By Rob Chifokoyo
I vaguely remember the first concert I ever went to. I was about 5 or 6 years old, and my parents took us to watch Paul Simon’s Graceland concert. It was held at the National sports stadium in Harare on a hot African summer day and people had travelled from around the region to see this famous American musician. As a 5-year-old I thought the concert was, alright at best, I mean the ice cream was more of a highlight for me. His music wasn’t really a vibe for a 5-year-old. My mom and dad though, they were over the moon about it. A few years later my mom came back from work with a VHS tape of Paul Simon’s Graceland tour of Africa. They had recorded the Zimbabwe leg of the tour and even to this day you can get it on Amazon. That video tape renewed my interest in the concert, and we watched it repeatedly looking for ourselves in every shot. We were in the cheap seats and no matter how many times we watched; we couldn’t see ourselves. As a grown up I play that album on almost every road trip... and my family hates it. Even some 30 years later I still connect with the music because I was there.
If you’re wondering, what does Paul Simon have to do with Jesus? Here is why I bring up that story. The camera man at that concert wasn’t focusing on little Rob and his family. The camera man was focusing on the main attraction, Paul Simon. The concert was really all about his performance. If the focus was on anyone else for a prolonged period, that would mean the production team wasn’t doing their job correctly. This is what the Bible does from start to finish. It keeps panning to the crowd and then right back to Jesus. Some people on the video recording of that concert saw themselves clearly, but it was only for a couple of seconds before it would go pan back to the stage. Every shot of the crowd was only there to give greater meaning to the show, just like every character and story in the Bible gives greater meaning to the message God is revealing about Jesus.
One important lesson for us in our faith is this. The Bible, our faith, and our walk with Jesus will always be about him. We can try all we can to look for ourselves in the hope of making us the central theme but all we would come up with are blurry images as the camera swiftly pans back to Jesus. Friends, we are not Paul Simon in the story, we’re not even Garfunkel. We are just a blurry figure in the background. Now our pride often wants us to be more than that in the greater story of God’s plan for the world, but fortunately the Bible won’t let us do that.
Over and over, you will hear pastors and preachers talk about the centrality of Christ. The reason you might hear this repeated so often is because if we lose the centrality of Jesus in our walk with him and make it about ourselves all we get is an unfulfilling faith. We don’t get a substantive theological lens but rather some cheap version of faith that doesn’t generate selfless, passionate followers of Christ that are more than happy to be in the background.
We see repeatedly in the gospels, Jesus letting the disciples know that the scriptures (meaning the Old Testament) testify about him. That when we turn the pages from Genesis right to the last line in the Old Testament the story is about Jesus. In John 5:39-40; 46 we see Jesus explaining this to a group of people who have made their pursuit of God about themselves and their own agenda.
"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me."
Jesus is pretty much telling them this isn’t about you. He’s saying you will keep scrolling and pausing and the only clear image you will get is of me. Even your heroes who appear a little clearer are talking about me when they write. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus is telling the Pharisees that even Moses is high fiving him in the Old Testament. Now that is as the kids would say, savage. As we preach through some Old Testament books like Jonah, Nahum, and Ruth in the coming weeks, we hope to make it as clear as day that these passages are pointing us back to the main thing. Our hope is that the spotlight would undoubtably be on Jesus, and that, in turn would result in us taking it off ourselves.
So, this week look out for ways to dig deeper and walk faithfully with Jesus at the center. Let us not only do this in light of Christ but I also encourage us to live selflessly among one another. Focusing on Christ ultimately leads to focusing on others. This week we will have many opportunities to make Jesus the center of all that we do and to be a blessing to those around us. Look out for ways to do this in your home, in your school, at work and in the community that God has placed you in. There are also some great opportunities that will be highlighted in the weekly for ways that you can help some of the missions teams heading to the Dominican Republic who are hoping to take much needed supplies when they go.
So back to where I started… Paul Simon, Graceland concert in Africa. We are not at the center, Jesus is. Let us be reminded that all cameras point to him and let that be a truth that we can rejoice in.