Further to my email last week on Jesus I’ve continued musing and thinking about how I can discover the “real” Jesus. Is that even possible after all this time?
Here’s a thing. Have you ever thought that Paul, the Apostle, never knew Jesus. And that’s important I’m thinking because they were men of a similar age and shared geography, having studied in Jerusalem, yet Paul never seems to have seen Jesus. How do I know? Well I feel convinced that, in his extended letters that make up to the lion’s share of the New Testament, he would have made mention of this fact had it have taken place. In fact he does mention meeting James, Jesus’ brother, after his, Paul’s conversion.
Indeed we know that the Pharisees were dispatched to hear and test Jesus during his teaching and ministry but why didn’t Paul go, a self declared “Pharisee born of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6), which I’m guessing is his reference to his standing in the pecking order. Was it that Jesus really wasn’t considered important enough?
I watched the rugby from Twickenham on Saturday. 80,000 people, all gathered to watch England lose! But that crowd is probably more people than heard Jesus speak in his lifetime. In fact, it’s probably many more. Does that lend some perspective? And why would the people give Jesus any attention? He was a carpenter from an out of the way town. Yes he had, we are told, gone out and started to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God. Oh, and he had an endorsement from the masses’ favourite religious fanatic, John the Baptiser. But this was a country and a people who regularly entertained so called prophets and even candidates for the Messiah, Israel’s long awaited saviour. One more? Who was worried? The message was old hat.
Now the written records of Jesus’ 3 years of ministry were not, it is now believed, compiled until at least 30 years after he died if not longer. What does that speak to the importance of his life and work? I mean, if this was God’s man, why wasn’t there a scribe or two following around recording what was said and done? Or one of the disciples? Indeed, why don’t we have anything written by Jesus himself? Why is there no first hand account? Or did God (assuming Jesus is who the church says he is) know and plan for a modified version of Jesus’ teachings. A reinterpreted, recontextualised, bastardised rendering of what was said? Something for the current audience? I mean, think about it, the person of Jesus undergoes continuous adaptations to allow us to have something we feel comfortable with. Something we can understand and work with. Listen to this. In his book, The God Squad, Miami Dolphin footballer, Norm Evans, wrote:
I guarantee you Christ would be the toughest guy who ever played the game…If he were alive today I would picture a six-foot-six-inch 260 pound defensive tackle who would always make the big plays and would be hard to keep out of the backfield for offensive linesmen like myself.
That’s what his Jesus is in his mind. Not so meek and mild and if we searched I am sure we could find many other versions of Jesus including the one you believe in. I heard a favourite minister once say that if Jesus lived today he would drive a Ferrari because he would be “way cool” and that appealed to the young impressionable audience. For them, Jesus would be “cool”. I’ve seen Jesus as Che Guevara, a revolutionary and understand the appeal to third world Latin Americans who long for liberation from the forces that hold them down. Jesus the charismatic. Jesus the peasant. An eschatological prophet, an eco-warrior.
We have created a Jesus to satisfy our every whim and desire. But don’t we owe it to ourselves to find out who he was/is? Don’t we owe it to him to find out who and what he was and be prepared to abandon the images and idols we have created?
So Pogue, if I’m to satisfy my curiosity I guess I have some work to do. Read the Gospel again, but, hopefully from a fresh, and maybe sceptical, perspective. Why sceptical? Well I will be mindful that the writer may well have had an agenda when he wrote. Luke certainly was writing with a specific person in mind.
I need to take time to understand the context into which Jesus came, the culture, the expectations. Who did Jesus think he was and what did Jesus believe he was trying to achieve. Those two sound like easy answers, but they really aren’t once the culture, context and history are added to the mix. That’s the biggest problem to day, at least from where I stand. People transpose the figure of Jesus through 2000 years, plonk him down, and then want him and his teaching to work. I’ve seen so many disillusioned Christians.
Off to do some work then and, I’ll be back, like the Terminator I am, to tell you what I’ve found.
Yours, having a private revolution,
One thought on “The Search For Jesus”
Your insights and comparisons are so compelling, Wic! You are making me think of just how many, or few “founders” of major religions actually wrote their own sacred texts. Moses and Solomon wrote the majority of the Hebrew scripture. The sayings of Jesus in what we now call the gospels were orally passed down, as were those of the Buddha, the Vedas of Hinduism, and relatedly, the analects of Confucius and the sayings of Socrates. When I think about the Prophet, who dictated what he received as the Quran, and Bahá’u’lláh writing the Ba’hai texts himself, the whole notion of authorship of sacred texts is pretty intriguing!!!
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