Jesus Take the Wheel

My Uber driver pulled up outside my house for my ride to the airport. He was a young guy with a big smile and from his cheery disposition I knew immediately he was going to chat to me the whole way. After the pleasantries about the weather and where I was flying to, he got down to business.

“I’ve been with Uber for a while now, and I reckon I’ve driven about 3000 customers in that time, and I’ve asked every one of them the same question,” he started. “Would you mind if I ask you too?”

Intrigued, I agreed.  

“Okay,” he smiled, “according to my GPS, this trip will take around 40 minutes. If you could have anyone in the world, alive or dead, be your Uber driver for this 40-minute journey, who would you choose?”

He’s asked three-thousand people who they would most like to spend some quality one-on-one time with. That’s quite a bit of social research. I was itching to ask him who the most popular answers were, but I knew I should give him my response first, so I said, “I’d want Jesus to take the wheel.”

I don’t think my Uber driver got the reference, neither to the expression nor the Carrie Underwood country song, but he seized upon my answer.

“Jesus? That’s a pretty rare one,” he said. “I reckon I’ve only had around a dozen customers pick Jesus before.”

He asked me why I’d selected Jesus and I told him it was because I loved Jesus. I explained that it was a beautiful thing to love someone you’ve met through the written word and in your spirit, but it still left you with a yearning to encounter that person face to face. We talked for a while about Jesus. I opened up about his wisdom and his compassion, and about the way he faced down the religious elite of his day and lifted up the downtrodden and the overlooked. I explained that I loved his creativity, his parables, his quips, his jokes, and puns. I also shared about Jesus’ miraculous power to heal and control nature. And finally, I landed on his identity as God’s Son, the one who died for our sins and rose again defeating sin and death and the devil.     

My Uber driver seemed genuinely intrigued. He said he didn’t know Jesus did all that and he said he was especially impressed that Jesus used puns.

That might not have been the thing about Jesus I most wanted to convey, but it kept us talking. I got a bit nerdy and explained that Jesus slapped the Pharisees down by saying, “You strain out a gnat (Aramaic: galma) but swallow a camel (Aramaic: gamla),” and my driver groaned. I guess puns are bad whichever century they’re from.

I reiterated that Jesus did and said all that cool stuff to show us he was God and because he was inviting us to enter into the world he was recreating, a world of deliverance and justice, a world of joy and peace and healing, and the restoration of all things.

“Who wouldn’t want to spend 40 minutes in a car with that guy, eh?” I concluded.

My Uber driver conceded Jesus sounded pretty cool. He told me he thought it was a bit sad that so few of his customers chose Jesus as their driver. Or Muhammad. Or the Buddha. Or any of the “classic gurus,” as he called them.

So, I asked him, after surveying nearly 3000 customers, who the most popular answers were.

“Do you know who Helen Keller is?” he asked.

“They don’t choose Helen Keller, do they?” I gasped.

“Yeah, a lot of people say either Helen Keller or Stevie Wonder,” he laughed.

I guess some customers just don’t want to get into anything real heavy with their Uber driver. But I pressed him on it, asking who the more serious answers were.

“The most common answers are pop culture icons like Oprah and Kanye and Taylor Swift. Or world leaders like Barack Obama or the Queen. I get Bob Dylan a lot. And Lady Gaga.”

I had to admit that 40 minutes with Bob Dylan would be pretty good.

“Yeah, but you made Jesus sound pretty good,” the driver replied.

Maybe making Jesus sound pretty good is the first step. I regularly hear Christians saying that Jesus still has great currency in society today. Apparently, everyone really likes Jesus, or that’s what I’m told. But in my interactions with people outside the church they appear to know nothing about Jesus. In my limited experience, people appear to be completely neutral about him. He’s just one of those “classic gurus” who are lost in the mists of time. We need help in how to even introduce him in winsome and intriguing ways.

That whole Uber experience got me thinking about who our society considers heroic. We crack jokes about Stevie Wonder driving for Uber, and we’d rather while away our time blathering with a queen (Elizabeth, Tay or Gaga) than getting serious with Jesus. But Jesus and his kingdom is serious business, isn’t it? I mean, Jesus was thoroughly concerned with heavy stuff like the defeat of evil, the salvation of human souls and the rebuilding of human society. He ushered in the restorative sovereign rule of the Triune God, and taught that it must be accepted by us in faithful, grateful obedience. He told us that when we enter into it he will shape us into a redeemed society of persons who trust in God’s present rule but hope for its final revelation, and who are used by God to fashion foretastes of that rule right now. You can’t explain all that in a brief conversation, but you can introduce people to the Jesus who sits at the centre of it all.

Introduce Jesus as your friend, your hero, your teacher, your saviour, your king. Tell people about his exploits, his confrontations with evil, his kindheartedness. Heck, tell people he used puns, if that’s what it takes. But most of all, let people know you love him.     

This semester I’ve been teaching a subject at Morling College called “Jesus and the Gospels”, guiding students through the ways and means by which Jesus reveals his identity and purpose to us. It’s a great class, and I can’t help but think every Christian should take a unit like this. Every year. These days, we need to become more familiar with what Jesus taught and how he demonstrated the establishment of his kingdom here on earth. Churches need to be workshopping how to tell Jesus’ story better. Congregations should be incubators for missional storytelling. Because we need the help. We need a new vocabulary, grounded in truth and love, but energised by the common vernacular, to describe Jesus’ story as a challenging, sacrificial adventure that invites all people to join the single greatest mission in human history. 

