When Jesus did something very God-like, such as a miraculous healing, He almost always told the people who saw it not to tell anyone. This seems very counterintuitive. Why did He do that?
Jesus' identity is very important to Him. One's own identity is very important to anyone. When you have a relationship with someone, the kind of person that you are is instrumental in the nature of the relationship. But many times your identity makes another uncomfortable, so the beholder of your person tends to alter that identity to conform to his idea of what he thinks you should be. Jesus knew this. And He knew that people would take who He was and turn that into something He wasn't.
Throughout history thousands of Straw-Man Jesuses have been devised and peddled. Some are bold, brilliant, institutionally erected concoctions, others are good for more personal, subjective malleability. A given Straw-Man Jesus may well have some of the exact qualities the real Jesus of Scripture has. But things are added, changed, subtracted. Even if he has 99 of 100 qualities but one of them is intractably different or critically missing, he is still not really Jesus at all.
It is as if you had a pear — good for eating, nutrients, enjoyment — and you added a carburetor to it. It would have the original pear qualities to it, but by adding a carburetor it really isn't a pear anymore. Some people add a lot of stuff to their pear. Along with the carburetor they add knitting needles, a palm frond, some glitter and a set of Boeing 747 landing wheels. Wow, terrific! But it's not a pear.
In fact, there are some who don't even have the pear at all and call it a pear. They may have picture of a pear along with the carburetor and knitting needles and all the rest, and after a while, the picture is discarded all together. But people still call it a pear and feel they get some benefit from all the other stuff, firmly believing it is still something of value.
This is the essence of idolatry. It is putting one's trust in something that is not the One who created him, knows him, loves him so much that He sent His Son to die for him. People believe they're getting something meaningful from their Jesus, when it's all nothingness. In their core they know it, but they simply won't come to the real One.
One significant reason they won't is because they've been engulfed by a dazzling marketing campaign selling them on the best counterfeit Jesuses there are. This campaign was initiated by the Knights of Babylon millennia ago, who today are chiefly the members of the Society of Jesus. These militant religious operatives' sworn task is to keep people worshipping the god of the age, the prince of the power of the air, and to compel them to follow the dictates of his temporal vicar.
A critical facet of this campaign is the understanding that the Catholicist has two Jesuses. One is the Jesus he or she thinks of when someone says the name "Jesus." This Jesus is the straw man that one worships, reviles, ignores, or even psychoanalyzes. This Jesus is usually associated with the Jesus of the Bible, but again, this one is like the carburetor-modified pear — so much is changed or attached to Him that it isn't really Him.
The other Jesus is the Diversion Jesus. Whether the Straw-Man Jesus is worshipped or reviled, one will always find his or her salvation in something that is Not-Jesus. His Jesus is the engagement in any activity, any diversion away from confronting his true situation.
Think of it this way. Ask a Catholicist or someone not a declared follower of Christ, "Who do you think Jesus is?" Ask him to describe him. He'll be a Straw-Man Jesus — if you know the Jesus of Scripture, you'll find that out soon enough. Then ask him another question, "What are you living for?" That will be a Diversion Jesus, something from which he's seeking salvation.
An example of this dichotomy may be helpful. We could use any condition, but let's first use the one that is Islam. When someone speaks of Jesus to a committed Muslim, he generally sees Him as a prophet, a good guy, almost as good as Muhammad. This Jesus is imbued with Islam's perceived idiosyncratic characteristics, the most notable of which is that He is not God's Son. In this sense the Islamic Jesus is just a good guy over there, like Thomas Jefferson or Kofi Annan or the smiling next-door neighbor. Their conception of Jesus is the Straw-Man one.
Their true devotion, on the other hand, is directed at Allah, which is then also a Jesus. Allah is a Jesus in the sense that the Muslim is seeking his salvation a little bit from him, and a lot from the works needed to please him. His salvation is in a Jesus of Hajj, Ramadan, alms giving, praying toward Mecca five times a day, and other activities and devotions.
But all of this together forms an idol, and it keeps him or her from the one true God. The Muslim then is just like all the others living richly in the Catholicist Nation: having a Straw-Man Jesus they think is the real Jesus, someone of relatively little significance to them; and a Diversion Jesus, the one to whom they give full measure of devotion, keeping them religiously engaged, rigidly attentive, momentarily gratified...
And extraordinarily dead.
Another example is in order. What about the avowed Christian whose Straw-Man Jesus is his devotion? There are many forms of Protestant Jesuses that look very much like the real one. Take, for instance, the Seventh Day Adventist Jesus. The Seventh Day Adventist actually can be a very powerful witness for God and His kingdom, but his insistence on a hyperlegalist rendering of the principle of the Sabbath draws him away from who Jesus is and what He is about. I'm not even denying that we should still fully honor that Sabbath or even that it may be on Saturday; the issue is this:
When an otherwise devout Christian engages the World with a World Jesus, then all you have is battling Jesuses.
The clever covert operative can easily exploit and deceive the Seventh Day Adventist as much as anyone else when the Jesus of Scripture is not honored. This Christian has then made a fine Straw-Man Jesus, and his Diversion Jesus becomes the cause his Straw-Man Jesus moves him to champion.
Does this mean that this Christian is not saved? I don't know, that's not my call. I don't know the Christian, nor the nature of the Jesus he embraces. I don't presume for a second to be sitting myself at the right hand of Jesus making any such pronouncement. I don't have the inside information.
But I do have Scripture, as anyone can. And I do worship a God who is perfect in justice and perfect in mercy. He knows. I think without a doubt He understands one who genuinely desires intimacy with Him on His terms. As a pretty good Catholicist myself for a long time, I've had to have my world shaken up a bit and my conception of Jesus realigned. I'm still on the route — still getting to know Him. That is one of the beauties of relationship: the adventure of discovery.
He knows that. He made it that way.
So I don't for a second refuse to cut a seeker a break. But this is why I do this website. And to convey the remarkable truth that the Real Jesus is a billion times greater than both the Straw-Man Jesus and the Diversion Jesus.
This page was originally posted by David Beck at yourownjesus.net on November 20, 2004