The auditorium is packed. People are seated elbow to elbow as far as you can see to your right and left. At least twenty rows of seats are before you, and an unknown number lie in back of you. It’s an impressive gathering.
You notice everyone seems to be wearing some sort of name tag with such logos as FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS, and Associated Press. The crowd is a mixture of reporters, journalists, TV anchor men and women, and other correspondents.
They are mumbling in an excited way, frequently glancing up at the podium on the stage. After a few minutes, a large man dressed in a rumpled tweed suit walks across the platform. He steps up to the microphone, and a sudden hush falls over the throng of reporters.
You look at the nearest large TV screen which monitors the podium. Now you can see the speaker, and to your amazement you find yourself staring at a familiar face. “What? But that’s impossible. Isn’t he… ?”
Your words are cut short as the man speaks. In a rich baritone voice which sounds for all the world like Winston Churchill, Clive Staples Lewis addresses the audience:
“People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, if you don’t, I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it.
“I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself.
“To be one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us every moment is progressing to one state or the other.”
Lewis pauses, looks over the sea of reporters, then continues as though he were lecturing his students.
“Before the days of Christ, our understanding of reality was rather limited. We were born apparently through no choice of our own. We lived a few years. Then we died. Where we went from here no one knew. Death was a veil behind which we could not see. It’s possible that near-death experiences gave some ancient people a brief peak at what transpired during and immediately after death. But what followed that fleeting glimpse remained a mystery.
“Then Jesus Christ enters the picture. He says he is the Son of God. He claims he has been around since before the creation of the world. And he tells us he is an expert on humanity. He knows why we are here; what we ought to do with our lives; and what happens to us after death.
“This Jesus speaks with authority. He acts like he knows what he is talking about, and he does things no normal human can do: things like walking on water, giving sight to people born blind, and raising the dead back to life. You cannot ignore a Man like that.
“Then we find the most extraordinary sequence of events in all of recorded history. Jesus tells us he is the Son of God, and he will prove it beyond all doubt. He says he will die, and he will rise from the grave on the third day. He does die. And he rises from death on the third day. We have seen the evidence.
“When Jesus fulfilled that promise, he demonstrated knowledge, power, and authority far beyond that of any mortal. Here we see One greater than all the kings, prophets, and philosophers put together.
“Jesus is our ultimate authority. He is our source of truth. There is no other. Why are we here? Jesus gives us the answer. How should we conduct our lives? See what Jesus says and follow it. That is the best advice anyone can give. What about death? Jesus knows what lies behind that closed door, and he tells us about it. Listen to him.”
Lewis stops. He bows his head. Is he gathering his thoughts, or praying? I don’t know. But in another moment he speaks again.
“Some people have the mistaken idea that Christ is a benign grandfather type who will pat you on the head and say, ‘There, there, it’s quite all right,’ regardless of what you do. Those people will be in for an unpleasant surprise.
“Others think that Jesus is somehow our equal, and he is open to bargaining. That too is wrong. Jesus is not our equal. He is our superior in every sense of the word. His laws are not suggestions. They are orders. He didn’t tell us to make up our own rules as we go along. He says to follow his commands. He didn’t tell us his views on life and death are just one way of looking at things. He says here is reality. This is the way things are. If you want eternal life, you will do as I say.
“Many do not want to hear that message today. It cramps their style; it limits their independence. It throws cold water on their pride and ego. To those people, we must say, it’s time to grow up. You are not an independent agent; you are a created being. And Christ is the one who breathed life into you. So forget pride and ego.
“Fifty years from now, your pride and ego will be buried in a box six feet deep along with a skeleton and a bit of dust. By then, if we are still able to recall our pompous little vanities, we will probably have a good laugh at them.”
Then, to my amazement, C.S. Lewis’ body and clothes start to glow. In a fraction of a second he vanishes into thin air! Many excited whispers run through the crowd. “What happened?” “Did you see that?” “Where did he go?”
For an instant the stage is bare. Then a large bright glowing light appears behind the podium. In the blink of an eye, the light becomes a figure, a figure in white. His clothes glisten like lightning. His skin is white as snow, and his eyes are dark as coal. Immediately I know the identity of the Man in white. Standing before us is Jesus Christ.
An excited murmur runs through the auditorium, but quickly subsides for we see Jesus is about to speak.
Jesus: “The kingdom of heaven is your one and only goal in this life. This is your sole purpose for being here. The wise among you will heed my words. You will make every sacrifice to obtain this reward.
