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Unmistaken Identity

Neal Pollard

They both had a mole next to one eye and a scar on the left wrist. They lived 54 miles apart, one in Brookville and the other in Mooresville, Indiana. It was said they were practically identical twins. For notorious bank robber John Dillinger, that was no problem. But, for upstanding Ralph Alsman, it was a nightmare. Alsman was arrested 17 times and shot 11 times. When arrested, though he was always released, he had to undergo stressful interrogations in which he had to prove he wasn’t Dillinger. Only when the real Dillinger was gunned down in 1934 did the unbelievable saga end for the hapless Alsman (information taken from The Pittsburgh Press, 6/18/34, p. 11). Can you imagine having to look over your shoulder everywhere you went just because you looked like someone else—a really bad someone else?

The thought occurs to me as I read that harrowing account, based on my attitude, speech, and actions, “Who or what would people mistake me for?” As I live out my life before the world, waiting in lines or in traffic, when under pressure at work, as people mistreat or frustrate me, judging from my relationships, my ethics, and my morality, would people say that I strongly resemble Jesus? He is supposed to be living in me (Gal. 2:20). It has been the case that bystanders have recognized people as having been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Of course, Scripture does not at all emphasize the physical appearance of Jesus (Isaiah 53:2), but Paul speaks of bearing the marks of Jesus (Gal. 6:17). While his “marks” were literal stripes from a tormentor’s whip, there are unmistakeable traits of Jesus that we, too, can and must bear.

I have so much need and room for improvement in my spiritual life.  Every day, I want to look more like Jesus. I want people to see Him when they look at me. If they do, He will be pleased and they just might be saved. Let’s work on our appearance! It may mean eternal life for somebody in our life.

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Daily Bread

The Man Attached To That Hand

Neal Pollard

Something occurred to me that I never stopped to consider as I read about Jesus’ mistreatment in John 18.  An officer for the Sanhedrin, forever anonymous, is memorialized with only these words: “One of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand…” (22).  Was it sheer irreverence?  Was it misguided religious fervor?  Was it hotheaded impetuosity? No matter how one might rationalize it, this man slapped the Savior!  While Roman soldiers struck Him with their hands, no less an offense to Almighty God, the man in John 18 was presumably a religious man.  He expressed indignation on behalf of the High Priest, though Jesus said nothing at all offensive to Him.

What a terrible and difficult thing it is to read and consider, with an open heart, the physical pain and mistreatment Jesus suffered en route to the cross.  But how much worse would it be to be able to understand that you had a hand in it.  Several have conjectured that some of those who heard Peter preached on Pentecost may well have lent their voice to the fracas, clamoring and yelling for Jesus’ crucifixion.  What a burden of guilt to bear!  But, to be the man who slapped his own Creator in apparent contempt?  What a stigma to own!

While it would be impossible for you and me to be a part of that specific physical brutality, it is possible, as the writer of Hebrews later states, to crucify Jesus again and put Him to an open shame (6:6).  To know that my conduct, speech, attitudes, and interactions in this world might not only bring shame but outright assault on my Lord humbles and challenges me.  At the very least, it ought to make us careful about what choices we make, habits we form, entities we support, and causes we champion.  How helpful it would be if I take the time to examine my circumstances of the moment and ask, “Is this a slap in the face of my Savior?” If I know it is, I will flee it.  If I am not sure, I will think long and hard before I do it!  I don’t want to be co-immortalized with that unnamed officer!  I want those who see me to say that I am carefully, lovingly handling Christ!