But you can’t convincingly tell a story until you’ve made it your own. Until we allow the story of Jesus to shape our own, to make us more and more into his likeness, we just sound like Pharisees, bleating about religious freedom, insisting on our rights, and demanding the world conform to our esoteric form of holiness. And that’s what people like my Uber driver see. They might be neutral about Jesus, but their views about the church are anything but impartial. Indeed, the reputation of church has never been lower.

As we neared Sydney airport, my driver got around to asking me what I did for work. I told him I was a Baptist minister and that I taught at a theological school. He laughed and I asked him what was so funny.

“Well, doesn’t that make you one of the religious elite Jesus was so down on?”

“Gee, I hope not,” I replied. “I really hope not.”

We pulled up to the curbside at the domestic departures level and my driver shook my hand and told me he enjoyed our conversation. He apologised for his crack about me being in the religious elite. I said he should think nothing of it. It’s not my business to defend myself or the church.

I suggested he look more into Jesus. Because at its heart, the gospel is news about God’s action and his reign, not his institution.   

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The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Morling College or its affiliates and partners.

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15 thoughts on “Jesus Take the Wheel

  1. Hi Mike, once again, thank you. I would add discipleship to your tags
    You have presented evangelism or sharing the good news in such an accessible way of understanding who Jesus is, not just for those who don’t yet know him but for those have followed him for many years.
    Do you record your Jesus and the gospels for the rest of us to hear.
    I have just retired from Parish ministry at age 73 but I am still keen to do supply, I haven’t finished yet so your blog has been so refreshing and insightful.
    Sandy

    1. Thanks Mike. I too would love to sit in via video or listen to your classes on Jesus and the Gospel.
      Shalom
      Peter

  2. I like this. Thanks

  3. Great post, Mike! Last time I saw you was in NYC a few years back for a Forge Conference and this was something that was touched on briefly. I think your class sounds great and it would be very cool if the class could be accessible to take online or if you could offer a modified version–outline–for folks to glean from.

    One thing I know for certain is that people speak freely and easily about the things we are most passionate about, the things we love, we often naturally want to share with others. We can’t help but talk about the things we love. People that love American football converse naturally about the game and their favorite team. People speak fanatically about their favorite band, musician, artist, author–even people who are not naturally gifted conversationists are able to make their loves and passions sound/seem appealing to others because of the obvious joy that it brings. Love and passion are contagious, and if not truly contagious, definitely cause a sense of intrigue.

    We are not all called to be natural evangelist, but we are all called to share the good news that has changed our lives, to introduce people to Jesus and to share and point others toward him.

    What is the matter with us Christ followers if we are more comfortable talking/sharing about football and the greatest jam we have ever heard, but can’t find the courage or experience the joy of just talking about the Jesus we know and love?

  4. Enjoyment – delight!
    Just recently, I read that when Jesus (Yeshua) said of his visit with Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house.” He was making a pun then as well. Jesus = Yeshua = Salvation.
    Yeshua is in the house! And the salvation! He brought it, IS it, became it, shared it. I also liked the “in the house” vibe… mostly because I’m desperately uncool!
    I’ve shared that with quite a few pun-nerds since and got a heap of conversational mileage – I think the PUN factors of Jesus are underutilized – let’s have a pun-naissance!

  5. Brilliant. I love it. So few people ask this sort of question. I think I’ll try asking it myself.

  6. Thanks for the insight Michael. I interact with Jesus /Yeshua as a best mate, inwardly. When people ask me if I’m lonely living by myself, I tell them about my best friend and how I’m never alone. Then I hear the creaking of a door that opens a whole new conversation about love and inclusion.
    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Well…

  7. Thanks for this article Mike. Very encouraging.

  8. This is really great and SO helpful. Thanks so much!

  9. As always you light the path to authentic discipleship

  10. I am encouraged and challenged in equal measure, thank you.

  11. Thanks, Mike. Could have recommended he download an old book called Jesus The Fool by some religious elite guy

  12. This was a fun blog to read and think about. The Uber driver deserves many kudos for being so engaged in life! Quick personal comment: Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder are 2 of the most intriguing people in history, IMO, who I would LOVE to spend 40 min with, but I guess they were used as ‘jokes’ because of their blindness. Anyway, I have always read books by creative writers that bring Jesus to life (The Robe, The Big Fisherman, and recently, The Book of Longings). I think the reason I am so drawn to that type of fiction is because Jesus truly becomes human, which was the point of him coming at all. As Richard Rohr says, “Jesus came to show us how to be human” more than anything. I think the reason it’s so hard for many, if not most, people to share their deep love for Jesus is because we are taught about him in ways that do not feel relatable as a human. Many wonder if he was even privy to his divinity before his ministry. He was 30 years old, after all, and hadn’t really seemed to cause much of a stir except for a few brief encounters. After 30+ years as an adult Christian, I am finding that the Jesus I am drawing closer to is the human Jesus who joked (as you said), felt pain, felt helpless, was a regular teen who forgot to think of his parents when they couldn’t find him (developmentally appropriate, not sin), and, who knows, possibly even married (never says one way or the other)…He was human! We don’t have to underplay that.

    I have come to love great-grandparents whom I never met because of the wonderful stories passed down by my parents about them. They are real to me, they are multi-dimensional and a part of me. Jesus is the same when we pass on his story in a personal way, as a human who loved deeply and was multi dimensional (not ‘just’ God in human form).

  13. What are some great resources for teaching/learning how to: “tell Jesus’ story better and missional storytelling”

  14. Funny. I was thinking to myself “What an absolutely fascinating guy!” If he asked, I would probably say him and then pummel the poor guy with questions about who he was to ask such insightful questions (even cheekily identifying the religious elite with such good grace!) and yes, the answers he receives. Only at the end of the trip would I think, “darn, I should have said Jesus”. Kudos to you! 🙂

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