Shusaku Endo

It took the writings of a Japanese novelist named Shusaku Endo to impress on me that the phenomenon of reversal lay at the very heart of Jesus' mission.

In a country where the church comprises less than one percent of the population, Endo was raised by a devout Christian mother and baptized at the age of eleven. Growing up as a Christian in prewar Japan, he felt a constant sense of alienation and was sometimes bullied by classmates for his association with a "Western" religion. After World War II ended he traveled to France, hoping there to find spiritual soulmates. Again he faced persecution, this time on account of race, not religion. As one of the first Japanese exchange students in an Allied country, Endo found himself the target of racial abuse. "Slanty­eyed gook," some called him.

Rejected in his homeland, rejected in his spiritual homeland, Endo underwent a grave crisis of faith. He began visiting Palestine to research the life of Jesus, and while there he made a transforming discovery: Jesus too knew rejection. More, Jesus' life was defined by rejec­tion. His neighbors laughed at him, his family questioned his sanity, his closest friends betrayed him, and his countrymen traded his life for that of a terrorist. Throughout his ministry, Jesus gravitated toward the poor and the rejected ones, the riffraff.

This new insight into Jesus hit Endo with the force of revelation. From his faraway vantage point in Japan he had viewed Christianity as a triumphant, Constantinian faith. He had studied the Holy Roman Empire and the glittering Crusades, had admired photos of the grand cathedrals of Europe, had dreamed of living in a nation where one could be a Christian without disgrace. Now, as he studied the Bible, he saw that Christ himself had not avoided "disgrace." Jesus was the Suffering Ser­vant, as depicted by Isaiah: "despised and rejected by men, a man of sor­rows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces...." Endo felt that surely this Jesus, if anyone, could understand the rejection he himself was going through.

Yancey. Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995, p. 157-158.

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