Fad Jesus vs. Biblical Jesus
Tonight we will be moving away from Hosea (hopefully we will come back in a couple of weeks). Tonight I want to look at John 6 and focus on something that is quite prevalent in our culture, but the truth is it has been around for centuries. One of the greatest tools that Satan uses is substituting the holy for the comfortable. What I am referring to is the fact that Jesus Christ has become a pop icon. If you look at my poster that I have drawn you will see what I am referring to. In the past people who are not even Christians would often wear crosses and religious jewelry, as well as give shout outs to Jesus, or thank Jesus for their Grammy or Emmy when their music or movie’s were adamantly opposed to who Jesus is. But in our postmodern times we have done something that is just as blasphemous—we have created our own Jesus. He takes many different forms but he is what I call fad Jesus—tonight we are going to look at John 6 and compare this Fad Jesus with the biblical Jesus. In case you do not know a fad can be defined as, “a temporary fashion, notion, manner of conduct, etc. esp. one followed enthusiastically by a group.” John 6 is a long chapter, and one that would benefit you greatly to read later tonight—but my desire is to get the overall message of John 6 so I am going to paraphrase it in story form. So listen up as I attempt to tell the story of John 6.
Jesus has been in the city healing the sick and preaching about the kingdom of God. When we come to Jesus and the disciples in John 6, Jesus’ goes up onto a mountain and sits down with his disciples. As they are sitting there on the mountain, something catches Jesus’ attention. He notices a large crowd coming toward him. The disciples begin to count and it looks something close to 5,000 men (and that’s not counting the women and children with them). It just so happens that it is getting close to meal time, and more than likely these people have been searching for Jesus all day. They haven’t had time to stop at McDonald’s. So, Jesus realizes that this will be a teachable moment for his disciples, particularly one named Philip. Jesus asks Philip, “How much money do we have?” Philip responds about eight month’s wages, but that will not even put a dent in the amount of food we would need to buy for all of these people! What are we going to do Jesus? Then Andrew, Peter’s brother, comes up to Jesus with a small boy who has five barley loaves (the poorest type of bread) and 2 fish. But Andrew asks Jesus, what will this do though for feeding so many? So Jesus tells everyone to sit down, he thanks God for His provision, and begins passing it out to the people. Somehow, all of the people are satisfied. Not only do they have enough to satisfy them but they have leftovers. Twelve baskets full of leftovers. Now the Jews there new that in the last days there would be one who would come that were like Moses. One that would feed them bread from heaven just like Moses did in the wilderness. So the people decide that Jesus must be a prophet like Moses. And then they begin thinking a little more and remember that Moses led his people out of Egyptian captivity. Certainly this miracle working Jesus can rescue them from Roman captivity. That must be what he is here for. So they concoct a scheme to seize Jesus and make him their king. But before they get the chance they notice that Jesus is gone.
Once it became nightfall the disciples got in a boat and decided to go across the river, it was getting darker and Jesus was not yet with them. The sea was beginning to get wild, waves were crashing everywhere, so they began rowing. They were out towards the middle of the sea when they saw….was that Jesus? But wait, “we’re three miles out”. What in the world is that? They were scared to death, but then Jesus reassured them that it was him. He got in the boat and they then reached their destination.
The next day the crowds realized the disciples left in one boat, and Jesus did not take a boat, so once some other boats docked the mass of people climbed in the boats and went towards Capernaum to find Jesus. When they finally found him they asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here? Then Jesus bluntly answered them, “You aren’t looking for me or because you are hungry for God, you are after me because I gave you a free meal and you want to see what else I can do”. You don’t want me, you want my miracles. Don’t waste all of your energy striving for perishable food. Work for that which is eternal.” To which the people responded. Okay, sounds good, we can do the works of God. But what exactly is that? To which Jesus responded, “Believe in the One whom God has sent, it’s not what you “do” it’s an act of faith. Don’t work, believe, trust in me. That is the “work” of God.
So the people, probably some different ones than those who had been fed asked, “Do something cool like you did yesterday—show yourself to be sent by God like you did to those folks yesterday and we’ll believe you”. Moses gave our forefather’s manna to eat, why don’t you do something like that? Then Jesus corrects them, It wasn’t Moses who gave them bread it was my Father, and I am that bread, the bread that gives life to the world”. To which the people responded, “hmmm…sounds like some good bread can you give us this bread always”!
