Sleep experts warn against surfing the Internet right before bed, and I have to admit that after my experience the other night, I am inclined to agree with that advice. It is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. I started by watching an old episode (1956) of the game show “I’ve Got a Secret” on YouTube, the one with Mr. Samuel J. Seymour, a 95-year-old gentleman who was the last living witness to the Lincoln assassination in 1865. The panelists discovered Mr. Seymour’s secret in short order; the last two of the four didn’t even get to question him. Hard to believe that the last living witness to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln died two years before I was born – it reminded me that my father had once said that when he was a little boy, an old Confederate soldier had stayed overnight in their home. I then watched episodes of “To Tell the Truth,” one of the great old shows of my childhood. Three guests all claim to be the same person, and the panelists must guess which contestant is the real one. A variation on this was the basis for the celebrity round of the almost unbearably classy “What’s My Line?” where Gene Autry, Bob Hope, Robert Mitchum, Red Skelton, even Archbishop Fulton Sheen and the Harlem Globetrotters took their turn trying to stump the blindfolded panel. What fun to watch such a great old game show! I could have stayed up all night watching episodes, but due to the lateness of the hour, I finally forced myself to shut down the computer and go to bed.
And I had a dream. I dreamed that I was a blindfolded panelist on an old black-and-white episode of “What’s My Line?” – and yet somehow I could see the proceedings, as if I were watching myself on TV. Had I been in the audience, I would have seen the Guest enter, I would have risen to give Him a standing ovation as the host intoned, “Would you come in, Mystery Challenger, and sign in, please!” As it was, I kept my seat; I had no idea Who had just entered the room.
But I soon suspected, for the ebullient host was beside himself. His effusive introduction of the mystery guest as a working man whose life had changed the world, someone whose name meant the world to millions upon millions of people, someone whose sandals he, the host, was not worthy to untie, kind of gave the whole thing away.
We panelists got the picture. The questioning began with my friend Bobby, a warm and friendly Christian youth leader. Bobby beamed broadly beneath his blindfold as he posed his first question:
“Sir, can we safely assume that You are a carpenter by profession?”
“Yes,” the Guest answered quietly, making no attempt to disguise His voice.
“And that You were born in Bethlehem of Judea?” Bobby continued.
“I was,” agreed the Guest.
Grinning from ear to ear, Bobby played it for all it was worth.
“And when You taught, You taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes, is that correct, sir?”
“Correct,” answered the Guest.
Bobby was so happy that he nearly tore off his blindfold.
“And You taught Your disciples that they were justified by faith alone, did You not?”
The Guest sighed and shook His head. “No, I did not teach that.”
Bobby gasped audibly, but the host hurried us on. “One down and nine to go! Penny?”
My Pentecostal friend glowed almost electrically. “You are, sir, I would venture to guess, the One who made the blind to see and the deaf to hear?”
“Yes,” the Guest answered with a gentle smile.
“The One who walked on the water, and fed the 5,000?”
“That was Me,” He replied.
“The One who came that we might have life, and have it abundantly?”
“The One who told us that we might know that we know that we know that nothing that we do can ever cause us lose that life?”
No answer, just a sad, tired look.
“Oh,” interrupted our amiable host. “It looks like that’s a ‘no’ to your question, Penny. Two down and eight to go! We’ll move on to our next panelist, Larry!”
Ignoring Penny’s baffled protests, my neighbor, Larry, a former missionary, ploughed ahead.
“I can’t tell You what an honor it is to have You here, Mr. Mystery Guest! My goodness, I don’t know where to begin! You wrote the Book which alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian!”
“What you said about My Book is not correct,” came the reply.
“I mean,” Larry stammered, “I mean, your apostles wrote the Book, under Your inspiration, which alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian!”
“What you said about My Book is not correct,” our Guest repeated quietly.
“Aww, that’s cheating, Larry!” scolded our persistently perky host. “When you get a ‘no,’ we have to move on! Three down and seven to go! Renée?”
Of course, by this point I had stage fright big-time; I’m not the most poised person, and game show appearances aren’t exactly my style. Yet there I sat behind my blindfold, knowing without seeing who our Mystery Guest must be. This was my chance to make Him known to the panel, to the studio audience, to the television audience. What would I ask?
“Sir, You taught that we must love You above all things, and our neighbor as ourself, correct?”
“The two great commandments, yes,” He answered softly.
“And You taught that we must persevere to the end in our service to You in order to be saved, right?”
“I did,” came the reply.
“Now, hold on a minute…” Bobby grumbled.
“And that a man is not justified by faith alone, but by his works.”
“You have spoken truly,” was His answer.
“Oh, that can’t be right,” exclaimed Penny.
“And You established Your Church to be the pillar and foundation of the truth, didn’t You, sir?”
“Well, this certainly isn’t who I thought it was,” I heard Larry mumble.