“Here is my command: love one another. Love your neighbor as yourself. Forgive those who wrong you, and repay good for evil. Make sure of your salvation. Practice faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of heaven.
“What can compare with your soul, your eternal life? Pleasures, riches, or honors in the world? All of them quickly vanish. Your soul is the only thing that survives death. Your daily decisions are slowly, bit by bit, turning you into either a heavenly spirit destined for eternal life. Or your choices are transforming you into a monster fit only for destruction.”
I couldn’t see her, but from the sound of her voice, a young girl asks the first question, “When we die, do we go to heaven, Jesus?”
Jesus: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
A woman toward the front of the auditorium stands up and says: “Today we have any number of churches teaching and practicing a wide variety of doctrines. They all claim to be your church. Is one more true than the others?”
Jesus: “My desire has always been that all who believe in me may be one, without division, and united in the faith, just as my Father and I are one. I tell you the truth. My church is the church which remains faithful to my gospel. I died bearing the sins of this world. On the third day I rose from the grave. I am the one and only path to my Father in heaven.
“Those who teach and believe these things are members of my church body. Those who deny this doctrine will be denied before my Father on judgment day. I tell you, it would be better for them if they had never heard of my name.”
The next question: “Many today adhere to a ‘social gospel’, one that reflects today’s attitudes such as equal rights for women and minorities and social concerns such as: poverty, discrimination, and prejudice.
“What ought to be the church’s role in these matters?”
“Did you not hear?” replies Jesus. “I threw the money changers out of the temple because they were using the house of God to make a profit. The church is not a commercial organization to be used for making money. Nor is it a political organization to be used for advancing social causes. It is a body of believers called to worship and glorify God. It is my body.
“During my life on earth, slavery was prevalent throughout the Roman Empire. Women had practically no rights. And poverty was rampant everywhere. Despite all these flagrant ‘social injustices’, remember this: I did not come into this world to abolish slavery: or to promote equal rights for women; or to eliminate poverty.
“I died on the cross to give each and every one of you an opportunity for eternal life. My message is open for all who will obey: black, brown, red, white, or yellow; male or female; young or old; rich or poor; great or small.
“Do not use my name to promote your own agenda.
“Women are not the same as men. Their responsibilities are not the same in the home or in church. As for the poor, did I not tell you, you would always have the poor with you? Didn’t I urge you to help those who need your help? But didn’t Paul give you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat’?
“I tell you, if anyone does not provide for his relatives, especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
“Many hypocrites and bigots shout: ‘Discrimination and prejudice’. I tell you, look into your own heart. Expel the hate, pride, anger, envy, and lust you find therein. For you will account for only one person when you stand before the Lord your God on judgment day. And that is yourself. The other man will answer for his own sins.”
A news reporter from the front row asks, “I have heard it said that we are saved by faith alone, not by works. Would you care to comment on that?”
Jesus: “You do not understand the Scriptures. Faith without deeds is useless. Even the demons believe in God; they believe and shudder. As for works, whose works are good enough? No one is perfect, not even one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
“How then can anyone be saved? Salvation is only possible by the grace of God through the death and resurrection of the Son of Man. That is God’s gift to mankind. Man must respond to God’s grace by obedience to His will. Your faith is made complete by what you do.
“Do you not recall the parable of the sheep and goats? On the day of judgment, I will divide the living and the dead into sheep and goats. The sheep are those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe those who need clothing, invite in the stranger, take care of the sick, and help those who need their help.
“I tell you the truth; the righteous demonstrate their faith through their good deeds. They are the saved. The goats are the ones who fail to act. They are the damned.”
A woman stands up and says: “Just the other day, right wing fanatics were picketing abortion clinics again. The courts have ruled this is a violation of law. Surely, you don’t approve of such il… “
Jesus: “Do not murder! That is God’s law.”
“But a fetus isn’t… “
Jesus: “DO NOT MURDER! Taking innocent life is murder. The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. That is the second death.”
The authority and power of Christ’s voice were not to be questioned. The reporter quickly takes her seat.
Then a man says to Christ: “Some TV evangelists condemn homosexuals. Are they not our brothers too?”
Jesus: “Man rejected God and worshiped created things. For this sin, God gave man and woman over to shameful lusts for their own sex. Their indecent acts are perversions, and they receive in themselves the due penalty for their misdeeds.
“Isn’t it clear? My kingdom does not belong to the wicked. Homosexuals, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers, and the greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
A young woman asks: “Why do good people suffer pain and hardship in this life?”