Then Jesus goes on a lengthy discourse telling them how He is indeed the bread of life. If they want to have eternal life, then they must come to Jesus. Jesus expresses how he is all that satisfies and his purpose is to do the will of God, and that His will is going to be ultimately accomplished. I am sent from God the Father, as bread from heaven, to give you eternal life.
Then the Jews who were there in the synagogue, started grumbling about what Jesus said. Ha Ha, they said! Isn’t this guy Joseph’s son? I think we know your mom and dad, Jesus? So now your saying your weren’t born in Nazareth but that you were bread that came down from heaven? How are we supposed to believe this.
Jesus again reiterates what he had said before, and says that no man will believe this unless the Father draws them to Jesus. Jesus continues to teach that He is eternal life, to be in a relationship with Him is to have eternal life. But this time he does it in a way that sounds even more strange. He says, if you want to have eternal life you must eat of this bread! This bread is my flesh. To the people who are sitting there it sounds like Jesus is saying, “eat my flesh”, gnaw on my arm and you’ll have eternal life. So they begin to complain, “How in the world is this guy going to give us his flesh to eat”. To which Jesus does not back down in fact he gets a little bit more confusing. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink”.
After they heard this many of his followers said, “this is tough stuff, who can listen to this”? So Jesus says, “what if you see me going back up to heaven?” Will you then believe? Can you stop thinking fleshly? The flesh profits nothing, only the Spirit. These words are spirit and life, that is why you don’t get them. Then he pointed out that some do not believe, (and referred even to Judas). So many of those who had been anxiously running after Jesus left after this. They could not take it anymore. This guy sounds like a weird cannibal and He is obviously asking for more than we can do or understand, so we are leaving. Then Jesus asked His disciples, “How about you?” Are you going to leave too? Then Simon Peter answers, “Where would we go, you have the words of eternal life, you are the only answer, you are who you say you are”. To which Jesus pointed out that He has chosen them, yet one of them (referring to Judas) was a devil that was going to betray him.
I tell you this rather long story for one main reason to point out that Jesus is not a popular guy, nor is that His desire. In verse 2 we see that the crowds were following him, even still in verse 25 they are going to great lengths to find him and seek after him, but after they hear his teachings and get more acquainted with who Jesus really is in verse 66 we see that the masses leave. That is because Jesus is not a fad. Tonight we are going to compare 4 different versions of Fad Jesus with the one biblical Jesus. We are going to take a look at Superhero Jesus, South Park Jesus, Homeboy Jesus, and Cool Jesus, and we are going to compare them to them with the biblical Jesus. And my hope is that you will be left in worship of the one true God and refuse to accept these pale blasphemous imitations.
I. Superhero Jesus v. Biblical Jesus
I wish that I would have had the time to order the Jesus action figure so that I could show you, but instead I have a picture for you. It is a little difficult to distinguish this Superhero Jesus from a bearded ninja like Chuck Norris. In recent years Superhero Jesus has gained many followers. Perhaps it comes from the doctrine of His omnipotence; “the fact that He is all-powerful” and that He can work miracles. Of course because Jesus is all-powerful (which he really is) then that means that He is the best at everything (which He is). So doesn’t that mean that Jesus is an amazing football player? I bet He is also pretty buff too! Certainly he would be a great coach too.
This idea of Superhero Jesus has been around since a little after the time of Jesus. We can find in writings from the Gnostics (a heretical group), known as the infancy gospels, that the boy Jesus had many cool superhero qualities. Here is one story put into modern English.
(1) The son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Jesus. Taking a branch from a willow tree, he dispersed the waters which Jesus had gathered. (2) When Jesus saw what had happened, he became angry and said to him, "You godless, brainless moron, what did the ponds and waters do to you? Watch this now: you are going to dry up like a tree and you will never produce leaves or roots or fruit."
(3) And immediately, this child withered up completely. Then, Jesus departed and returned to Joseph's house. (4) The parents of the one who had been withered up, however, wailed for their young child as they took his remains away. Then, they went to Joseph and accused him, "You are responsible for the child who did this."
