Jesus in Real Time

Christmas Story: Stuck on an Elevator with Jesus

David Stone
Christmas Story: Stuck on an Elevator with Jesus

Who ever expects to get stuck on an elevator with Jesus?

I was preoccupied as usual – it’s New York, you know? – when I weaved through the lobby of one of the many glass office towers I’d gotten to know in Midtown. So, I didn’t really notice when the man with the long, untrimmed beard swept silently into the elevator…

His lightweight gown touched the floor. I didn’t notice it either. At first.

He didn’t crowd in with all the others waiting in the lobby, joining me on on one of the upper floors after everyone else got off.

The other odd thing was that, well… How do I say this? He actually looked like Jesus.

We’ve all seen images, and when I first looked over at Jesus – this was just as the elevator bumped to a stop – I knew it was him.

Not that he looked like any of the gazillion pictures. It was something else, a presence, an invisible something about him.

So, there I was, gawking, rude really, and he was blinking as the elevator froze.

He said something I won’t forget.

“Uh oh. We’re stuck.”

The will to resist left me.

“Are you…?

“You were expecting Willie Mays, maybe?” he interrupted.

“You’re doing Yiddish comedy schtick?”

“Icebreaker,” Jesus winked. “I always was, you know, Jewish. The followers didn’t call themselves Christian until many years after I died. I kept kosher, all that. I followed the rules… Well, maybe not all of them.”


“Would they have crucified me, if I had?”

He wore a long, flowing gown, a neutral, tannish color. His skin was darker than you’d expect, sort of dry, like he’d been in the sun too long.

“If you’re him, how come we’re stuck in this elevator?”

“Because it stopped between floors,” he explained. “Who I am has nothing to do with it. I can’t change the weather either. Or make water from wine. Or walk on it.”

“People will be disappointed,” I said.

“Let’s say, it’s mutual.”

He scuffed the carpet with the tip of his, yes, sandal, as if finding it somehow disagreeable.

“Do you need your mother to perform miracles before you’ll believe in her? Does your father have to be a magician? I would like people to believe in me as if I’m their brother and they, mine.”

Jesus paused.

“We had a lot of spiritual teachers then, just like now, and there was competition. Some did all sorts of things to get attention. Today, you’ve got the one guy who shows people how to walk on burning coals, and a woman who claims to have a hundred unified voices in her head--”

“Including yours,” I interrupted.

“Yes,” he nodded, shaking his head. “If the message is true, they shouldn’t need stunts.”

“Spiritual entrepreneurs need a gimmick. And, we’re pack animals. We look for magnet people to flock behind.”

“That’s good and not so good,” Jesus observed. “When we flock together like brothers, our power is immense. When we flock like cattle, we can’t really help each other.”


“Didn’t I promise I’d be with you always?”

“Something like that…”

“Well, I wasn’t just whistling Dixie.”

For a minute, I forgot I was stuck on an elevator with Jesus. Oh, I didn’t really forget. I just lost awareness of it as we hooked up in conversation.

“I wonder what happened to the elevator and how long we’ll be stuck here,” I wondered, looking at the door, listening to the silence.

“Are you testing me?”

“Funny, I never thought of that.”

“Where I come from,” he said, “there is no such thing as time. Everything is revealed, everything we want revealed anyway. I can confidently say, we’ll be stuck as long as we are stuck. What is it you say, these days? ‘It is what it is?’ Well, you’re right, it really is.”

“It’s interesting I got stuck with you,” I said, changing the subject to something still in my league. “I’ve read a lot about your life and the various biblical stories. I admit I’m not a Christian and churches turn me off more than on, but it’s so fascinating that one person could have such an impact on Western Civilization for thousands of years.”

“And who would that be?” Jesus asked, smirking a little.

“They say it’s you?”

“The me who tried to inspire fellowship among the downtrodden or the one who was in heaven with God The Father right from the start? Or the one who trashed the Temple?”

“The one that puzzles me the most,” I said, “is the one whose mother was a virgin.”

“Oh, boy.” He shook his head. “Why would anyone want a mother of five to be a virgin when her youngest is born? Is something wrong with having sexual relations, something that makes you better, if you avoid them?”

His voice trailed off momentarily.

“Those stories came a lot later. I never heard them in my life, and I don’t care about them. My mother was hard-working. She struggled to take care of my brothers, sister and me. My father was a carpenter. He taught my brothers and me, but he was older and not healthy. It was very hard for us.”

Jesus paused, seeming to collect his thoughts.

“We were poor Jews in the Roman Empire. But she was a woman who was very strong. It broke her heart when I was arrested and crucified. I was the baby of the family, even as an adult. I felt responsible, a little guilty, but I had to do what I did. The message was in me.”

“The light under a bushel basket thing?” I asked.

“We all have one,” he advised quietly. “Some are brighter.”

