As we have travelled, preached, taught, and held conferences throughout Nigeria these past two weeks it has become obvious that the only thing we have to offer people is Jesus. We may be able to fund some special projects, but funds are limited and most of what we could do other agencies and NGO could do. In many cases those other groups could do the same things better than we could.
Indeed, the one thing we can offer that other groups cannot, is Jesus—the true, back from the dead, Lord of all. Only we are equipped and especially called to offer Jesus! Like Peter said to the man begging at the Temple gate, “I don’t have money to give, but what I do have to offer is Jesus and what Jesus can do … .” That’s who we are as well, and that is what we have to offer.
On the face of it, this doesn’t seem like much. After all, the countryside here in Nigeria, and in much of the world for that matter, is “littered” with church signs, serving notice to passersby that Jesus is being offered. So, it seems less than remarkable for us to say, “The only thing we have to offer is Jesus!”
Perhaps we do not really have the Jesus we offer, I mean the real Jesus. We have His name. We have any number of places that accommodate gatherings of people who talk about Jesus and claim to follow Jesus. We have programs, classes and projects all in the name of Jesus. We have memories, some of them wondrous, of Jesus’ presence and breaking out in the midst of his gathered people and then through them to others with unmistakable power. Or, if we do not have such memories ourselves, we know people who do. But do we have Jesus the person? Or, does Jesus, the person, walk with us, move among us in power, and carry out his ministry through us as church?
Perhaps we are not convinced ourselves that to offer Jesus, I mean the real Jesus, would be much of an offer. Offering Jesus—even what we understand as the real Jesus—doesn’t seem all that practical or helpful given the serious and pressing needs facing many places and people today. What good would it do to offer Jesus in such circumstances? Let me comment on that.
If we offered the real Jesus, we could do it only in the way that Jesus first offered himself. That is, we would offer him personally, through our own actual physical presence in various places and with its peoples. The real Jesus would insist on drawing near to people, engaging with people, feeling the pain of people, reaching for and touching people, serving people through real bodily presence. We cannot therefore offer the real Jesus apart from offering our own real selves.
But when we offer ourselves, it cannot be just a part of ourselves, but only as whole persons (we are not able to divide ourselves up and offer only fragments, we are whole people who must be present with and in relationship with others as we are—whole and entire—or not at all). Then, again, we could not offer our whole selves without also offering whatever we have or could have, what resources we already or could own. If we offered the real Jesus, in the only manner the real One could be offered, then along with the real Person of Jesus would go all sorts of resources that could become the means of helping and blessing others. Not just resources we have or could have personally, but the resources of at least some other people connected with us. Suddenly, you see, to offer Jesus—the real Person in the only way he can be offered, through our very selves somehow offered to others, is to offer who knows what bounty Jesus might bless and multiply for who knows how many!
To offer the real Jesus would also be to offer a way of living. There is no receiving of Jesus without walking with Jesus. We cannot say “yes” to Jesus and let Jesus move on to other places and people. Our “Yes” can have meaning only as we follow. We follow on a path, on a way of being, thinking, feeling, willing, responding, acting and reacting. We follow and invite others to follow in the way Jesus lived. If we offered Jesus, we would offer Jesus’ way of dealing with whatever rises up to face us, with whatever customs or conventions non-followers of Jesus have come to observe. If we offered Jesus we would offer Jesus’ alternate way of responding to the hurts of life, to the wounds inflicted by others, to the uncertainties of the future, to the fearful and anxious strategies by which so many seek to live. If we offered Jesus we could show the superiority of Jesus’ way to other ways. We could be sign-posts to other paths people might take in their lives, paths that give and enhance life.
At the end of the day, we have only Jesus to offer. But to offer Jesus, the real, living Jesus, is to do so through the offering of ourselves and all that the whole of our selves entails, along with all the people and means and resources that somehow connect to us. To offer Jesus is to place in Jesus’ hands all of us and all of this, to make all of it available for use at his wise discretion. And to offer the real Jesus would be to offer his very way of living, demonstrated by our walk on that way, a way that goes counter to other ways.
At the end of the day, to offer Jesus, the real Person, to the world, is to offer potentially and ultimately everything!