Jesus is Magic

Jesus said, “Anything you ask for in my name, it shall be done.” – John 14:13

I grew up most of my life in pretty tame mainline Protestant churches. Jesus was a good guy, a social justice firebrand, and maybe, in some vague and metaphorical way, the actual Son of God. But he had no magic, per se, not anymore. Common sense precluded it.

Somewhere along the way, I came into a carnal and real sense of Jesus’ power and powers: not just for the woman who touched the hem of his robe in secret and was healed, not just for the many beneficiaries of his first-century culinary largesse after lectures and resurrections, but for me. Right now. Today.

I began borrowing a phrase from a pastor friend of mine, who ended every prayer, “In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.” It riffed off the incantation from John’s gospel, where Jesus promised, “anything you ask for in my name, it shall be done.”

Last year a friend of mine wrote a really good, funny, smart book about Jesus, in which he pitched the idea that our God had gotten too small and our Jesus too big–that fundamentalists had turned Jesus into a name cult and made him “too big to fail.”

I found myself nodding furiously as I read along, and underlining so many sentences that my marginalia became useless because I would just have to re-read the whole book. Then I realized that accepting his thesis would mean giving up my magical Jesus. And I wasn’t ready to do that. I just got Him!

I want the magic of Jesus. I need His magic. My reluctance to put God to the test has been superseded by my need for a God who can and will be made manifest in my life in godlike ways. I can understand my friend’s reluctance and rejection of the name-cult Jesus who has so often been misused as a tool of snake-oil preachers selling salvation. But I just got to this particular party.

What about you?


Jesus, can we have it both ways? Can we love you as a fully human example of the best way to live and love, and call upon Your power and might in our hour of need? Amen.

About the Author
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.