Sacred Encounters with Jesus (2003)
By Gregory Scott Sparrow
The nature of these sacred encounter experiences is that Jesus heals and transforms people just as he ministered to his brokenhearted and defeated disciples. The reader will enter into the miraculous experience of the terminally ill girl who was healed by Jesus’ touch after her parents had already said their final good-byes, will share the shock of a psychotherapist who turned to see Jesus walking beside her one day, and will feel the incredulous wonder of a woman who reached up and touched Jesus’ hair as he knelt beside her and prayed. These experiences raise the possibility that some people will readily accept and others will summarily dismiss-that Jesus can be experienced as directly and as personally today as when he walked the earth 2,000 years ago.
“It is astounding enough that Jesus appeared to his disciples and friends after his death. It is even more astounding that he has never ceased appearing. Indeed, from the accounts presented in this book, we can reasonably conclude that Jesus still appears today — healing and transforming people just as he ministered to his brokenhearted and defeated disciples. Once the despairing band of ordinary men and women experienced the risen Jesus, they went forth exhibiting an incredible faith and love that eventually conquered the mighty Roman Empire that had tried to destroy them. Similarly, when people experience Christ today, they find encouragement, help in the midst of darkness, and sometimes healing of the mind and body. Further, Christ instills the conviction that, ultimately, all will be well — and that the eternal love they have experienced in this world will be theirs in the world to come.
“Sacred Encounters with Jesus is a discerning and comprehensive account of how people still experience Christ today. What is surprising to me is that no one has previously taken the trouble to collect and explain the meaning of these experiences. This fascinating book conveys a wealth of both religious and psychological wisdom.”
— From the Foreword by Morton Kelsey
“For nearly two thousand years people have continued to experience the presence of the risen, cosmic Christ. Some momentous events events of world history have occurred because of encounters with this Being.
“Saul of Tarsus encountered Christ as an orb of blinding light on the road to Damascus. As he was going there to persecute Jesus’ followers in that city, he heard the words of Christ, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest,’ and was transformed. Then Christ appeared to Ananias. Against his will, Ananias met with Saul and helped make him into a new man — Paul the Apostle to the Greek world.
“For nearly three centuries, Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Then the emperor Constantine had a vision of a flaming cross in the sky and heard the words: ‘In this sign you will conquer.’
“The emperor could make no sense of the sign until Jesus appeared to him in a dream carrying the symbol and explained that it was made of the first two letters of Christ in Greek. Under this sign Constantine defeated the pagan emperors who had been persecuting Christians for nearly three hundred years. One of Constantine’s first acts was to abolish the persecution of Christians. It is difficult for us to imagine the momentous impact of his decision upon the Christian fellowship and upon the world.
“Hundreds of years later, Saint Francis of Assisi was praying before a crucifix and had a vision of Jesus speaking to him. With this inspiration Francis became a model of divine love and revived a dormant and cynical church. Jesus had come again at a crucial moment in the unfoldment of his church.
“John Newton was a captain of a slave ship until he dreamed of meeting Christ who saved him from disaster. He left his infamous trading, went to seminary, and became a minister. He wrote many of the greatest Christian hymns, among them ‘Amazing Grace.’ His dreams of a forgiving Christ was the amazing grace that saved him.
“A few years later, in 1895, one of the leading pastors in the Baptist Church, A. J. Gordon, wrote his spiritual autobiography. In it he described a powerful dream in which he noticed a stranger in the church, but he forgot to look for him after the service. He asked a man who had sat next to the stranger who the stranger was. The gentleman replied: ‘Why, do you not know that man? It was Jesus of Nazareth.’ Gordon expressed his dismay at not meeting Jesus. The man replied nonchalantly: ‘Oh, do not be troubled. He has been here today, and no doubt he will come again.” Gordon never preached another sermon without remembering Jesus’ words, ‘Lo, I am with you always.’ It was the turning point of his ministry.
“In his book, Beyond the Mirror, Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and a widely read writer, has provided a superb description of an experience of the cosmic and personal Christ. At a time when his life hung in the balance, he entered the portals of death and found a risen Jesus there with arms open to embrace him. He also realized that this figure was there for him, personally, and at the same time was embracing the whole universe. This experience was cleansing, healing, and powerful. As he reflected on this experience of Christ’s love. Nouwen realized he needed new theological language to convey the depth and breadth of Jesus’ all-encomapsssing caring.”
— From the Foreword by Morton Kelsey