WHY DO I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST?
by V. Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
There is perhaps no subject more challenging and no personality more towering than that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The history of Christianity is a great and glorious one, one that has no peer. It began with a babe born of poor and insignificant parents, and who only lived thirty-three years when he met a terrible and shameful death at the hands of his enemies. After His death he had one hundred twenty followers, all of whom were poor, illiterate-without any social or political prestige. But now, after the lapse of almost twenty centuries from his birth, his followers are counted by the millions. What is the secret of His success? Why is it that the name of Jesus is the most inspiring name in all history? Why is it that eloquent, fervent tongues preach and sing His praises every time they meet for religious services? Did Jesus make any commitments to his followers, promise them any worldly honor, riches or prestige? Precisely how may we account for the charming, drawing power of Christ?
My purpose is trying to answer the question, why do I believe in Jesus Christ, is to bring out some hidden truths about Him so that we might become better acquainted with Him and with His works and His words. Of course, I feel incompetent to give the subject its full dues, neither could this be done in a thousand sermons. Although Jesus has been preached in every pulpit around the world for the past nineteen-sixty-one years, his full stature has not been fully depicted and appraised by man.
Now, why do I believe in Jesus Christ? Because He was not a self-seeking person, but rather a self-denying person. He asked nothing for himself. All the world's historic leaders set out to conquer people for selfish purposes: they wanted to dominate men, to annex continents, to enslave people, to have prestige by forced allegiance. Not so was Jesus the Savior of man! He denied himself to the uttermost, divested himself from all worldly glory, disdained riches, charged no fee for his services. To the man who would follow him for mercenary purposes, Jesus said, "Foxes have holes, the birds of the earth have nests, but the Son of man has no where to lay His head." He denounced with all the power at his command the corrupt religious practices of his day, the self-seeking and self-righteous who put worldly glory above that of God's. Jesus did not come to get but to give, give, give! "I come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." Self-seeking he denounced and laid bare and showed by the way he lived that indeed "it is more blessed to give than to receive". The secret of Jesus' drawing power is derived from the fact that the more you give the richer you become, and the more you hoard the poorer you are.
Secondly, I believe in Jesus Christ for his tenderness, compassion and utter humility. Jesus was unlike any religious leader we know or read about. He is the most impartial person that the world has ever known. He chose for his immediate followers and companions the most inconspicuous and humble men of his day, twelve fishermen and peasants. He had a special and particular liking for the underprivileged, the down-trodden. He loved to keep company with the sinners, the outcasts of human society. "When he saw the multitudes, the record tells us, "He had compassion on them because they were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." The rank and file of the religious leaders of Jesus' day found fault with Him because they thought a religious leader should associate only with the refined, cultured and high tones of human society. To their criticism he retorted, "Go and learn what it is, I want mercy and not sacrifices, the Son of Man came to call the sinners and not the righteous to repentance."
There are in the Four Gospels many recorded incidents which make us marvel at the profound tenderness and compassion of Jesus. A leper came to Him and said, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." Jesus, touched with compassion, said, "I will, be thou clean." To the woman who touched Him he said, "Daughter, thy faith has made thee whole, go in peace." Of the fallen woman who shed tears over His feet and wiped them with her hair, Jesus said, "Because she loved much she is forgiven much."
Yes, I believe in Jesus because of His deep, profound tenderness to all, especially and particularly the so-called sinners and religious outcasts. After the lapse of almost twenty centuries of church history, we wonder if His followers are gripped with that kind of compassion. The Church of Jesus Christ would always be powerless to redeem humanity and turn the hearts of unredeemed humanity to the Lord as long as she lacks His compassion, as long as those in the higher brackets financially, think that those who are below them socially and materially are not good enough. I dare make the statement, without fear of contradiction, that if our prominent Christians who fill the pews of the various churches everywhere would embody the spirit of Jesus and become infused with His tender compassion for the unshepherded, sin-stricken, down-trodden outcasts of humanity, a revival of the religion of Jesus would submerge the hearts of all and the knowledge of God would cover the earth as the water covers the sea.