Jesus: “I discipline those I love, as a father disciplines his son. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later it produces benefits for those who have been trained by it. As fire tempers steel, so discipline builds strength and character.
“However, most difficulties you encounter in life are not in accordance with my will. Some come directly from Satan. He inflicts whatever trouble he can on my faithful followers. On the day of judgment, he will be thrown alive into the pit of hell.
“I tell you the truth, many of life’s sorrows are brought on by man himself. People are free to choose right or wrong, and those choices have real consequences. Liars, murderers, swindlers, thieves, and bullies spread their misery wherever they go. On the day of judgment, those who have suffered unjustly will be compensated. As for those who abuse them, I tell you, they will be punished most severely.”
Someone in the back of the auditorium yells out: “Can Christians lose their salvation?”
Jesus: “Did I not tell you the parable of the seed? The seed that fell on the rocky soil were the ones who receive my word with joy when they hear it, but in time of testing they fall away. Is that parable not clear?
“And did I not warn you that at the end of the age, many will turn from the faith and will betray and hate each other? How can I say it plainer than that?
“Moreover, didn’t I say that because of the increase in immorality, the love of most will grow cold, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. Surely you understand these words!
“Again, did I not tell you: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches? If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned.’
“Do you find these words ambiguous? Tell me, how would you interpret what I have said?”
“I would say,” replied the journalist, “no one is guaranteed anything other than you will judge them by what they do.”
Jesus: “You have answered well. For I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”
An older man rises to his feet and says: “Almost one out of two marriages ends in divorce today. What do you advise us?”
Jesus: “I hate divorce. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
The next question: “Some authorities have said the worst sin is pride, and other failings such as sex before or outside of marriage are lesser sins. What do you say?”
Jesus: “Adulterers and fornicators will not see heaven.”
A female voice behind me addresses Jesus: “Women have come a long way over the past few generations. We are not going to turn back now and become second class citizens again. Women are every bit as good as men. Why shouldn’t we be priests, vicars, ministers, preachers, and popes too, if that is what we want to do?”
A murmur breaks out in the crowd. I turn in my seat to see her. She looks like she would like to add something to her speech, then thinks better of it and sits down.
Jesus’ eyes pierce her as though he is looking at her very soul. “You are like a piece of clay which sits up and berates the potter for making it into a bowl instead of a plate.
“I am the one who designed woman. I did not make her as a competitor with man; I made her as a suitable helpmate. I made man too. I formed him out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
“Did not my servant Paul tell you that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God?
“Moses warned you that a woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.
“And my servant Peter told wives to be submissive to their husbands. What is a woman’s place in the church? Paul answered that question: ‘Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission.’ Paul concluded his message with this warning: ‘What I am writing you is the Lord’s command.’
“The voices were Paul, Moses, and Peter, but the words are mine. And my words live forever.”
A young man with a long beard stands up and says to Jesus: “Your ideas are out of date. We have long since passed you. We don’t need you to tell us what’s right and wrong. Why don’t you get out of our face?”
“Your words are full of arrogance and ignorance,” replies Jesus. “Brace yourself man. I will question you and you will answer me.”
I had noticed before, when Christ spoke, you didn’t exactly hear it in the normal sense. It was as though energy radiated from his body and you “felt” as much as heard what he “said.” Sometimes this phenomenon was more apparent than at other times. Jesus’ words did not sound much louder now than before, but my entire body seemed to vibrate in tune with his last statement. The effect was profound. All murmuring ceases, and all eyes are on Jesus.
Jesus: “Where were you when I formed the earth, the stars, and the universe? Tell me if you know.
“What manner of life lives in other galaxies? And where did it come from? What exists outside the universe? And how long has it been there? Surely a man like you must know.
“Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the glories of heaven or the souls of the saints in Paradise? Have you witnessed the horrors of hell or the souls of the damned on fire in Hades? Tell me, if you have seen these things.”
Jesus paused a moment. Then slowly and distinctly he begins to speak: “Where were you a mere one hundred years ago? Where will you be a hundred years hence? Answer me.”
The young man looks like he would like to crawl under his seat. Slowly he shakes his head and says, ‘You know I can’t answer that.”
Jesus’ voice is unrelenting: “Brace yourself man. I will question you and you will answer me. Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”
Waves of energy now pulsate from Christ. They strike and shake the bodies of all in the room.
“Do you have an arm like the Lord’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead.
