Yesterday I met Jesus.
He was behind the counter at Moe’s, dressing my quesadilla.
He told me the guacamole and bacon cost extra and smiled when I asked if additional sides of sour cream and salsa were extra, too.
“No,” he said, smiling.
He was ringing me up when I asked, “So what’s it like to be named after Jesus?”
A bashful smile as he handed me back the change, then, “I’m not sure what my parents were thinking. I was born on the 24th of December so that may be why.”
“It must be a lot of pressure,” I said, jokingly, unloading my change in the tip jar. (Jesus should get generous tips.) “I mean, I guess if you make it to 33 without being crucified you’re doing okay.” (Moe’s Jesus had to be somewhere in his early twenties, if that.)
He laughed. “That’s the joke of the day!,” he said. This time a big teethy grin. “I’ll remember that!”
I’ve always been a bit intrigued by people named after Jesus and the parents who give them that name. I mean, for as much as I follow Jesus and think the world of Him, I don’t think I could ever name one of my children after him- mostly because, if I’m honest with myself, my child might actually turn out too much like Jesus. Like go “AWOL” on that expensive college education and my relatively traditional hopes for worldly success and instead go live at the margins of society among the “irrelevant” and powerless of today’s world. Like really go and do justice and love mercy. I might have some trouble with that- although I might make some exception for non-traditional vocations if a son with the name of Jesus became a rock star or professional athlete. (I mean, can you imagine a rock star named Jesus? The concerts could be pretty amazing. Lots of stunts, wine and free giveaways. Some very peculiar back-up singers and even weirder looking groupies.)
But, seriously, if I had a son named Jesus he might really go off and act too much like his namesake. He might go off and in the single-minded pursuit of glorifying his heavenly Father get himself killed doing something incredibly life-giving for others. I’d have a hard time with that. I wonder how Mary, Jesus’ mother, did it.
Martin Luther said all Christians were to be little Christs. That was what it meant to follow Jesus. We were to be Jesus Mini-Me’s.
But meeting Jesus yesterday reminded me just how foolish it can sound to emulate a guy whose proudest accomplishment was dying on a cross next to two common criminals. “The foolishness of the cross,” the apostle Paul calls it. We’re to lose our lives to find them again- now caught up in the unending life of God. We’re to be little Jesuses wherever we find ourselves- almost as if we were actually wearing a name tag that reads “Jesus” while making meals for others.
I confess, it’s an absurd job description. It gets tedious sometimes and can be awfully painful. I suck at it. But that’s where real life is, I’ve been told. And so I’ve found to be true, if only in glimmers.