"And Jesus said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'" Matthew 16:15.
The success of Dan Brown's fictional novel, "The Da Vinci Code", has caught many Christians off guard. They are offended at the world's fascination with what they perceive as being a false account of who Christ is. Almost overnight an army of Christian apologists is trying to break, engage and decode the errors. They are trying to bring the truth to a populace that chose to believe or at best tolerate the ideas promoted by the novel. But judging from my own straw-hat poll, the largest demographic of readers of "The Da Vinci Code" are those professing to be Christians, followers of the Way. No harm in reading a suspenseful novel, they say. Open discussion of history and religion is a good thing. Besides, who can tell if parts of the Christian religion weren't changed?
Many who are called Christians choose to believe like one. Too many followers of the Christian religion make a spoof of Christianity. But this is the problem. The moment Christianity becomes a "religion" is the instant it ceases to be the Way. That Way is not a "religion," but the truth. By making it a religion you will inevitably take Jesus' message of faith, hope and love and replace it by doubt, slumber and indifference.
The gospel truths that were delivered by Christ and proclaimed by those who were rent limb from limb have become blurred by the stuff of religion. We have ears but we no longer hear. We have eyes but we no longer see. We have faith but we no longer believe. And before we go lambasting those who tolerate the counterfeit truths from a novel about Jesus, let us first ask ourselves why isn't the world persecuting us anymore for believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior? Why is the world indifferent to you and me? Why are we not asked to give a defense, a true apologia, of the hope that is in us?
Let me be clear: if you're expecting an analytical rant on the inaccuracies of the novel, you've come to the wrong place. All I want you to do, in an honest and truthful way, is answer Jesus' question: "Who do you say that I am?"
Controversy surrounding Jesus is nothing new. It started right from the very beginning when Jesus walked the earth as a man. Is he a holy man? Is he a false messiah? Is he a devil? Just who is this Jesus? I don't have a mysterious message or secret code that reveals the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth. All I have is the gospel, God's love and the truth.
If you think that all this stuff about secret codes is part of our cynical modern world, think again. The world always found it difficult to understand and accept Jesus. From the very first century confusion was created among those calling themselves followers of the Way. We read about it in Jude -- one of the shortest books of the Bible and least quoted. Written two thousand years before "The Da Vinci Code", it describes exactly what is taking place today. Many began questioning whether Jesus really is God and instead of seeking the truth they dreamed up new stories. You see, once you believe that Jesus was an ordinary man, perhaps a holy man but just a man nonetheless, then there is no death or resurrection. Sound familiar? What ends up happening is your entire faith changes completely because now you don't have to live a specific lifestyle; you don't have to believe in any creeds; you don't have to believe that only Jesus can save you. All you have to do is imagine. You know. Imagine a world where there is "no heaven ... no hell below us ..."
Listen, there is only one gospel and like Jude says, it was 'delivered' once for all and forever. And the message of this unchanging gospel is to make known Jesus Christ as Lord because in Him the "fullness of God lives in a human body" (Colossians 2:9 NLT). You cannot concoct this message because it isn't up for grabs. It was given to us. We didn't discover it. We have no other message to give the world. Jesus is God. "There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them" (Acts 4:12 NLT). This is the real code. If we are ashamed of this code-this gospel- then we are to be truly pitied more than anyone in the world.
The shocking truth is that you cannot accept Jesus as anything else but as God. Otherwise to do so would mean that everything Jesus preached is a lie. He could not have been just a 'good teacher' or just a 'holy man,' because he tells us that he is God. So if you don't believe in him as God then you believe in a liar. There is no gray or middle ground. There is no room for indecision.
In the end, no amount of reading or speculating will change who Jesus is, nor will it convince you to believe in Him. No one can prove to you that Jesus is Lord. It is only when you believe the gospel that you will hear and understand. Seeing is believing, they say. Yes, true enough, but sometimes it is our believing that allows us to see. If you are struggling with doubt and questions, then go to Christ to find the answers. Whatever you do, don't go to a novel of 'pretend history' to find him and don't let others "make merchandise of you" (2 Peter 2:3 ASV) by seducing you with clever stories and maligning the truth.
For those Christians who do believe, it's easy to get caught up in righteous indignation, and despise those who doubt. It seems to me, though, that we forget that we're the ones that are supposed to search, wrestle, and love till we bring everyone to Christ. We're the ones that are supposed to have mercy on those who doubt and go after those that are confused to rescue them. Our faith must be a fire that consumes the world otherwise it is dead. In the letter of Jude, we are urged to agonize-to feel death pangs-for the gospel and to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ as sovereign God.
Remember, that this world does not belong to us. We are just sojourners in a world ruled by the destructive evil we are trying to escape from. Though we may have victories, we are not victorious over this world. We cannot stop the lies. We cannot stop the Judas code. All we can do is bear witness to the Truth.
The day will come when those that believe and those who choose to reject the truth will come face to face with Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah there is a vivid account of angels that fly above the throne of God. The angels have six wings: two that cover their face, two that cover their feet and two to fly with. Not even angels could look upon God. When John the apostle sees the apocalyptic vision recorded in the book of Revelation about eight hundred years later, there is again the same image of God's throne with angels flying above. Except now the angels are completely covered with eyes, even under their wings. They are no longer forbidden from looking upon the Son of God. Why? It is because man was never able to behold God before the coming of Jesus. The time will come and now is when all of humanity will behold the Son of Man. The time will come and now is when everybody will face the Truth. The time will come and now is when "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:10-11 NLT). Believe so you too can behold with eyes that see.
John Kapsalis has an M.T.S from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.