Finally, I believe in Jesus Christ because of what He is to me, personally. Religion will not become a power in any man's life as long as we think of it as something impersonal. The reason for much of the present-day infidelity and lack of faith on the part of professing Christians, the reason for broken homes, frustrated hopes, selfishness and immorality, is because Christ to most people is a myth, a mystery, a figure of the past and not a living, guiding, empowering, saving Redeemer. We don't worship merely a historic figure who lived on the earth 1,961 years ago-certainly not a dead and done for Savior, but one who is as alive as ever, for He ever liveth, He is the same yesterday, today and forever! I believe in Him because He lives in me now, He guides my every effort, whose spirit approves my deeds when I am right and convicts me when I am wrong. This is what John meant when he said, "He that believeth in Him has the witness in himself." This is what St. Paul meant when he said, "Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." I believe in Christ because I am perfectly aware of His presence in me, and with me, as I am aware of my writing this article. There are those who argue and squabble about religion, but no person who bears the image of God and His Christ but knows for himself that there is no argument against personal proof, knowledge and experience. You know that one of His disciples asked for proof, namely, Thomas, and said, "Unless I see the scars in His hands and His feet, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." But he changed his tune quickly when he was shown and so cried. "My Savior and my God!"
During the harvest season when the grain fields were golden with ripened grain and large ears of corn hung from tall, sturdy stalks, a motorist stopped to compliment the man at work in the field, "You're a good farmer."
"Yes," was the proud reply, "God and I have done a good job." No one realizes more keenly than the farmer how much the elements of nature, created and controlled by God, figure in the growth and production of the yearly planting. God is very real to him.
The story is told of an old Scotchman who for a time had difficulty finding the sense of God's nearness. One day his pastor suggested that the man place a chair beside his bed and every day when he prayed, just to imagine that Jesus was sitting in that chair. It helped.
One morning the old man's daughter came running to the pastor. "Father died during the night," she wept. "But he looks peaceful. Only, his hand was on the empty chair by the side of his bed. Isn't that strange?"
"No." replied the pastor gently. "I understand."
We call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ. It brings to mind the value and importance of a name. "Thou shalt call His name 'Jesus'." We cannot separate our faith or our religious beliefs from that name. It is no accident that He bears that name. For the Old Testament foretold His coming, the New Testament presented Him, the Apostles proclaimed Him!
What happens to us who own and bow before the Name Supreme? First, we lose all worldly ambitions and reach for Him as our prize. We do not feel that we are giving up something we wish to retain, but rather we are gaining that which is of supreme worth. Secondly, we see our lives and all things as God sees them. Our faith, our culture, our education, our zeal, our morality, our knowledge — all counts for nothing if unacceptable to God and not bearing His name. Thirdly, we give ourselves in complete surrender to that name. There will be no holding back part of our personalities, no reservations, no self-interests. There can be no other gods before Him. If He is not enthroned, then the bent knee and the confessing tongue are but sham and hypocrisy when we confess His name. "There is none other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved." His is the Name Supreme!
TO THE ARCHITECT HE IS THE CHIEF CORNER STONE.
TO THE BAKER HE IS THE LIVING BREAD.
TO THE BANKER HE IS THE HIDDEN TREASURE.
TO THE BIOLOGIST HE IS THE LIFE.
TO THE BUILDER HE IS THE SURE FOUNDATION.
TO THE DOCTOR HE IS THE GREAT PHYSICIAN.
TO THE EDUCATOR HE IS THE GREAT TEACHER.
TO THE FARMER HE IS THE LORD OF THE HARVEST.
TO THE FLORIST HE IS THE ROSE OF SHARON AND THE LILY OF THE VALLEY.
TO THE GEOLOGIST HE IS THE ROCK OF AGES.
TO THE JURIST HE IS THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, THE JUDGE OF ALL MEN.
TO THE JEWELER HE IS THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE.
TO THE LAWYER HE IS THE COUNSELOR, THE LAWGIVER, THE ADVOCATE.
TO THE HORTICULTURIST HE IS THE TRUE VINE.
TO THE NEWSPAPERMAN HE IS THE GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY.
TO THE OCULIST HE IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
TO THE PHILANTHROPIST HE IS THE UNSPEAKABLE GIFT.
TO THE PHILOSOPHER HE IS THE WISDOM OF GOD.
TO THE PREACHER HE IS THE WORD OF GOD.
TO THE SCULPTOR HE IS THE LIVING STONE.
TO THE SERVANT HE IS THE GOOD MASTER.
TO THE STATESMAN HE IS THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS.
TO THE STUDENT HE IS THE INCARNATE TRUTH.
TO THE THEOLOGIAN HE IS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH.
TO THE TRAVELER HE IS THE NEW AND LIVING WAY. TO THE TOILER HE IS THE GIVER OF REST.
TO THE SINNER HE IS THE LAMB OF GOD THAT TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.
TO ALL CHRISTIANS HE IS THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD, THE SAVIOR, THE REDEEMER AND LORD.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America