Imagine you are driving along one day on the freeway when just ahead of you a driver loses control. You brake and swerve to miss her as the car spins off the side of the road, flips and lands upside down. In the blurr of the moment you pull over, put on your emergency lights and run back to help. What you find is terrifying. The woman is seatbelted in her seat, suspended upside-down, knocked unconcious, and her door is jammed shut. Just when you start to panic you hear something. Out of nowhere a strong man appears, dressed in blue spandex with a flowing red cape. A great big letter S is stamped on his chest. In no time at all he lifts the car and sets it back on its tires, wrenches the door off its hinges, snaps the seatbelt with his bare hands and gingerly lifts the woman out into the fresh air. He nods to you, winks, and then leaps over the trees out of sight in a single bound, headed in the direction of the hospital, with the woman still in his strong arms.
Shortly afterwards, emergency vehicles arrive with the media close behind. You find yourself suddenly in the center of a major investigation, peppered with questions from reporters, EMT's, and police officers. "Tell us again," they insist. "Who was the man who took the woman away?"
"I told you already. It was Superman!"
Another volley of questions: "But how do you KNOW it was Superman?"
"Did he introduce himself to you?"
"Did you actually hear him say his name?"
You feel rather confused. "There was no time for introductions. He didn't need to introduce himself. It was obvious. He was wearing what Superman wears!"
"But it could have been an imposter," they insist. "Maybe he wanted you to THINK he was Superman, but he really wasn't."
"But he appeared out of nowhere," you remind them. "And he was stronger than any ordinary man, and I saw him leap over those trees!" To your utter amazement they refuse to write in the police report that Superman was present at the scene, citing 'lack of evidence.'
Perhaps it's obvious to you by now where I am going with this. As I've met with my JW friends to study the Bible they continue to insist that Jesus could not have been Almighty God because he never identified himself in such a way. "If it was so vitally important that we believe in the Trinity," they tell me. "Then the Bible would have made it much more clear. As it is, the Bible says NOTHING to prove that Jesus and Jehovah are the same God." The more I've thought about this and studied it, the more I'm struck by the ways Scripture 'nods and winks' at us as it relates the ways in which Jesus came dressed in Yahweh's clothes and doing Yahweh's tasks. No, he didn't make a public announcement about his true identity. That would have cut short his ministry unnecessarily. Instead, he revealed his identity through parables and actions so that those with 'eyes to see' would have no doubt who he was, and those who were blinded by unbelief would be unable to pin him down.
There is a widespread misconception about Jesus that he taught using stories because that way people would really understand him. But in Mark 4:9-12 Jesus tells his disciples point blank that his parables are meant to veil his message from the unbelieving. (See also John 9:35-41; 10:22-39; 12:37-41) We must pray that the One who opens the eyes of the blind will open the eyes of our hearts as well.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Jesus and superman
Dr. Carmen Imes is the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta, and serves the broader church through teaching, speaking, and writing. She earned a PhD in Biblical Theology (Old Testament) from Wheaton College under Dr. Daniel Block, an MA in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a BA in Bible and Theology from Multnomah University. She and her husband, Danny, served as missionaries with SIM 15 years. They have three children: Ana, Emma, and Easton.