I’m not a theologian. I’ve read the Bible, but much like Karl in Sling Blade, I understand parts of it but not all of it. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading the Bible. It is full of sex, violence and scandal–and that’s just the Old Testament. The New Testament is the cornerstone, of course, of Christianity. It’s not nearly as saucy as the Old Testament. It does, however, tell the story of Jesus, the key figure in the Christian world.
Most folks know the story of Jesus. He was born to a virgin in a manger. He is the son of the one, true Living God. He was sent to Earth to die for our sins. He did just that, being crucified, of all things. His sacrifice bore all the sins of mankind. Three days after he died (wink, wink), he arose from the dead, thereby fulfilling the promise that he would not die. That’s pretty close to accurate.
Before reading further, you should know a couple of things. One, you’re not going to see a bunch citations to scripture. This ain’t Sunday School. Plus, I don’t research much for this silly blog. This is no pedantic discourse on historical Jesus. I’m going from memory, which may be inaccurate, but I’m sure you’ve heard just as reckless preaching from the pulpit. Second, I’m not a fan of “oral histories” when it comes to religion. There’s too much room for mistakes and outright lies. I don’t believe the oral history of my own life. So, all you’ll see here is stuff I remember from the Bible and my own rank speculation.
I’m not so much interested in Jesus as God or even a god. That’s a religious thing. If you believe that, you have taken it on faith, like all religions. You don’t need to be sold on it. If you don’t believe, no amount of persuasion on my part will affect you, especially since I would probably make little sense and only end up arguing with myself about it.
My interest is more in Jesus the man. After all, he was a man, in addition to be the son of God and God himself. From this point forward, I shall try to avoid discussion of The Holy Trinity, as it only confuses me. But, what of Jesus the man? What kind of guy was he?
First off, it’s unlikely that he wa 6′ 2″ with flowing sandy blonde hair and a perfectly shaped nose. He was a Jewish man. He probably wasn’t a foot taller than everyone else or look like Barry Gibb. According to science, he probably looked like this:
Since the Bible doesn’t describe his appearance, he can look like anything we want, but we should try to be a slightly realistic.
Back then, I guess, people didn’t have last names, but we call him Jesus Christ or, sometimes Jesus H. Christ. I’m pretty sure Christ wasn’t his last name. No one called his step-dad “Joseph Christ.” Of course, Judas was Judas Iscariot. I can’t really reach a conclusion on this one.
We don’t know much about Jesus the child. The sketchy narrative breaks when he’s a preteen and picks up when he’s in his 30’s. What did he do during that time? He could have been a slacker for all I know. If he was, you can be sure he told someone not to write that part down.
He seems like a regular guy. He was a carpenter, which is a regular guy job. There aren’t any details about what kind of carpentry he did, but it was probably the normal stuff for the times–barns, mangers (how ironic), yokes, maybe houses. Who knows? He may have even made crosses for crucifixions.
30 years old was probably pretty old in those days. Whether it was because of poor health care or more accurate record keeping, we were no longer in the times of people living to be 900 years old. I’m guessing that Jesus was middle aged.
When the story picks back up, he’s ready for business. The Sermon on the Mount is some of the best preaching you’ll ever hear. I picture it as being quite the scene, with the turnout being mostly the sick and demon-possessed. The sick people probably had leprosy and wore those big leper bells around their necks to warn people when they were approaching. The possessed were just plain insane. Jesus didn’t care. He hung out with them anyway. He even healed them. Good guy.
People were probably leery of Jesus at first. First, the son of God thing was probably off-putting. Imagine if the guy who built your house went around claiming to be the Messiah. Second, even those who believed he was the son of God were probably a little rattled. Up until that point, God was a vengeful cuss who destroyed entire countries, turned people into salt, slew children and even wiped out mankind–all because he had a Byzantine set of rules no one could follow. His son might be a bit edgy. Can’t you just see someone meeting him for the first time?:
Son of God. No foolin’? I’m sure you know about that pork chop I ate last week. I don’t know what I was thinking. Haha. Anyway, could you see your way clear to pass on the smiting just this once?
Imagine the surprise when Jesus said it was no big deal.
It didn’t take him long to collect followers, the so-called Disciples. They were a motley crew and seemed to bitch and moan a lot. Jesus had to be a patient dude to keep from blowing up at them. The first time someone doubted that I could walk on water, he would be walking–right out of the inner circle. “Oh, you can’t feed all these people with a loaf bread and fish.” “Oh, really? Who’s the son of God, you moron?” Jesus did none of that. Nor did he ever rub their noses in it like I would have. I would have been all: “Looks like everyone else is eating, what are you gonna do now, smart ass?” Even after he came back to life, he dealt with this stuff: “Hey, Doubting Thomas, what do these look like–callouses?” Not Jesus. He was a patient man. Good guy.
Even if you don’t believe Jesus was real, he was still a good guy, even as a literary figure. Consider the things he said:
- Love your enemies. Any tool can love his friends.
