Like Gilligan, you were on an enchanted cruise, only in the South Pacific.
Ominous skies turned the sea angry and your small vessel capsized, but fortunately, near a lovely island. You eventually make it to land with a profound sense of relief. But all your provisions have been pilfered by the ocean and water has short-circuited all your communications equipment. You are hungry, stuck, and alone.
You are startled on shore by the appearance of a leathery man with a beard that looks like seaweed is attacking his face.
He too was stranded and has survived in his new abode, and is, embarrassingly, glad you have arrived.
Famished from trauma and the exhaustion of swimming to your new home, you inquire, “Is there anything to eat here?”
“Oh, yes,” he says, “food that has made me healthier and stronger than I have ever felt in my life. And there’s all you can eat of it.”
He seems a bit too eager.
But still you insist, “Can I please have some! I’m starving. I haven’t eaten in days.”
His kind eyes glisten behind a face that resembles dried tobacco leaves and fur. He nods and motions with a surprisingly muscular arm for you to follow him.
He darts and dives through thick brush to the top of a hill where, once you crest the peak, you jaw drops at the vast valley where curly-headed, mossy vegetable leaves have smothered the earth in a carpet of deep green.
“Is it cabbage?”
Puzzled, he retorts, “No, silly, it’s KALE!”
His face brightens, “there’s as much as you want. Have at it!”
Your excitement stalls.
All There Is to Eat
Why’s he so happy to show you a landfill of kale? You were forced to eat it as a kid, and it nearly broke your teeth. It felt like choking down a leather tongue from your weathered pair of Top-Siders.
Sensing your hesitancy, he charges down the hill with the exuberance of a boy racing down the stairs on Christmas morning. He aggressively tears off a sturdy green leaf like he’s finally getting that 1952 Vintage American Flyer K325 Hudson 4-6-4 Engine Locomotive for his model train collection that he’s always wanted all his life.
Though your stomach has turned inside out and begun to gnaw on itself, your hunger is temporarily overwhelmed by befuddlement.
A series of questions bubble up, like irritating harp alarms from you IPhone: “Why are so thrilled about that? How can you eat that while sober? Have you ever had a burger?”
And the most dreadful realization of all, “Is this really all there is to eat here? There’s nothing else at all?”
A slivering despair begins to choke you like a boa constrictor giving you an unfriendly hug.
Your new “friend” and overly enthusiastic guide is confused.
“What do you mean? You don’t like this nutrient dense dynamo of the vegetable world?”
Angered by his confusion at such an obvious mist of sadness hovering around your famished body, you snort, “It’s not that I don’t like it. I hate it. I can’t imagine ever eating that under any circumstances.”
“Well,” he puzzles, “I reckon you’ll starve. This is, like I said, the only food that grows here. But even if you don’t like it, I swear it it’s made me feel more alive than I ever have before.”
“But,” you protest, “I don’t like kale. I like lasagna, and Fritos, and pineapples, and meatloaf, but I loathe that green appetite suppressant.”
“Ok. I understand. I really do. Only, the thing is, well, as you can see, kale is what we have here. There is no other food. But there is plenty of this verdant, splendid treat!”
“Quit it!” you snap, fainting from a fatal combination of stubbornness and hunger.
Irritating Fact of Christianity
It’s worth considering whether we might approach Christianity similarly to the imagined scenario above.
Tim Keller cleverly points out that Christianity, like that kale-only island in the example above, is an irritating religion, because regardless of whether you might prefer something else or not, it is, based on fact.
It’s easy to imagine that because we can choose what kind of shoes to wear, and what data plan we want on the smartphone of our preference, that we get to choose what reality is. That because I can decide where I want to live, I can also decide what happens when I die, or what is beyond us, or what my life is supposed to be about.
Christians round the world from the first Easter on, have based their life and complete understanding of reality on the hundreds of witnesses certified reality of Jesus Christ raised from the dead. We believe Christ is the key to history and the future.