Wanting to give my fellow panelists another chance, I threw the game.
“You, uh, didn’t happen to insinuate to a Baptist preacher that if he didn’t raise 4.5 million dollars, You might ask him to cash in his chips, did You?”
I thought I heard a chuckle. “Believe Me, I did not,” our Mystery Guest said.
“Four down and six to go!” chirped our host, and it was Bobby’s turn again. But Bobby seemed to have lost interest in the game.
“Well, you sir, whoever you may be, certainly you weren’t one of the apostles or the disciples. Were you perhaps one of the original Gnostics?”
“Of course not, Bobby.” came the sorrowful answer.
“Five down and five to go! Penny?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Penny opined disdainfully, “Are you one of those of whom the Bible said, ‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us?'”
A long silence was broken by the host’s embarrassed reply. “Uh, Penny, I’m taking our Guest’s silence as a definite ‘no.'” Six down and four to go! Larry?”
Larry began with a long, drawn-out sigh. “Would your name, sir, be either Hymenaus or Alexander?”
I gasped. Bobby muttered, “I’m outta here!” and I could feel Larry pushing his chair back.
“Wait!” I cried as I heard their footsteps. “Don’t you know Who this is? Take your blindfolds off! Look and see Who you’re talking to! Please!”
“Seven down and three to go!” shouted out our now-flustered host.
As I pleaded with the other panelists, the light in the room became so bright that I could see the glow even though my eyes were covered. I tore off my blindfold, only to realize that I was actually lifting my head up from my pillow. The light of the full moon was shining brightly through my window, brightly enough to awaken me from sleep. I shuddered. Thank God it had only been a nightmare.
Unfortunately, though, my little nightmare hit a way too close to home. The actual Jesus of the Bible is something of a mystery to Protestants. They know so much about Him, they love Him as their Savior and they strive to serve Him faithfully, and yet there are things that He said and did that they just wouldn’t recognize because those things contradict the prevailing Protestant interpretation of Scripture, things like:
By your endurance you will gain your lives.
(Lk 21:19, see also Mt 10:22, Mt 24:13, Mk 13:13, Rev 2:10)
But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mt 24:48-51, see also Mt 25:30)
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up, and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (Jn 15:6)
Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Rev 2:5)
Not exactly warm-and-fuzzy once-saved/always-saved theology there – Jesus emphasized the necessity of faithful service to the end, and His apostles echoed that theme in Romans 11:19-22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Galatians 5:2-4, Colossians 1:21-23, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:23-29. Another misconception: Jesus did not emphasize that He had come to instruct His followers to compose sacred writings – that was done almost incidentally, which accounts for the “occasional” nature of the New Testament. Far from teaching that the Bible is to be regarded as the pillar and foundation of Christianity, the Scriptures teach that it is the Church which is the foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15 – a verse which most Protestants are ignorant of, along with Jesus’ statements in Mt. 16:17-19, Mt. 18:17-18, Lk. 10:16, 1 Jn 4:6, as well as His apostles’ actions at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, and their teachings concerning the transmission of their God-given authority to the men they ordained in Acts 1:15-26, Acts 6:6, 2 Cor 10:6, 2 Thess 3:14, 2 Tim 1:6, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 4:1-2, Titus 2:15, 1 Jn 4:6, and Heb 13:17). And in that Book which Protestants and Catholics so love, the only place where the phrase “faith alone” is found is in James 2:24, which assures us that “You see that a man is justified by works and NOT by faith alone.” (another verse that Protestants touch upon only in an effort to refute).
By selectively quoting from the words of the Savior and his apostles, a Jesus has been constructed whose appearance is hard to reconcile with that of the Man from Galilee. Small wonder that when the Church proclaims the teachings of the Real Deal, many Protestants reject Him as some kind of impostor. Yet Jesus famously said: “My sheep hear My voice.” How, 20 centuries after the Ascension, can a Christian be certain that the voice that he is hearing is Christ’s? Jesus actually made provision for that when He told His apostles:
He who hears you, hears Me!
Jesus’ voice could be heard when His apostles preached the Gospel to the 1st-century world, and when they wrote their epistles. Jesus’ voice can also be heard to this day when the successors to those apostles, the bishops of the Church Jesus founded, speak in union with the successor of Peter. That’s why the apostles first official act after the Ascension was to filled Judas’ “office” – the authority is transferred from the first man to hold the office to the second, and on down the line. St. John, one of the apostles, explained this phenomenon of Jesus speaking through His chosen men quite clearly. He wrote: “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us” (1 Jn 4:6).
If you’re not listening to the Church, you’re ignoring the commands of the shepherds. When the Chief Shepherd calls, you may not be able to recognize the voice of the Man Who in this life will always remain to you something of a Mystery Guest.
On the memorial of St. Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski
Deo omnis gloria!