In which this is a tale of many Jesuses and why I choose to follow one

'Jesus is Lord Parking' photo (c) 2006, Pete Jelliffe - license:

On Sunday morning, we had a garden party. No one came over in a precariously perched fascinator or a floral dress but we did have good coffee. My husband has a plot at the community garden and every weekend, it’s harvest time these days so it’s Garden Party in the Kitchen time. We washed broccoli and kale (anyone want some kale? We have plenty), shelled peas and snipped beans, often noting how much better vegetables taste when you grow them yourself.

But while we were working, we got to talking about something that has been bothering me.

There are a lot of Jesuses running around.

There is the Jesus that wants you to find a good parking spot at the mall. There is the Jesus invoked at music awards and then the one raised like a flag to celebrate capitalism and affluence.  There is Jesus drawing lines about who is “in” and who is “out” and there is the Jesus on both sides of the picket lines.  There is the one in the slums and the one in suburbia and the one in Africa and the one in America and the one in Calgary. There is the Jesus that told Mother Theresa to touch the lepers and love with her hands, the one that lead the bravest and kindest of men and women all the way to the end, and then there is the Jesus that supposedly inspired manifestos of hate, crusades, murder and wars. And then there is the Jesus that likes everything you like and hates everything (or everyone) you hate and is quite pleased with everything about you. (I like that Jesus best sometimes.)

If you listen only to what people say about Jesus, you create another Jesus. If you listen only to what you want in a God, you create another Jesus.

It came up because I was at the kitchen table for my morning coffee with – you guessed it – Jesus, reading the Gospels again. I’ve been reading the Gospels almost exclusively for about a year now, just again and again, paging through them, making notes of what I see or feel or learn, asking questions of my resident theologian (aka Brian), taking the words of Jesus in particular seriousness to my heart and life and our world.

I was in Luke 6 (which, let’s be honest, is so full and rich and robust that you could pretty much camp there for the rest of your life and still have something to learn at the end of it) and by the time I was done reading the chapter that Sunday, I felt a bit mad.

I felt a bit ripped off.

Because this Jesus, the one here in the pages of my Bible, the one who speaks in red-letters, the one that I know in my heart-of-hearts and walk with every day? He is such a different sort of Jesus than all of them. He is in no box and is the property of no one religion, no one denomination, no one belief system, no one governmental system or financial system, lifestyle. He is bigger, wilder, more wonderful than all of that.

I finished that chapter, slammed my Bible shut and almost hollered at my husband, “This is the Jesus I know! This is the Jesus I love! This is the Jesus I follow!”

Yes. That one Jesus is the one reason why I never walk away from Him, why I know God, why I shape my entire life around this – whatever this is sometimes – and why I am learning. It’s because it’s not a way of thinking to me, it’s not a doctrine or a sermon or a preacher. It’s not a list of rules or demarcations. It’s not exclusivity or a church or political beliefs or a “path to a better life” or a anything like that.

I am following a person. And I will follow him, love him this fiercely, right until the end.

Once you know him – really, truly know him – you can (hopefully) spot the counterfeit Jesuses running around, co-opted for every cause and argument, bastardizing the message and representing a man that they don’t understand for everything from power to money to a smug feeling of being right while everyone else is wrong. It kind of makes me mad sometimes (which shows how far I have to go, how much I have to learn still) and other times it deeply grieves me, not only for those that hear or see it and think that somehow that’s my Jesus but for those that believe that it is and are even more to be pitied.

When I sat in my white wooden chair, calmly shelling peas with my hands while Brian snipped beans, I was thinking about every word of Luke 6 but most particularly the section about giving away your life. You know, when I read him for myself, when I talk to him myself, I know why women spilled their most precious perfumes and soaked his feet with their tears, drying them with their hair. No wonder the Bible uses the word “immediately” to describe how quickly fisherman dropped their nets and livelihoods to follow the man from Galilee.

And I almost wept into my thumbs because of this: No wonder we love the real him. No wonder people follow him.

No wonder we all lay everything down and pick everything up and our hearts break and our hands honour and minds are blown and every cell feels alive in the Holy Spirit. 