“Was yours the brightest?”

“Is there anything to gain from comparisons? Billions and billions of people later, who’s keeping track? The thing is, I had something I knew in my heart, and I’d have died in a different way, if I hadn’t let it out.”

“A lot of people feel that way. I know I do sometimes, but we never reach as many people.”

“How could you with all the noise you have around you, now? But why do you need to reach a lot of people? If you speak truth, it always reaches the heart. It percolates through the crowds. Others start speaking the same truth until nobody knows where it started, and that shouldn’t matter anyway. The source of truth…” Jesus smiled.

“Okay, class,” he said, “where does truth come from? Hands…?”

If I say I was confused by his sense of humor – like, who knew he had one? – I think you’ll understand.

Nowhere in the New Testament did it say that Jesus tickled his listeners with a quip or two. Stuck in the elevator with him, I saw that that omission as a serious loss for the scriptures. A laugh goes a long way toward credibility.

So, I answered more seriously than I should have.

“Truth has to come from the source, from God I guess you’d have to say.”

“God, the laws of physics, transcendental enlightenment, ‘the source,’ as you say, has a lot of names. I like to say God because, whether they like it or not, everyone knows what ‘God’ means. Why beat around the bushel basket?”

I missed that quip too.

“Okay, then. Are you God?” I asked.

“Of course.”


“Really,” he confirmed. “As are you and whoever is taking so long to fix this elevator and the drunk guy relieving himself in the alley outside. What else could we be? Scrapple?”

Now, we heard metallic sounds that told us someone was tinkering, trying to get us unstuck.

Jesus looked up to the ceiling, which is where the noises seemed to coming from.

“Shouldn’t be long now,” he said.

“Tell me something,” I jumped in with a little urgency. “What I’ve always wondered is how a man or man/God like you became such a powerful force in the world. Two-thousand years, and they’re still quoting and using you as an example.”

“Pretty flattering,” Jesus winked, “but to tell you the truth, what you’re saying happened never really did.”

“Oh, come on, modesty’s one thing…”

“No, no.”

It was his turn to interrupt, gently.

“You’re mistaking me for a religion. Christianity is what’s had such influence, and I can’t take credit for that. Look, when you put all those religions together and what they say they stand for, that’s too much for one man to resolve.”

“Maybe not too much for a God,” I said.

“If that God wasn’t limited by being inside a man’s life. A man can’t be God. If he was, he wouldn’t be a man anymore, would he?”

“I guess.”

“Look,” Jesus said evenly, “we’re going to be rescued soon. So, why don’t I just tell you the truth, although I think you already know.”

“Okay,” I said, “we’ve got a few minutes.”

“What it all boils down to, what keeps people in churches is two things. First, it’s brotherhood and sisterhood, fellowship. When I started out as a preacher, people began following me because I told them we’re all equals in God’s eyes, and we could be strong if we banded together. When everyone around you is under the boot of the Romans or others like them, the idea of gathering strength in brotherhood in God’s name is a powerful message. The other thing, of course, the power is that recognizing the God in each of us makes us strong and resilient.

“You can’t imagine,” he continued, “the suffering that’s relieved by those quiet moments of brotherhood, with the power of God present in the room. Christians banded together in mutual aid. You can see that spirit echo in so much we have on Earth now, from unions to insurance where we share our risks and losses.”

“I’m thinking of the Sermon On The Mount, now,” I said, “and I have to say that you need to give yourself more credit.”

“No, that’s a wrong conclusion. If it had all been left to me and my short career, the Romans would never have given in, and the world would be a different place. I was lucky I had good followers who were passionate about extending the brotherhood. They were smart enough, most of them, not to overstep. Overstepping was my mistake. It got me crucified. But those who came after, especially Paul and Peter, were slow and steady. They were careful not to provoke the authorities so much that the religion kept growing. I’m flattered that they named me their leader, but I was nowhere without them and the brotherhood under God that swelled.”


With that, a square portal in the ceiling of our elevator popped open, and a woman with a hard hat covering her blonde, curly hair looked in. “Give me just a second to drop down, and I will have you out of here in a second.

Jesus looked at me and nodded with a smile.

“I guess our time’s up,” he said. “Maybe, we can talk again another time.”

“Maybe not while stuck in an elevator…”

Our rescue mechanic eased herself into the cab and went straight to the control panel. She opened it with a key, poked a few buttons, flipped a switch and, presto, we rose a few feet. The door popped open to an empty corridor.

“You’re free,” she smiled.

“Keep the faith,” Jesus said as he stepped through the doors.

“I’ll try to,” I said.

“What?” the mechanic asked.

“I was just saying to…”

The corridor outside was empty and still.

“I was just saying it’s good to have faith in people to come rescue you. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” she said. “Have a blessed day.”

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