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Jesus: A Popular Subject Of Conversation

by | Dec 30, 2015 | Missions Articles

During an evangelistic outing this past summer, I was standing on a sidewalk waiting for the pedestrian-crossing signal to give me the go-ahead to proceed. While there, a young man in his mid-to-late 20s walked up. He was waiting to cross the street that was perpendicular to the one I was about to continue along. As we both waited, I decided to see if he was open to a Gospel conversation. I greeted him with my normal evangelistic greeting, “Excuse me: I just wanted to let you know that Jesus loves you and he died for your sins so you can spend eternity in heaven with him” (that’s very wordy, I know, but it communicates the Gospel in one fell swoop). His reaction was one like I’ve never received before.

“Oh my goodness! Thank you so much,” said the man (whose name is Casey). In the past, when I’ve received a response to my greeting that is even half that positive, it means the person is already a disciple of Jesus. So, I asked Casey “Are you a Christian?” He said, “No, but I see your heart and I appreciate it.” Then he walked away. I had the sense that if he hadn’t had an appointment, we would have had a good Gospel conversation — as I have had with more than 100 people on the streets of Kailua-Kona in the previous eight months using that simple greeting to begin a dialogue.

Why are people so flattered by the declaration that Jesus loves them? Because they greatly respect and admire him. Indeed, according to a 2011 poll, 90 percent of U.S. citizens have a favorable opinion of Jesus.1 This, even though 44 percent also say either that Jesus was “only a religious or spiritual leader like Mohammed or the Buddha,” or that they aren’t sure what to believe about him, according to a separate poll. Jesus was also very popular when he walked the earth.

We are told in the Gospel of Luke that throughout his life, Jesus enjoyed “favor with God and man.”After witnessing one of Jesus’ miracles, one group of people was “astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well.'”As Jesus taught people the word of God, he was continually “being glorified by all.”But despite Jesus’ fame and his teaching, he was often misunderstood.

On one occasion when Jesus was alone with his disciples he asked, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”6 They answered “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”7 Likewise today, even though Jesus is popular, he is misunderstood — as many people don’t acknowledge him to be God.

Jesus often expressed frustration with the crowds that followed him for reasons other than to worship. However, his popularity gave him a platform to proclaim his true identity. Although it is true that most of the people who celebrated Jesus did not repent and believe in him, it is also the case that many,8 many,9 many10 people did come to faith in Christ.

Even though the people we share the Gospel with might not come to faith immediately (or ever) we should be encouraged that Jesus’ popularity (at least in the U.S.) will often make people more open to hearing the truth about who he is.

1. “Americans love Jesus, Lincoln, and themselves,” Public Policy Polling, November 17, 2011.
2. “What Do Americans Believe About Jesus? 5 Popular Beliefs,” Barna Group, April 1, 2015
3. Luke 2:52
4. Mark 7:37
5. Luke 4:15
6. Luke 9:18
7. Luke 9:19
8. John 7:31
9. John 8:30
10. John 10:42

Photo by Spurgeon1888

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