“If Jesus was raised from the dead, you’ve got to deal with the Scriptures,” Keller concludes. If he wasn’t, then you can scrap them. But it matters little what any of us prefer, because this is the fact that stares us in the face and demands a consideration.
Jesus of Nazareth was swindled out of his “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and he refused to protest about his injuries. Instead, he took them. Insults, injustice, and nails.
He tasted, not only the thirst of deprivation, the loneliness of abandonment, and the torture of mob hatred (with everyone there thinking they were on the right side of history!), but also, death. Cold, final, heart-terminating, oxygen-evaporating death.
Scarred but Standing
Then three days later, everyone saw him. Scarred, but standing.
No zombie, but a stunning shocker of a surprise and courage-producer for men who’d found themselves “locked in a room for fear of the Jews” just moments before his unexpected arrival. And this, after scattering like scared school children before a floor full of scurrying mice, upon Jesus’ arrest a few days prior.
But the record of their lives after the resurrection appearances, and the proof of its force as we continue reckoning with it 2000 years later, emit a clarifying and confidence creating evidence.
Cowering men became indomitable in spirit. Followers previously reported scampering away to save their own hides, had been confronted with a change in the structure of the universe so profound and personal that they were now ready to have their own hides shredded like their Savior. And all because they couldn’t stop talking about the only fact that mattered. The only fact, in fact, which would make everything else matter.
The fact? Jesus Christ raised from the dead.
His resurrection meant that he was God’s vindicated agent of judgment (and redemption!) whom everyone would face the day after the “world’s last night” and that anyone, no matter how cowardly, awful, unfaithful, immoral, rebellious or allergic to God could come to him for pardon, exoneration, and indestructible, sorrow-less life in the world to come. And that life, of course, could begin even now for anyone who entrusts themselves to him!
But anyone who refused, was intent to starve on an island, loudly insisting on pizza and his own preferences, while refusing the only food available, kale.
Keller notices that the author of some 3/4 of the New Testament once found Christianity more irritating and offensive than any sophisticate in Hollywood, or intellectual in the Ivy Leagues, or Militant Marcher for Science. He thought Christians should be killed. That they perverted the true religion of Judaism.
Until the inconvenient-ist of all truths...Jesus knocked him off his horse. Blinded by his stunning reality, Paul became the most devoted advocate of what he now understood the only true depiction of reality and the fulfillment of Judaism.
Messiah had come.
The future had started.
Resurrection of all the righteous, which Jews had always awaited to begin on the Day of the Lord’s Judgment, had started with the Messiah.
And God had appointed this Messiah Jesus (Messiah = Christ) as the one to whom every one must give an account of their life. Those who long for his coming, because they’ve sided with him in trust will find their longings rewarded. Those who ignore, disregard, mock or sneer his existence, will have their own existence mangled according to their own wishes.
To all who say to this resurrected Christ, as if he were kale, “I’d rather starve.”....He will say, “OK then. For all eternity, you will know terrifying emaciation and starvation of that for which the soul longs.”
But all who eat the only food the universe grows, there is the promise of life unending and the witnessing of “everything sad coming untrue.”
“You Must Accept or Reject”
CS Lewis once sized up the situation like this:
“The question is, I suppose, whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis. That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe, down to manhood — and come up again, pulling it up with Him. The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost. It is either lunacy or lies. Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.
‘What are we to make of Christ?’ There is no question of what we can make of Him; it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.
The things he says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, ‘This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go,’ but He says, ‘I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.’ He says, ‘No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.
He says, ‘If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last.
Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.’ That is the issue.”
We live in a universe that presents to us the most satisfying and enlivening food imaginable, only at present, this offering of Christ is not equally palatable to us all. But if you come to him, with all your hunger, doubts, sorrows, and sins, you might just find your taste buds altering and the life of the heavens teeming within you, even while plodding this earth.