WITH ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE
Israeli Egyptian Border
Oh, Father, you are amazing. My mind is swimming from the events of the last twenty-four hours. I couldn’t even script a movie with what has happened today. Last night I slept in the home of Prime Minister Begin,
tonight I’m lying in this little bed in El Arish. Yesterday’s lunch was
C rations from the Israeli army; today I ate at the presidential palace in the
Sinai (although my arm still hurts from the guard dog that attacked me last
Today I prayed with the Egyptian commander of the Sinai to receive Jesus. I pray for peace between Israel and Egypt. No more war between these two countries in Jesus’ name.
Jesus you crossed this desert as a child and it is incredibly harsh,
even today. I can hardly see as the blowing sand gets in my contact lenses
and scratches my eyes. It truly is a walk of faith. Oh, Lord, how my
back aches from the cross loaded and heavy with my backpack tied on it.
But, God, you know this Sinai well, and I know you will lead me through it.
I wonder what the next twenty-four hours will hold and where I’ll be
sleeping tomorrow night. I’m glad you don’t have to sleep, Lord. Good
I have walked with the cross in every nation. As a result, I have shared Jesus with individuals from all the world’s major religions, cultures and racial groups.
Sometimes when I tell people that, they seem surprised and they’ll ask me, “Don’t you run into problems?”
“No,” I respond, “the welcome for the cross has been wonderful from people all around the world. If this wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t be alive!”
Some people don’t believe me, because they think of religion as something that creates conflict and tension. But while religion certainly may become a source of anger and animosity, Jesus doesn’t need to stir people’s anger. In fact, I find that people around the world like Jesus and want to know more about him.
I learned this lesson early on, during my ministry on the sunset Strip in the 1960s. I talked to many hippies who were opposed to all kinds of things, including organized religion. But they didn’t have anything against Jesus. They liked hearing about him.
I’ve seen the same thing in Muslim countries. Some people say there is a new global war between Muslims and Christians. But that’s not what I see when I talk to Muslims. Jesus is mentioned more than twenty-five times in the Qur’an. Although Muslims don’t easily commit their lives to Jesus, they love talking about him.
Today many people feel the same way Mahatma Gandhi felt. This famous Indian leader once said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
I try to counteract these negative attitudes when I walk with the cross. Instead of talking about Christianity, I try to focus on Christ and the love and grace of God. Instead of inviting people to church, I invite them to a banquet that Jesus is hosting. It’s a wonderful banquet, complete with good food and good friends. The only thing you have to do to get in is accept the invitation Jesus has been sending for the past two thousand years.
In this chapter I want to focus on how followers of Jesus can talk to others about him without being caught up in arguments and dead ends. And as I have found in my life, sometimes you don’t have to do anything special; you just need to show up and be available.
The Man Who had Already Seen Jesus
Denise and I walked with the cross in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. This island nation is predominately Buddhist, but it also has a large population of Muslims and Hindus as well as some Christians. A man dressed in a business suit began speaking to Denise excitedly.
“I’ve seen this! He said, pointing to the cross and me. “I was sick and dying one night, but a man came to me and said I should follow him. Afterward I was immediately well. After that I began praying only to this man, but I did not know his name. Passing a store one day I saw a picture of him. He was hanging on a big cross like this. I said to the shopkeeper, ‘This is the gentleman who healed me!’ I bought the picture and took it home.”
The man had never even heard of Jesus. I told him my name was Arthur Blessitt but the man on the cross was Jesus. We told him that we would get him a Bible, which would tell him more about Jesus. We helped the man understand who Jesus is and how to receive him as Savior and Lord. We prayed with him as he welcomed Jesus into his life. What a joy to share with this man to whom Jesus had already revealed himself!
As we talked to other people in Sri Lanka we didn’t talk about Christianity or Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism. We talked about Jesus.
Lifting Up Jesus
When I walk with the cross I don’t promote myself or my personal opinions about theology or anything else. I focus on lifting up Jesus so all can see him.
This is powerful thing to do, as Jesus himself said in John 12:32: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Jesus was talking about his crucifixion (and probably his resurrection and ascension) but he is still drawing people to himself today. Jesus welcomes all people to come to him; and our job as followers of Jesus is to let people know about that welcome in ways that make sense to them.
As the following stories from around the world show, that welcome is attractive to Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews everywhere.
Sharing Jesus with Buddhists
Some people say Japan is a difficult place to tell people about Jesus, but that was not our experience in the Okinawa Islands. In 2003, Denise and I – along with Junko, our interpreter; Pastor Dave Lukasiak and about fifteen people from Dave’s church – had a wonderful visit there.
I stood on the sidewalk with the cross on my shoulder in the main shopping district of Okinawa. The others handed out gospel materials (which were in Japanese) and Jesus stickers (which were in English). I began explaining to six young men who Jesus is and how he could be their Savior. As they were ready to pray to receive Jesus, I looked up to see groups of people lined up, waiting to come to the cross and hear about Jesus.
Most of these people were young. I needed to spend a lot of time with them because they knew so little about Jesus. After I prayed with a group, others on our team followed up and I would begin with a new group. This went one and on!
I will never forget one man. I had explained the good news of Jesus to him and after we prayed together, he asked, “Now is my name in that book in heaven?”
“Yes,” I declared and he was so happy.
Welcome to the new Japan!
Denise and I felt fortunate just to gain entrance to the Kingdom of Bhutan, located in the Himalaya Mountains, let alone to carry the cross there. The government heavily regulates tourism in order to preserve the country’s traditional culture and the environment. In addition to that, Buddhism is the state religion and proselytism is against the law.
We soon discovered that the guides escorting us had no idea who Jesus was or what the cross was about. Denise shared with them, starting at the beginning with Adam and Eve. She told the two young men, dressed in traditional knee-length, brightly colored robes, how Jesus died for their sins. Tashi, the interpreter, interrupted Denise and said, “This is horrible how Jesus had to suffer on the cross and die. I’ve never heard anything so sad.” He was in tears.
Denise led both of them in prayer to receive the risen Christ. Soon their tears of sadness ere replaced with joy.
Sharing Jesus with Hindus
The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of Hinduism. Still, India has been one of the most welcoming places on earth. When I travel there with the cross, thousands of people line the highway to see the cross, to touch the cross and me, and to have me pray the blessings of Jesus upon them. The people in every community would garland my neck with flowers, welcoming Jesus and the cross.
Hindus believe in reincarnation and this concept is very important to them. I used this concept as a bridge when talking to Hindu people on the Indonesian island of Bali about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
”I understand that,” one man said. “Jesus was reincarnated.”
“No,” I replied, “Jesus came back in the same body.” I explained how Jesus was resurrected, not reincarnated and how he showed his disciples his hands and feet that had been pierced.