We use to work out in a gym during the same lunch hour. After a few weeks she asked me what I did for a living. Knowing she would never guess, I said “Why don’t you guess.”
The guessing game went on for weeks. Was I in construction? A teacher? Did I run my own business? And one I hear a lot, was I retired?
After saying she could not think of any more vocations, she asked me what I did. I told her I pastored a church. She was shocked. After all, according to her “You do not look like a pastor.” I took that as a compliment.
In his day, Jesus Christ did not look like the promised Messiah. Just the opposite. The word around town was that he was “A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matthew 11:19). And something my friend never suggested of me, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” (John 10:20).
In 1947, translator J. B. Phillips came out with his version of the apostle Paul’s New Testament letters entitled, Letters to Young Churches: a Translation of the New Testament Epistles. C. S. Lewis was asked to write the Introduction. With his normal eloquence, Lewis both defended St. Paul’s writings from the attacks of liberal theologians while at the same time reproaching traditionalists who maintained that the King James Bible was the only legitimate translation.
In making a case for the new translation, Lewis needs to shake up people who look with undue fondness at prior versions. He writes of the original language,
“It is a sort of ‘basic’ Greek; a language without roots in the soil, a utilitarian, commercial and administrative language. Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant woman’s breast, and later an arrested field preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other.”1
A difference between the people who dismiss Christ and those who love him is that the latter group is shocked to find out who he is while the prior group can’t stomach the idea.
“They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” – John 18:5-6.
- J. B. Phillips, Letters to Young Churches: a Translation of the New Testament Epistles (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958), vi-vii.