Or let me give you one more story:
(1) And after a few days passed, Jesus was up on a roof of a house. And one of the children playing with him died after falling off the roof. And when the other children saw, they fled and Jesus was left standing alone. (2) When the parents of the one who had died came, they accused Jesus, "Troublemaker, you threw him down." (3) But Jesus replied, "I did not throw him down, rather he threw himself down. When he was not acting carefully, he leaped off the roof and died." (4) Jesus leaped off the roof and stood by the corpse of the boy and cried out with a loud voice and said, "Zeno," - for that was his name - "rise up, talk to me: did I throw you down?"
(5) And rising up immediately, he said, "No, Lord, you did not throw me down, but you did raise me up." (6) And when they saw this, they were overwhelmed. The parents of the child glorified God on account of the sign which had happened and they worshipped Jesus.
Now one thing that these stories or this “fad Jesus” has in common is the idea that Jesus does miracles to please people, to have fun, or to display his coolness. We can see in John 6 that in some way the people view Jesus this way. They view him in a way that asks, “What are you going to do to entertain us”? What will you do to please us? What type of miracle are you going to do for us today Jesus? We see this when the people asked Jesus to show them a sign that they might believe.
What about the biblical Jesus? We see in verse 5 that one of the reasons for Jesus’ miracle of feeding the multitude was His compassion. He saw them; he knew they were hungry so he desired to feed them. It arose from his compassion, not a desire to do some sort of magic trick so that the people might be impressed. We see in the gospels, especially the gospel of John, that all of Jesus’ miracles and works have a purpose: to testify that Jesus is who He says He is, the Son of God who has come to take away the sins of the world and usher in the Kingdom of God. As Jesus himself said in v38-40, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Now, before we move to the next one I want to ask two questions. One, what is the danger of this “fad Jesus” and what is the beauty of the biblical Jesus. One of the dangers is clearly spelled out in the gospel of John. John throughout his gospel continuously contrasts “signs-faith” with biblical saving faith. In most instances whenever a person “comes to Jesus” because of some sort of sign or miracle that faith does not last. The reason is because, as Jesus said in verse 26, you aren’t looking for me. You do not want to love Jesus, you want a band-aid. You want a superhero to come in and solve all of your problems. You want someone to make you good at football, or singing, or skateboarding, or to make you attractive to others.
And this is where it is dangerous—God is all powerful. God can do all things, and this is in no way to negate how awesome God is. But the point is to show that God has purpose behind all that He does. His ultimate purpose is to be glorified through the redeeming of sinful mankind and through our enjoyment of Him. One of God’s major purposes is for our joy, our joy in Him. If it were Jesus’ goal to come down and show off his muscles and be on a Super Bowl winning team and through this to win the people’s approval then He wouldn’t have withdrew in verse 15, he would have allowed them to make Him king.
But Jesus is much greater than that. Jesus has a much greater purpose for your life than just filling your temporary needs. As He was showing the crowd in John 6, “I have something much better to offer you. Food that lasts!” C.S. Lewis echoed what Jesus is saying here when he said, “If we consider the unblushing promises in the Gospel, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us”. And that is why Superhero Jesus is dangerous, because it rips us off. It allows us to settle on a miracle-worker that shows us cool tricks but that we have no part in, He’s a football player that we watch, rather than the person that we love and enjoy. He is the superhero that we like rather than the God whom we worship.
II. Cool Jesus v. Biblical Jesus
I am not certain if we owe “cool Jesus” to the hippie Jesus freaks of the ‘70’s or if he has been around longer. Cool Jesus is much like Homeboy Jesus that we will see later, the only difference is this one is driven by the need to be liked and the constant changes of popular culture while Homeboy Jesus just wants to be one of the guys. Cool Jesus is the disco-dancing, handsome, tattoo-sporting, rave-loving fellow. It pains me to say this but “cool Jesus” might even be the product of the church. For years now the church has tried to make Jesus “cool” or relevant; especially to teenagers. For years, youth ministry has been based around “what will get teens to come to church”? “What will make Jesus cool, to these teenagers”? Churches have spent millions of dollars to make Jesus cool and relevant—congratulations we have succeeded.
Os Guiness hits the nail on the head in his book “Prophetic Untimeliness” when he says:
By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant.