“Do you have the authority of Christ? Then take the sins of the world on your shoulders and suffer death on the cross.
“Do you have the power and glory of God? Then break the jaws of death and rise from the grave on the third day.
“If you can do all these things, then I myself will admit to you that your right hand can save you.”
With Christ’s words still vibrating up and down my spine, I turn and see the young man. All blood had drained from his face. He sits down.
Jesus looks slowly over the sea of upturned faces and says: “The god of this age has blinded your minds. You are arrogant, proud, and ruthless. You do not even train and discipline your own children. You love pleasure, rather than God.
“Wicked and perverse generation! You pride yourself on not knowing right from wrong. You masquerade your ignorance and indifference as ‘tolerance’. In your arrogance and pride you raise up your own twisted standard of truth. You claim the only sins are racism and sexism, the only vice is smoking, and the only virtue is ‘tolerance’ towards all other sins. How far from the truth you are. How foolish you are!”
His words had built up to a crescendo, then abruptly ended. Now the auditorium is dead silent. Slowly and deliberately Jesus continues, “There is no standard for good or evil but my own. How far you are from the kingdom of God. How long will I put up with you?
“Who among you will reproach or correct me? Who has a claim against me that I must repay? Everything under heaven belongs to me. I tell you the truth, unless you repent of your sins, and turn and follow me, you will never see the kingdom of heaven.”
No one cared to contradict him.
The man sitting in front of me turns to his neighbor and says in a low voice, “The lamb of God has grown horns.”
“Indeed, he has,” replies the neighbor. A few nervous chuckles follow.
A plump middle-aged man then asks Jesus: “Was the world actually created in six days back in the year 4004 B.C.? And what about the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the book of Job, and the account of Jonah and the whale, or was it a fish? Were those real events or did someone just make them up?”
Jesus’ penetrating gaze seemed to go right through the man. Then a voice like it was coming from inside my head says, “What is that to you? You are to follow me.”
Evidently the man with the question heard it too. He fell back into his seat.
I am not sure what happened next. The man next to me roughly whispered in my ear, “Did Jesus say that?” While trying to communicate to him: “I believe he did,” an increasingly large commotion quickly spread throughout the auditorium.
I look up and see Jesus glowing like he’s on fire. (The description is inadequate, but no mere words can convey what we witnessed at that moment.) Then in an instant he is gone! The reporters are left staring at an empty stage.
“Well, that’s that then,” said the man sitting in front of me. Turning to the woman next to him, he inquires, “What did you think of it?”
“Not much,” she responds. Getting up out of her seat, she adds: “He didn’t say anything new.”
“You’re right about that,” comments a voice in front of her. “I wonder why he called this news conference anyway?”
A raspy female voice in back of me chimes in: “Did you hear what he said about abortion? He compared it to murder. Murder of all things! He would think differently if he were a woman. I tell you. And that awful man, Paul! His condescending attitude towards women just makes me sick.”
With a higher pitched more shrill voice she weighs in again: “And did you hear what Jesus said about divorce? You would think his attitude would have matured after two thousand years. But Nooo! Who does he think he is anyway? Why he’s nothing but a male chauvinistic… “
Her voice drifts off into the general buzz of people clamoring out of the auditorium.
You pick up the tail end of another conversation where a young male reporter is complaining to a not-so-young female reporter, “… but I’m still disappointed. He didn’t even mention the environment. After all, he made this planet. It does look like he would show more interest in our clean air, clean water, and… “
I loose track of what he is saying due to a nearby interruption.
“The whole thing was a waste of time. I could have covered the war, but no, CNN sent me here,” remarks a heavy-set man with a booming voice. “He said nothing about the issues of the day: the trouble in the Middle East, gun control, same-sex marriage, or what we should do about the homeless. Christ didn’t even give us a hint on how the government should take care of these problems.
“All he did was to give us the same old saw about how we should ‘love our neighbors’ and ‘do good, even to our enemies’.”
His words slowed down as he utters the last phrase. Then he stops. The big man has a quizzical look in his eyes. After a moment, he continues, “But then, of course, maybe… “
My attention is diverted elsewhere. A petite woman on my right grabs my arm saying, “I believe Jesus is just telling us to come back to our original faith.” Lowering her voice to just above a whisper, she adds, “Before it is too late.”
I think she might have a point there. What do you think? When all is said and done, there’s no telling when life is going to pull the plug on you. But when you are at the end of your rope, the next thing you want to hear is the voice of Jesus Christ.
You want to hear him say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. I’m proud of you.