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Philly Jesus walks with sinners in LOVE Park

So, to be clear, Michael Grant doesn't think he's Jesus. The Lord and Savior is his Michael Jordan. He's just, if you will, wearing Christ's jersey.

Michael Grant, aka Philly Jesus, dressed like Christ to help spread the gospel. Credit: Tommy Rowan Michael Grant, aka Philly Jesus, dressed like Christ to help spread the gospel. Credit: Tommy Rowan

Philly's Jesus swiped up his favorite passage:Ephesians 5:1 from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible.

He pointed to the iPhone screen: "Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children."

"So, you know, I've taken it to the extreme," said Philly Jesus, adjusting his earbuds. "I want to be more like Jesus."

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So, to be clear, Michael Grantdoesn't believe he's Jesus. The Son of God is more like his Michael Jordan. He's just, if you will, wearing Christ's jersey.

"I'm a huge fan."

You will see Grant wandering around LOVE Park or through the streets of Philadelphia in a white robe. A fish dangling from his neck and white wires extending from his ears to his hands. His iPhone is his bible.

Three months ago, the 27-year-old decided, after watching countless movies on the life of Jesus, to bring Christ's message to the streets.

"I knew I wanted to do something for the lord," he said in his scratchy voice. "So I'm like, 'Yo, I got long hair. I got a beard. Let me go buy a white robe and see how people react.'"

People, naturally, wanted to pose with him for pictures. And, he said, that gives him the green light to share the gospel.

"I'm not one of those typical preachers that's going to stand up with a blow horn and be condemning because that pushes people away. I find it more effective when I talk to people individually."

He swiped up a sermon on his YouTube app.

"They see me and they think about Jesus. So when they look at me I don't want them to see me, I want them to see Jesus in me, you know what I'm saying?"

He gestured toward Robert Indiana's LOVE statue.

"The same way they bring the story of Jesus to the movies or to a play, I bring it to the street as a street performer."

Michael Grant gets his point across, he says, without shouting into a microphone and condemning the non-believers. Credit: Facebook. Michael Grant gets his point across, he says, without shouting into a microphone and condemning the non-believers. Credit: Facebook.

Opal Weaver


Philly's Jesus is from Olney.He was raised Catholic and graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School.

And then in eighth grade he started smoking marijuana. And then he started rapping. And then he started practicing witchcraft under the name "Opal Weaver," which he took from a Wizard apprenticeship. The initials OW are tattooed on his forearm.

Long story short: He says he was run over by a car, became addicted to pain killers, switched to heroin, and roamed the streets as a homeless man panhandling for his fix. After a few stints in jail, his probation officer sent him to rehab. There he realized Jesus intervened in the car accident and saved his life.

So he accepted the Lord into his heart. No more: drugs, cigarettes, alcohol. No more sex with women.

"And then all of my old friends from my past would come when they found out this man's walking with God now," he said. "They come up to me like, 'Yo, come smoke this blunt with me.' And I say, 'Lord, give me your strength to say 'no.'"

He stays with different friends across the Philadelphia area. They feed and cloth him.

But not everyone is down with Philly's Jesus.

Why so serious?


Area churches of several denominations aren't fans of how he goes about spreading the Lord's message.

"They persecute me. They say I need to be under elders of a church, I need to be ordained, I need to be part of a church to do this. … they have rules," he said. "But I tell them I bring the church out here to people who don't go to church. I hang out with sinners just like Jesus did."

"A lot of people love it," he added, "but you're always going to have your haters, you know what I mean?"

But still, people ask him all the time. They say: "Yo, Michael, why do you take this Jesus thing so seriously?"

Philly Jesus responds: "Well, God took me real seriously when he died for me on the cross, you know what I'm saying?"

Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

 
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