Never has there been a person divided into more pieces, for more purposes, than Jesus.
Never has there been someone as universally exploited, as loved and hated, as embraced and rejected. There is no other man, or woman, who even comes close. There has never been one who has elicited such contempt, and such sympathy, who has aroused such a volatile reaction, or provoked such personal change. And he disappeared, supposedly, over two thousand years ago. That’s a lot of emotion carried, uninterrupted, through a lot of years. You’d almost have to be God, or the Devil, to transcend time in such a profound manner.
Some call him a Pauper, and some call him a King. Some call him the Lord, and some call him a Servant. Some call him a Blasphemer, and some call him a Truth Teller. Some call him a Political Subversive, and some call him a Prophet. Some call him a Mystic, and some call him a Martyr. Some call him the Son of Man, and some call him the Son of God. Some call him a Sinner, and some call him a Saint. Some call him a Visionary, and some call him a fake. Some call him a Preacher, and some call him a Puppet. Some call him a Teacher, and some call him a Student. Some call him a Man of the People, and some call him a Man of God. Some call him Religious, and some call him Spiritual. Some call him Self Righteous, and some have called him Humble.
What other person in history, besides Jesus, has his own anti-character? There is Christ, and there is the long anticipated anti-Christ. What other historical figure’s name is used as an expression of anger, hostility, resentment or exasperation?
With whose life did time, as we now know it, begin again? We are living in the two thousand and ninth year ‘of our Lord’.
There have been many people who purport to represent Jesus, who profess to speak for him, or who even claim to be him. There are those who follow those who claim to be him. There are many who run to him, and even more who run from him.
And there are those who cannot even bear to hear, or speak, his name.
Is there another child in all of history who’s birth was so feared by the powers that be (King Herod), that he ordered all the male children, in and around Bethlehem, under the age of two, to be murdered to ensure that the baby Jesus would also be killed?
His birth has been celebrated, exploited, and reviled. The commercialism that has grown up around its remembrance has surpassed any expectation that even the most jaded Madison Ave. executive could have embraced. The credit card debt accumulated by average families around the occasion continues to give testimony to our having gone terribly off track in the supposed commemoration of his arrival on this earth. Ironically, the Christian belief system is based upon Jesus dying to pay our spiritual debt so that we could be reconciled with the one to whom we are in arrears. And we are now leaving Jesus completely out of the celebration of his own birth. Imagine, if you will, not being included in your own remembrance. True, nobody seems to know the actual date, but that is not even germane to the issue.
Jesus life, on the other hand, has been studied; it has been examined, scrutinized, and minimized; it has been stated, related, inflated, debated, imitated, devalued, debased and denied. His words have been used to support a particular point of view, and to refute that very same point of view. They have been printed in the bible, and on a plethora of posters and other Jesus junk that you can pick up in churches, or religious bookstores in just about any city or town in America, the world even, with the exception of a few countries that dictate certain religious expression to be anathema to the laws of the state.
His life and works are used as examples to be emulated; his parables are used, to this day, to communicate basic spiritual truths, laws of nature, and codes of behavior. His wisdom is quoted endlessly by those who know it belongs to him, and by those who don’t. Churchgoers use his early years in the church as evidence of the church’s importance. Non-churchgoers cite his teachings about the Pharisees, or his turning over of the moneychangers tables in the temple, as reason to avoid the institution altogether. But, people of each belief point to the importance of the underground church of the New Testament, which was formed secretly around the teachings of Jesus. It continues to this day. It is something the Institutional church acknowledges, but really knows nothing about. It’s funny though, how the small, invisible home gatherings of Christians (the underground church, if you will) aspire to grow, but in so doing inevitably, and predictably, end up joining the ranks of the existing institution; further evidence that man has a difficult time even getting out of his own way.
When Jesus was alive, some people were attracted to him, and some were not. A group of men, individuals really, began wanting to be with him, sometimes at great personal cost. They came to be known as disciples. He did not go around looking for these men, finding them and then appointing them as disciples. He just went about his life and people followed him, enthralled by his teachings, and the spirit he embodied. Many people were envious of him. Some pretended to know and love him, and some really did know and love him. Just like today, I guess.
He told the truth to people. He did not placate, assuage egos, or indulge dishonesty. He always spoke to the core of every situation, sometimes directly, and sometimes in parables. Many people did not like that about him. It made them uncomfortable, and it left them with no place to hide from themselves. As least that’s what the New Testament seems to indicate. Many people worship him today, in songs of praise, in the raising of hands, and in the speaking of tongues. Some people want nothing to do with the Jesus drug, but embrace him in spite of it all. Some people want nothing to do with him. Many people take parts of him that they need, or can use; his character, his persona, his imagined spirituality, but reject the totality of who he was (is). They do this because they have nothing of their own that compares. They pretend at spiritual, they play Jesus, rather than actually emulating him, rather than facing the vacuum of their own lives. They mix his teachings with their own compromises. They find it to be more comfortable than what his teachings actually require of them. They want the love, but not the selflessness. They want the enlightenment, but not the path to its attainment. They want the blessing, but not the sacrifice. They want the glory, but feign humility to acquire it.
People choose which pieces of Jesus they can live with, and which pieces to discard like leftover bones from a plate of well marinated spare ribs.
Some say Jesus Died and has been Resurrected, and some say he Has Not.
If the truth be known, however, he IS alive for some, and he is DEAD for many others.
Never in history has there been a person divided into more pieces, for more purposes,