So it pains me to say this but I think that “cool Jesus” is merely a product of the church. We have asked for this blasphemous character of Jesus because we have ourselves sold out to modern culture. In our attempt to become “all things to all people” as the apostle Paul we have in essence become irreverent, blasphemous, and unbelieving in our quest to win people for a Jesus that we really do not see as sufficient. Otherwise we would not find a need to go through all these troubles to “make Jesus” relevant, we would know that the gospel itself is relevant for all ages and has the power in and of itself to convert! Cool Jesus, is driven by popular culture and the need to be liked.
The people were asking how to get their temporary needs met. How can I feel good? How can I be fed? How can I get better clothes? A nicer house? A car? A smokin’ hot girlfriend? Will Jesus help me with this? Cool Jesus is to be thanked for giving someone a “smokin’ hot girlfriend”. But biblical Jesus is saying—you are not seeking eternal life? You are not seeking me, the life-giving Son of God, you are seeking a band-aid, a pill, a McDonald’s happy meal! You’re seeking the next best thing, and something just to throw in with all your other neat little treasures.
What about the biblical Jesus? Was he driven by a need to be liked? I mean isn’t that our goal in evangelism, to get people to like Jesus? Who is going to like a guy who lived 2,000 years ago in a culture totally different than ours? Don’t we need to modernize Jesus? Isn’t that our goal? We see that the biblical Jesus is none of this. Was Jesus concerned with belief? Yes. Did Jesus want to create follower and worshippers? Yes. But we can see the difference between cool Jesus and the biblical Jesus in verse 15 of John 6.
The people desired to make Jesus their king, and they were even going to do it by force if necessary. If Jesus’ passion had been for public approval and to set up an earthly kingdom then this would have been his chance. He had a captive audience, a people who desired for him to be king, but what did he do? He withdrew. Why did Jesus do that? Because Jesus is not concerned with empty worship, he will not take a back seat to our other affections. We have learned from v26 that their desire was not for Jesus himself.
They had no desire to worship Jesus, they only wanted what he had to offer and thought He could deliver them from Roman persecution. Biblical Jesus is not all that concerned with whether or not you think He is cool. In fact the Bible almost seems to paint a much different picture. Jesus seems to teach in the gospels that the world will hate Him, and will hate His followers. Hate is a strong word. It means to be repulsed by something. The simple truth is that Jesus, even though He is the only source to eternal life is often rejected. Jesus Christ and his cross are offensive and we cannot get around that nor should we try to.
What is the danger of “Cool Jesus” and what is the beauty of biblical Jesus?
Cool Jesus is a fad. If you are only following “cool Jesus” as soon as he stops being cool, and believe me he will, then you are going to turn your back on him. That is what the people in John 6 did. They were following Him while he was popular. When they only had a surface understanding of who Jesus was, when they viewed Him as the miracle-worker, when he was just that guy who turned a few loaves of bread and a couple fish into a huge banquet, then they followed him. However, once Jesus started talking about commitment, once Jesus spoke in difficult terms the people started backing out. And that is what happens when you are only following Cool Jesus, or Superhero Jesus for that matter.
Another danger of cool Jesus that we will se in the next few examples (probably next week) is that whenever we make Jesus just like us, He is no longer God to be worshipped, but a buddy to make fun of, to hang out with, He becomes just like us and that is a pathetic and arrogant excuse for worship.
Nothing but the biblical Jesus can save. We can see the beauty of Cool Jesus in the fact that He alone is the bread of life. He alone can fill. He alone can give that which lasts. Cool Jesus is fleeting but Biblical Jesus is eternal. Cool Jesus would have been a disco stud in the 70’s, he was an 80’s hair band rocker in the 80’s, in the 90’s he was a rapper, perhaps he’s a pimp in our day. But each of these methods of Cool Jesus’ has one thing in common, in a couple of years they lose their coolness. And that is why Jesus seems irrelevant to many people today. To some people Jesus seems like the 50 year old guy that cruises Broadway to pick up chicks, or uncle Rico, “whose living too much in ‘82”. But the truth of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change, He will not change. He was powerful to save before the foundation of the world, He was powerful to save in the Old Testament, He was powerful to save when He lived and bled and died on the Cross, when he rose from the grave, He was powerful to save in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, He was powerful to save in 1776 when America was established, and He was powerful to save in on 9/11 when our country was bombed. He was powerful to save when you were born, and He is powerful to save today. He is eternal life and He always will be eternal life. Cool Jesus can’t offer that.
