Thursday, February 18, 2010

Would You Run and Hide...If You Were Jesus?

How would you handle the following situation; a story from the good book John, chapter 8...

One time a group of card-carrying Old Testament doctrinaires and Jesus doubters interrogated Jesus pretty heavily, and he rolled with the punches, answered calmly and in kind (though cryptically of course). But he referred to himself several times as being personally sent to Earth by God, and the mob eye-rolling and head shaking intensified.

And then when he told this gathering of experts that he'd been around since before Abraham - the great patriarch of their Israelite and Jewish lineage - well, the inquisitors had had enough. So in keeping with Moses' level-headed, fair and judicious laws, they picked up a bunch of rocks and were about to lay some good ole fashioned Mosaic justice on this upstart rabbi from Nazareth, by stoning him to death for his heresy.

And what did Jesus do?

"Jesus hid himself, slipping away", the Bible claims.

Would you hide and slip away?

I wouldn't, not if I were the incarnation of Almighty God on Earth, the Savior of Mankind, Deus Postestas In Terra. And you wouldn't either...would you?

Look closely: if you could walk on water, change the course of Nature, raise the dead, and you'd been around since the Universe was born...would you actually run and hide from a band of loudmouth rock-throwers?

You kidding me? Using miraculous power - as Jesus did many times - you'd simply calmly supremely stand tall as the rocks hit you...but with no effect, yes? Or... you'd stop the stones in flight (like bullets in The Matrix Reloaded - cool!), or evaporate them, or turn them into flower petals, or allow the stones to bounce and turn back toward your accusers.

Now wouldn't such miracles surely convince these skeptical accusers? And wouldn't they then become believers to further spread the Good News? No better witnesses than former disbelievers; Saint Paul comes to mind.

(Why bother to convince them? Part of Jesus' self-described mission included the declarations, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners," and "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel". Would you abandon a prime teaching moment toward these sinners and liars, these pathetic Pharisees and lost Israelite sheep, to save your immaculate skin?)

To reiterate: I'd run and hide from anyone about to throw rocks at me. So would you. But would God incarnate? After all, God incarnate (AKA Jesus) rightly protected a woman from being stoned, just a few verses earlier in John 8. And that was by the force of simple rhetoric; Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Imagine the effect if you, as Jesus, had stood unharmed as the rocks flew, fixing your transcendent stare on the rabble; grieved, disappointed, understanding...and forgiving...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Would You Admit You Weren't Good? Would You Deny Being God...If You Were Jesus?

Kids, I doubt you'd make such claims, since doing so would throw Christianity into an existential breakdance tailspin. Yet get this: that's what Jesus of Nazareth himself actually claimed...

From the Good Book, let us now read Mark 10:17-18. Here's the famous tale of a rich man who runs up to Jesus, calls him "good master/teacher" and asks, "how do I get eternal life?" Before dropping the Socialist dime on the dude with the dreaded news to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor, Jesus says, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone."

Wait now. Huh? Jesus Christ claimed that he wasn't good? Was he propagandizing, using his position as a holy man to set a moral example of humilty? To set a condemnatory standard of goodness -- that no one is "good"? If he thought he was the Son of God, was he being disingenuous for the sake of a recondite teaching moment?

Or...was the rabbi of Nazareth conveying his simple truth?

If Jesus was god incarnate, or part of god, or one third of the godhead, or the embodiment of invisible god, or consubstantial with god, or equal among the Trinity -- (whatever your sect calls this incoherent and exasperating concept) -- why did he not just acknowledge the rich man's characterization, and say, "You have believed in me, and you have achieved your reward..."

Look closely: Jesus didn't tell the rich man, as you might have, "Understand that only part of me is good; as the son of God, it's true his divine essence is in me, and I'm of it. But I'm also human, and that part of me isn't good. I appreciate your faith in me though."

Nor did Jesus expound to the rich man, "Well, as a member of the Heavenly Trinity, I - They - We are 'good' collectively; but see, while I'm here on Earth for a while, my Earthly existence makes me not good...sort of... in comparison to the other two thirds of the holy trinity...godhead...divine family...who are really good up there in being the same as them though...since I'm part of them...but then I'm born of a to commiserate with you mortals I'm not a relativistic existential human sense...look, it's complicated..................."

Nope. Jesus said none of that. Jesus' words in the Book of Mark are contextually clear, and the implicit intent is solid: "Don't call me "good" or make me out to be something supreme; I'm just like you, I'm not divine, not god. Our God alone - the one God, that I'm not a part of or descended from - is the only thing that's divine and good."