We love extreme sports. They've even made it to the Winter Olympics in the form of snowboard stunts. It's thrilling to see athletes defy gravity with skateboards, bikes, and parachutes. It gives us the feeling of conquering the laws of nature and fascinates us with aerial tricks that seem beyond our ability. We love to hear that someone is going to attempt the impossible, like flying around the world in a prop plane or kayaking impossible rapids. Extreme claims grab attention and make the headlines. Sometimes they become true. Yet eventually they fade away, like the heroes of extreme sports. We don't think much about those claims because they really are not so important.
Jesus' extreme claims just won't fade away.
According to The Da Vinci Code, Jesus was an ordinary, first-century man. There really isn't anything so wrong with Jesus in the book, except that he is too "mere." He is "merely" human. There is nothing extreme about him. He just lived, married, died, and his kids grew up in the south of France and became a royal line of kings there. That's weird, but it is not so bad if Jesus is a "mere" human.
Best-selling author Deepak Chopra finds Jesus a confusing subject. He claims that we know next to nothing about the historical Jesus and believes the apostles fabricated the Jesus of the New Testament. He's convinced the truth is that the Christ is a state of consciousness we can all aspire to.
Chopra and the Code have this in common. They both try to take the extreme out of Jesus.
Jesus and his extreme claims change everything. They will not fade away. How extreme is he? "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry." "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness." "I am the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep." "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will never die." "I am the True Vine. Apart from me you can do nothing." "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me."
"Before Abraham was, I am." Now that is a strange way to say something. If all Jesus meant was that he existed before Abraham, he could have said, "Before Abraham was, I was," or something like that. Instead he used the words "I am" to claim the name of God which Moses heard at the burning bush. This is truly an extreme claim. He now claims to be of the same essence as the Father. No Jew, no committed follower of a mere human would make this up. They were as awe stuck as any who listened to the extremes of Jesus.
On May 19th the movie The Da Vinci Code begins showing in theaters. This movie will generate questions such as: What did Jesus claim? What was his relationship to Mary Magdalene? Are there hidden messages in da Vinci's work?"
We believe in Jesus' infinite glory. This "Code" (40 million hard copies sold, paperback just released, now the movie) says Jesus is "mere." He is "merely human." You may have heard the rather coy phrase, "Turn a lemon into lemonade." Well, the "Code" is a lemon, and we want to turn it into an opportunity for those who are asking questions. As we are able, we want to offer the real extremes of Jesus for the sake of his name and his glory. You may want to borrow the book from a library and prepare yourself as friends and family start asking questions. See this as an opportunity, a bridge, to conversations about Jesus' real glory. And pray, pray now, pray a lot.
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:14).
—Brad Reardon is a pastor at The Evangelical Free Church in DeKalb, Illinois