So what is the point of all this? Jesus Christ is NOT a fad. He is not just a passing thing in time. Perhaps Jesus is just something you are checking off your checklist. It seems that Jesus is quite popular in your High School. And I would venture to say based upon what Jesus says about Himself in the Word, that it is not the biblical Jesus that is popular. Whenever there are many people who are going to prayer meetings, we might be quick to jump at that and say…woohoo look at the movement of God. Whenever people are getting saved in many youth groups, whenever it is okay to talk about Jesus at school, then one of two things are happening! Either we are seeing a legitimate movement of God or we are seeing a fad.
I would venture to say that we have both. Anytime the Spirit of God moves in a might way Satan sows false seeds of deception as well. Whenever God is moving in a mighty way Satan is at work attempting to throw his different versions of Jesus out there. He will try to get you to fall for the Cool Jesus, or Superhero Jesus. Because once you settle for them, you’ve missed the biblical Jesus. How can you tell a movement of God from the seeds of deception that Satan has planted? Jesus says that you can tell by fruit. If a work has been done by the Spirit of God then you will see fruit produced.
Now does that mean that if God saves someone tonight that they will immediately be a thriving mature powerful Christian leader? No. Does it mean they will struggle? Yes. The difference is in the struggle, and the slow and gradual development of a beautiful tree of spiritual fruit. I will cut straight to the point. If you are following nothing more than “Fad Jesus” then you are deceived. If you see Jesus only as a cool superhero that can do cool tricks then you’ve missed it. He is oh, so much more. If you have fell for the “Cool Jesus” then your life is going to look something like this. You are going to follow Jesus for awhile and in certain circles. When you are around people who find Jesus cool, then you are going to be a follower of Christ. But whenever it becomes difficult to follow Christ you will slowly fall away.
When it means ending an ungodly relationship, when it means not drinking, when it means laboring over text in Scripture, when it means following Christ in baptism even if it makes you nervous, when it means having integrity, when it means standing up for Christ even when nobody else does, even if you lose all of your friends then you fall away. Because cool Jesus just is not all that cool anymore!
But if you have been made a new creation by the Spirit of God then you recognize that Jesus is much more than a super hero. You recognize the deception of “Cool Jesus” because you are in love with biblical Jesus. You follow Jesus whether He is cool or not. You follow Jesus because you love Him. You follow Jesus no matter the cost.
Now at this point I could call you to a deeper commitment to Christ. Something of being sold-out, having a passionate single-minded and whole-hearted devotion to the biblical Jesus and to Him alone. And indeed that is my hope and my desire for you. But I fear that by doing that you might fall into another trap of believing that you are doing this to “give something to God”.
But I just want you to imagine something for a moment. Imagine that following Jesus is most unpopular in fact it is so unpopular that it might cost you your life if you follow Him. Many people are faced with this dilemma every day. Follow Jesus or die. Imagine that all of a sudden becoming a Christian in America became illegal. We are all meeting in here tonight, and all of a sudden someone beats down the door and they have weapons and the ability to end all of our lives. They say, “Who among you is going to continue to follow Jesus Christ”? You hear some say, “I will not deny Him,” you hear the people take them into the other room, and then you hear a gunshot. You hear them ask the next person, this time the person says, “I will deny Him”. They let this person go free. Now they come to you.
At this point Jesus is asking you the question that was asked of Peter and the other disciples centuries ago, “Do you want to go away as well”? What was Peter’s answer? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God”.
Why did some leave but Peter and other disciples stay? Because Peter and the others had tasted of Christ! They knew Jesus. They had experienced God and they knew that life, nor death, nor anything else was worthy of Jesus Christ. Why do martyr’s take a bullet instead of denying Christ, while others deny Christ? Because the martyr has true faith—they have tasted, they know that even the agony of death is not enough to separate them from Jesus Christ, for He is eternal. Would someone die for cool Jesus? I wouldn’t count on it.
I ask you is your affection for Jesus Christ so powerful that you would die for Him? Before you answer that I want to say this—if you affection is not powerful enough to live for Him then it will not be enough to die for Him. Might the Spirit of God change our hearts and stir our affections.