“Just because you say, doesn’t make it so!”
My young student was quite adamant.
She did not believe there were people who believed so many things about Jesus, imposing on His image and teaching what Scripture did not teach.
We had been discussing Matthew 16 where Jesus asked the question, “Who do men say that I am?” receiving multiple answers from His disciples.
That day in class, I had explained that some saw Jesus as a revolutionary soldier carrying an AK-47. Others saw Jesus as a superhero. Still more saw Jesus flashing a “peace sign,” smoking weed.
“I will give you extra credit, if you like, to prove me wrong,” I responded.
A smile slowly dawned across her face.
The class murmured. I did not give extra credit opportunities.
“Where do you think you would find the most diverse opinions about Jesus?” I asked.
“Maybe Ann Arbor?” she questioned, referring to University of Michigan.
“Great choice!” I congratulated her on what I hoped would be her selection.
“Here’s what you do,” I instructed.
The class was anxious to hear too.
“Take a clip board and stand on a corner in the university district where you might meet different students. Only ask them one question.”
‘Who is Jesus?’
“I’ll tell you what,” I continued, “I will give you double extra credit.”
Her eyes widened with surprise. The class murmured again, each wishing they had thought of this.
“I will give you credit for doing the project and I will give you credit if you prove me wrong.”
Now the eyes belied her true feelings: the chance to trump Eckel!
“Here is what I think will happen. You will find at least 25 different views of Jesus. If you find less, I will give you the extra-extra credit. You need to ask at least 50 people. Record your results on a clip board. Report back to the class on Monday what you’ve found.”
The next week her class entered the room with expectation, anxious to see if what she heard would earn her those points.
The bell rang. I asked the young lady to give an oral report of her findings.
“I really could not believe what I found out,” she began recounting her experience. “The first 25 people gave 25 different definitions. I stopped there.”
The class began murmuring again, this time, out of disappointment.
“About mid-way through asking passersby I no longer thought about the assignment,” she said, a wistful look in her eyes.
“I began to care deeply for two things.”
Her classmates inched up in their seats.
“I began to care more about what I believed, how important the truth is,” she began.
“But just as much, I began to care for others, that they do not have the truth.”
No one spoke.
My students had just heard their most important lesson of that or any day.
Classroom stories began to flood my mind after I read Alana Massey’s article from 1 May 2015 Washington Post, “How to Take Christ Out of Christianity.”
See Jesus Stories (#2). I will be recounting stories in response to Ms. Massey’s views of Jesus and The Church. Dr. Mark Eckel cares deeply about Ms. Massey’s comments because he has encountered them over and over again in his 30+ years of teaching.
Picture credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/memphisordie/5400680768/