As I’ve been doing radio interviews for The Day I Met Jesus, I’ve more and more realized just how oddly different Jesus was when He walked the earth. He didn’t do things the way the experts wanted him to. He didn’t barge in and claim an earthly kingdom with flash and crash. No, his was a heavenly one, and it operated in a completely different way than everyone expected.
Imagine if PR people existed in Jesus’ day, and one had been assigned to him. No doubt, if Jesus was going to garner the exposure he needed, he would have to hang out at the Sanhedrin, hobnobbing with the important religious leaders, currying favor. He’d spend a lot of time in the Temple, arousing folks with great oratory and quite overt miracles. He might even travel to Rome to be sure he met with all the influential political leaders. He would have to ignore the simple pleas of the unimportant in order to build his platform on the shoulders of the giants of his day.
If social media and the internet existed then, His Twitter account would have to be substantial, of course, and his website would have to be SEO optimized and top notch. To be successful, he’d have to garner several thousand likes on Facebook, and he would curry the top fees for speaking. He would sell the Old Testament in the back of the house, autographing copies, all the while building his email list empire so when the New Testament came out, he’d be able to sell that as well.
His business manager would pull Jesus aside and scold him for overturning tables in the temple. “Those are the folks who have the means to buy your products,” the business manager would say, exasperated, “and you have just alienated a big chunk of the buying public.”
Of course, I’m being ridiculous and facetious here, but you get the idea. If Jesus had set out to be a big deal person with a gigantic platform, I’m sure he could have. But he chose not to. In fact, when he cured folks, he asked them to go through the rites of purification, then be completely silent about their healing. His tribe included folks that could not expand his influence, right down to those formerly demonized, the Samaritans (who were racially hated during that time), women, IRS agents, prostitutes, and other unsavory types. His tribe? A bunch of misfits who weren’t mavens or connectors or even influential.
He didn’t care a stitch about it. Never do you see Jesus fretting over whether he was a big deal, whether more and more people were following him. In fact, he even said words that reduced his tribe. In John 6 we see Jesus talking about the disciples needing to eat his flesh and drink his blood. In the middle of these strange commands, Jesus says, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing” (John 6: 63). The disciples are angsty, and Jesus’ tribe is fickle. After this difficult teaching, the Scripture says, “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him” (John 6:66).
Where does Jesus go to expand the Kingdom of God? He goes to the highways and byways, to the outskirts and outcasts. He stoops to listen to a child. He provides wine for a wedding feast, bread for a multitude of tired, world-weary folks sitting in groups on a hill. He stops a crowd when a bleeding women touches the fringe of his cloak, talks with her, listens, then heals her, never rebuking her for making him unclean. He dignifies an adulteress, has a theological discussion with a Samaritan woman (the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and someone else!), and accepts the gift of a prostitute (which she bought through prostitution).
I can imagine the red-faced PR person trying in vain to pull Jesus aside. “These are not the type of people you should be spending time with if you want to build your platform,” he would implore. But Jesus would shake his head and reorient himself anew on building a different kind of platform, the platform of the kingdom where all are welcome but few find. And why is it a few? Because desperation seems to be the ticket onto his platform. And so few are truly desperate for Jesus.
To be honest, I spent too many years of my life desperately wanting to be NOTICED. So I built a platform high enough that I stood above others so they could see me. I chased personal fame at the expense of my soul. I obeyed all the publishing and speaking gurus who told me what I had to do. I lost myself in that pursuit, friends. I was obedient to those voices, but I was not obedient to the still, small voice of my Savior.
Which is why when I think about the oxymoronic way Jesus built his platform, I quieted myself. If his mission was to reach all of humanity, then he had to show an archetype of that devotion when he walked the earth. He reasoned with the mighty on the same day he healed a leper, an unclean outcast. He was consumed with one passion: to see the fame of His Father spread throughout the world. And, as a result, he thwarted the works of the evil one who was all about fame, prestige, ego and pride.
As a Christian writer and speaker, I am humbled as I type this. Because I haven’t viewed the world the same way Jesus did. I haven’t placed the lenses of the kingdom over my eyes. But my heart? It’s to make a shift, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to become unabashedly odd, to embrace the upside down kingdom in the way I pursue this strange business. I want to speak to the outcasts. I want my daily life to be one of attention, alert to the prompting of the Spirit to follow through. I want to chase less flash and pursue more integrity and compassion. I want to confound a PR person.
Does this mean the end of my career? Most likely. I’ve realized I’m not cut out to force ministry to make provision. (Not to say others can’t do this; this is my journey.) Writing and talking about The Day I Met Jesus has changed my life because it forced me to look again at our paradoxical, curious savior, how he built his misfit (but beautiful) kingdom.
And I want to truly, truly follow Him down pathways, not platforms.