others, never so withdrawn into recollection as to be dismissive.  The prayer life must be safeguarded certainly, or we shall have nothing at the supernatural level to give out, but our contemplation may not serve as an excuse for cutting ourselves off from our fellow members in the mystical body of Christ.  The mystical life and the mystical body go together.  The mystical Jesus is at the same time the accessible Jesus, and we share his spirit.

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