No wonder everything is richer and eyes are finally seeing and ears are finally hearing and our hands are finally working and our hearts are finally free for the no-strings-attached loving.

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  • hyacynth

    Amen! That’s all I can say without going into a huge conversation about how people love to dip and skip around the Bible taking parts they like and throwing away the parts they don’t — including who Jesus is and isn’t and, oh, here, I go. But this was wonderfully and eloquently written, and I am just right there standing with you on the following one Jesus — the one from the gospels. 

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes, yes! I knew you’d “get it.”

  • Leigh Kramer

    No wonder indeed, Sarah.  Absolutely lovely and much-needed reminder this morning of the One I love.

    Too bad we don’t live closer- I’d absolutely take some kale off your hands:)

    • Sarah Bessey

      We are swimming in the stuff. I’m going to try to freeze it for the winter soups.

  • Steph H.


  • Slatera

    His amazing grace is sufficient and it’s all we need.

  • melindatoad

    Very well said! A great reminder for all of us. As I grow in my faith and relationship, I find it amazing how many different views of Jesus there really are.

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Mel – will do!

  • Lore Ferguson

    LOVE this. Thank you for sharing. Absolutely spot on. We don’t make Him, He makes us.

    • Sarah Bessey

      I love that – “We don’t make him, he makes us.” May have to borrow it!

  • Leslie


  • Jenn

    Oh wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read that in the Message before….I needed to. Thank you Sarah. I needed that bit of bread before I head back to work tonight. I’m a bit soul hungry these days feeling like I”m barely keeping up with life, but everyday I just keep thinking about “enough”. 

  • Jessica

    Yes! I’ve been thinking of something similar…how we jockey Jesus to our position and we’re right and He’d agree. So often it becomes about us and not him. We’re glory thieves and we’ve missed the point.

    I’m reading through Mark right now and been impressed with how little the people and disciples “got” Jesus. So often we think we understand/know all there to know about Jesus…yet these people were with him and struggled to see.

    It’s a reminder to be humble for me, especially when I take a stance and tack Jesus’ name on it.

  • jewelsntreasures

    Tears freely flowing here…no strings attached loving. That is what I needed to hear.

  • Connie

    i was in tears while reading this, as God is really doing a work in my heart these days and it hit home with me. This writing just confirms all that He keeps showing me and reminding me about “who” He really is. This knowing has me desiring to reach and show the world the love of this “real” Jesus.

  • Arianne Segerman

    Sometimes the other Jesus’ are flung upon you and fall like heavy burdens and you can hardly breathe for the pile on. It’s closer to heaven with each Jesus un-peeled and thrown off and when you spot the no strings attached One waiting there beside you all along, it’s like air and clean water and rest and love all at once.

  • Chelsea D

    beautifully and perfectly put.
    i love your words and perspective.
    and i totally agree.

  • Canita

    As a non-Christian, it’s this kind of Jesus talk that makes me want to get to know the guy!  :)  Great perspective, Sarah…..I really enjoyed it!

  • SortaCrunchy

    This is all just so YES.

  • Brittaney

    Have you read Imaginary Jesus? If not, check it out, because the author wrote a book that sounds just like your blog today. Plus, it’s pretty funny!

  • Beth Ricci

    I exhaled a whole lot of angst upon reading the last word in this post. And now I’m off to read Luke 6. Thanks, friend.

  • Candace

    Beautifully explained.  

  • kathyescobar

    beautiful, just beautiful.  thanks for sharing & it’s why i can’t shake him either & sometimes i am dumbfounded at the radical expansiveness of the gospels and how hard it is for us to grasp. 

  • emeraldgems

    I clicked on your link and read Luke 6 in TheMessage for the very first time. I have always believed that paraphrases were not “real” bibles, and am just beginning to broaden my reading horizons.Thank you for sharing this, at the end of your post, I just wanted to shout “Yes, that’s the Jesus I know!” Once we experience Him, there really is no wonder why we follow Him. God Bless.

    In Christ’s Service,FedEx,
    President,Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

  • Amanda Klepper

    :’) breathgiving beauty words of truth. Thank you for sharing Jesus. <3