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He only carries a Bible, a rosary, and a toothbrush. He won’t wear sandals or shoes. He walks everywhere, only accepting rides when he feels the Holy Spirit wants him to ride. He’s the Jesus Guy.

Around 1999 or 2000 or so, an unusual stranger started showing up in coal mining towns in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. His real name is Carl J. Joseph, but he’s mostly known as “The Jesus Guy,” or “What’s your name?” The latter moniker came from the man’s penchant for answering in the way Jesus addressed the demoniac of the Gospels. Last anyone knew of him, he was seen in Alabama. He asked for no money, just a place to stay, or the most basic of physical needs. He’s spoken to crowds as large as 2000 people. He’s had teenaged boys taunt him with threats of crucifixion. Still, after 10 years of a road ministry as a “Jesus lookalike,” he remains a rather enigmatic figure.

Now, obviously, folks know he’s not Jesus. yet after roughly 20 years, The Jesus Guy still draws crowds, causes people to come to a dead stop on the highway, and people still claim their lives were changed by his presence. What causes people to see him as “for real,” and not simply a variant of an Elvis impersonator?

My theory is a very simple one. I think that the reason the Jesus Guy is mostly well-received, is because many people have an inner desire to “have Jesus live among us.” We simply want to hang with Him. The Jesus Guy becomes a living symbol that Jesus can, and does, live among us. He reminds us that we walk in the shadow of the Almighty.

Our desire to be like what The Jesus Guy represents make him bigger than Santa Claus, bigger than a Las Vegas Elvis. That is not only a “good” thing, it’s an empowering thing. Thanks be to God!

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