Jesus Christ, The Provocative Teacher
- Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Ever notice how certain people seem to fill a room with their presence? They simply walk in and every eye turns their way. Sometimes this magnetism is due to an individual's athletic prowess or stunning appearance. For others, it's their ability to produce astounding wealth.
Growing up, Bill Gates was probably ignored in most settings – but not today. When Gates appears on the scene, people notice. Money magazine in May 2002 revealed that the Microsoft titan had amassed a fortune in cash: forty billion dollars, to be exact. To help us get a handle on that sum, Money explains that it's enough buying power to acquire Ford, Exxon, Mobil and Wal-Mart combined. Enough to purchase four space shuttles or to write a check for the entire U.S. airline industry – twice! Or he could use the money to buy every professional football, basketball, baseball and hockey team in America. Love him or hate him, Gates is a jaw-dropper because of his financial achievements.
Long before Michael Jordan amassed a financial empire on endorsements and advertisements, he was wowing audiences with his aerial acrobatics. My son still has a poster of His Airness above his desk. In the photo, Jordan is suspended in midair, hanging precariously between the foul line and the basket. He hovers with his eyes at rim level, arm stretched above his head gripping a basketball at the moment before he slams it through the net. In the background, the audience is transfixed, sharing one expression – awe. Hundreds of mouths hang open as MJ performs his superhuman display.
Sometimes sheer physical size draws attention. When we wanted a good laugh as kids, my friends and I would watch professional wrestling. Thirty years ago it hadn't achieved the near-X-rated status it boasts today; it was just plain dumb. We laughed hysterically at characters like George "the Animal" Steele, who slobbered and drooled in front of the camera, and Toro Tanaka, whose pre-game ritual included throwing salt around the ring – salt he would later rub into the eyes of his unsuspecting victim.
We snickered at most of this charade, eagerly devouring bags of potato chips and sloshing down cans of pop. But suddenly we became silent, and our sneers gave way to expressions of wonder. There he was, and he was unbelievable.
His name was Andre the Giant, a seven-and-a-half-foot, 450-pound humanoid stuffed into a pair of wrestling tights. Each pant leg was the size of a sleeping bag. His head was as big as a microwave oven. This was the closet thing to Goliath we had ever seen. A sports magazine picture of this behemoth showed his hand cupped around a cola can – a can visible only through the cracks between his fingers.
Soon the fun would begin. A hapless wannabe would enter the arena to challenge the giant, and after just a few moments Andre would toss him around like a rag doll. The crowd was divided – and so was our fan club. Half wanted Andre to win; half cheered for the smaller David. But regardless of whose side we took, it was never boring when Andre was in the ring.
The list could go on – star athletes, business tycoons, entertainment divas, rock superstars. These are the people whose first names are part of our everyday vocabulary – Arnold, Oprah, "the Donald." And love them or hate them, we can't simply ignore them. They don't get lost in the crowd; no one yawns when they enter the room.
Encountering the Provocative Teacher
Despite all the fanfare generated by famous stars and athletes, no one ever caused jaws to drop like Jesus. And no one ever divided a room more quickly than this prophet from Nazareth. It was not his wealth or size or physical ability that people noticed; he didn't even have a permanent home. Certainly "he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him/ nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2). His redemptive power and grace, his authoritative teaching and nature-defying miracles, his unceasing love and abounding courage, turned heads and stirred deep emotions. His presence was unmistakable. People either loved him or hated him – but they never ignored him.
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