By Samuel Lam
With Easter approaching in two weeks, I want to share a story of an Easter Sunday I celebrated almost 10 years ago.
When I was a freshman in college, I started attending this start-up church in the area. It was a great community of people who loved Jesus and weren’t afraid to be different. In fact, the pastor embodied the identity of the church perfectly. Pastor Elton Lin wasn’t the kind of guy that felt that structure had to dictate our faith. If we felt like dancing, then dance. If we wanted to express our love of Jesus through art, then go draw. If you felt like hugging one another, then hug. It was a big change for me because I grew up believing and understanding that church had to be structured and controlled at all times.
(After a few years, I returned back with the church group in my final year living in the Bay Area and it rekindled my love of Jesus and the group that taught me how to love the world. That was church.)
I remember that freshman year during Good Friday, we as the church had a service potluck at a friends’ house. First of all, I had never heard of a Good Friday potluck and service combination, but it was different and I liked different. I was also very sick the entire week and in most cases, I would have just passed on the opportunity and stayed in my dorm. But I decided to go anyway. That day was monumental for my faith foundation.
We gathered and Pastor Elton talked to us about Good Friday, how important the death of Jesus was for our faith. He told us to imagine the world, our lives, if Jesus did not exist. He asked us this loaded question.
Can you imagine the world without Jesus?
He unveiled an all black canvas, the size of a large rug. We took bright-colored markers, paints and asked to put on the canvas what our lives, our world would be like without Jesus.
There was no rule as to how we can interpret it. We could interpret it with words, images, or anything that we saw fit. There was no right or wrong on what Jesus means to us. We had freedom of expression. I think I drew a sad face.
One of the interpretations caught my attention. It read: “Basketball without Michael Jordan.”
Michael Jordan is the greatest player in basketball history. Without him, the game we know today would be different. In fact, the basketball foundation as we know would be very different. He was a global icon, a hero and many times, a magician on the floor. Anyone who is a basketball fan will tell you that Michael Jordan will always be the greatest. Without him, the sport would have never reached the level of popularity it is today.
And that’s how we saw Jesus. I don’t know if basketball would mean anything to me without Michael Jordan. He was the hero for all. Everyone worldwide knew of him, saw how great he was. He was beyond our wildest dreams of something so magnificent. As a basketball fan, that comparison made a lot of sense to me.
But that comparison to Jesus doesn’t do Jesus justice, though. There are not enough words really for us to use that is comparable. The closest we could have done was use Michael Jordan as our tool of measurement. Basketball without Jordan? That’s mind-blowing. Our world without Jesus? The biggest loss imaginable. Jesus needed to happen for us.
After we finished with our interpretation, we lit a black light and for the rest of the evening. We looked at what we put on the canvas and it was filled with images of sadness, emptiness and darkness. But that small remark about Michael Jordan always stood out to me.
The following Sunday on Easter, we repeated the same process, except it was a white canvas and we were asked to interpret what a risen Jesus meant for us. Happy faces, hearts and words of love were written on that canvas. Our world was right again because our Savior was back.
It probably is still the most memorable Easter for me. We freely expressed our love for Jesus and we remembered how important a resurrected Jesus was for us. And I did all this while wearing my Michael Jordan throwback jersey on Easter. That’s how I celebrate Jesus. It was beautiful.
I was at the stage in my life where I left my home church and decided to pursue Jesus on my own. I was still trying to understand and figure out my faith journey. This moment helped make sense of so much for me.
Every time Easter rolls around, I remember that painting and remember basketball without Michael Jordan. But I am glad that never happened. Basketball was blessed with Michael Jordan and I love the sport so much. I can’t imagine basketball without him.
And as I step back and look at the bigger picture of my faith, I am so glad that the idea of a world without Jesus never happened. He came and conquered death for all of us. That kind of love saved the world. That kind of love saved me.
Sometimes it is hard to explain and understand the magnitude of Jesus’ life and death. This Michael Jordan interpretation gave me the understanding and clarity I needed as a young freshman, trying to re-establish my faith. Michael Jordan will forever remind me of Jesus’ salvation for us.
Thank you God for giving the world Jesus! Thank you for pushing me to go experience that Good Friday potluck service. Thank you for giving me the chance to express myself. My life changed in that slam dunk of a weekend.
Samuel Lam: Samuel is a Bay Area native living in Southern California working in sports media. He blogs on many topics, including sports, music, movies, travel and especially faith. Sam also runs his own personal sports blog on his free time. Check him out at: Green Eggs and Lam & But At The End Of The Day.