- If someone asks you for something, give it to him. Then, give him more of your stuff.
- If someone slaps your face, tell him to do it again. This isn’t to prove that you’re a badass. It’s just to let him do it.
- Don’t worry about the splinter in your friend’s eye when you’ve got a plank in yours. In other words, stay on your side of the street and deal with your own crap.
- Quit bitching about the government. Give them what they want, and give God what he wants.
- Don’t judge anyone. Ever. End of discussion.
- The humble, the meek, the pacifists, the downtrodden–these are my kind of people.
This is just a small sampling of the man’s wisdom. The funny thing is that even though he’s had billions of followers, I’ve never met even one who does any of what he suggests.
Just as impressive as what he said is what he didn’t say. Here is some of that:
- It’s okay to hate people, especially if they look different from you or don’t believe I’m the son of God.
- Go forth and kill people in my name.
- I really hope the folks who preach this gospel all get rich.
- Give me money to show that you believe in me.
- Arrogant, self-righteous jackasses are really cool.
- C’mon boys! Let’s go protest a funeral.
- Some day there will be a land called America. It will be my favorite place on Earth.
- You know what I like? War.
- If people are poor or starving it’s because they deserve it. They’re probably lazy.
- I hate foreigners.
- When you pray, be sure to ask for things. Money is always good. Oh, and ball games–I’m a big sports fan.
Jesus was a positive, upbeat guy, even in the face of what he had to know was going to be a bad, bad ending for him. If it had been me, I’d probably have said: “Look. After they crucify me, you dudes kill every last one of those bastards. I’ll be back in three days, and I expect to see some carnage.” Not Jesus. He tried to stay positive. Good guy.
Two stories demonstrate that Jesus, Godliness notwithstanding, was a good guy. Remember Lazarus? He was a good friend of Jesus’s. Maybe Lazarus bought a yoke or something from Jesus. Lazarus died, and his family asked Jesus to resurrect him. Now, you could tell Jesus didn’t want to do it, and I can understand. He performed miracles to make a point, not just to do it. He might have thought this would set a bad precedent. Anyway, he got nagged into it. Lazarus had been dead awhile and was pretty rank. I’m sure Jesus thought: “Man, what have I gotten myself into? Damn, he’s funky.” He did it anyway. Boom! Welcome back, Lazarus. Jesus just did it to be nice.
The other was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew that some bad crap was coming down, so–like a lot of us would–he went off to pray. The gist of his prayer was: “Okay. I know I’m supposed to do this. I get it. But, IF by any chance you’d like to get me out of this, I’m cool with that, too. Of course, you’re the boss. If this is what you want, I’m all in. Just think about it.” What could be more human than that? He would do what he was supposed to do but was fine with getting out of it. What else would a good guy do?
Even his crucifixion shows what a good guy he was. He could have unleashed all manner of wrath. Remember–he’s God’s son, the same God that wreaked vengeful havoc throughout the Old Testament. Instead, he forgave his tormentors.
Like any regular guy, Jesus had a family. Yes, he was the son of God, but Joseph was his step-dad. Joseph taught him carpentry. They probably argued about stuff like any family.
His brother James probably had it tough. At this point, some of you will get hair-lipped and scream: “THAT’S A LIE! JESUS DID NOT HAVE A BROTHER!” I say he did. Why? Because the Bible calls him James, brother of Jesus. That’s good enough for me. So, calm down.
My older brother was an excellent student and good kid. That can be tough to follow. Imagine poor James. Even when he was spreading the gospel, he probably heard about it:
MAN: What’s your name, friend?
JAMES: James…uh…James Christ.
MAN: Are you related to….?
JAMES: Yeah, he’s my brother.
MAN: Wow. He was, I mean is, a great guy.
JAMES: Yeah. We’re fond of him.
MAN: Look, we’re having a little get together later. You’re welcome to come by. Do you think….?
JAMES: Thanks. I’ll see what I can do, but He doesn’t just appear. But I’ll check.
No matter what a good job James did preaching, he was never going to measure up.
Mary was a typical mom, except for the virgin birth thing. Why did Jesus turn the water into wine? Because his mom told him to do it. Haven’t we all been there? My son is an excellent, self-taught piano player. His mother always wants him to play for her friends. He rarely does. It’s embarrassing. Jesus reacted the same way. He hadn’t even started performing miracles yet, but she was his mother. So, he did it. “Okay, Mom. Are you satisfied now?” Good guy and a good son, too.
Jesus hung out with women, too. I suspect women weren’t treated too well in ancient Judea. Jesus didn’t care. Mary Magdalene was right by his side until the end–and the beginning. He didn’t care. Now, I know a lot of you say Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Maybe so, but the Bible doesn’t say that. If she was, it wasn’t important enough to write down. If you feel better thinking she was a whore, good for you. I know this much: Jesus wouldn’t have cared. He liked the downtrodden. They were his peeps. He made no judgments. Good guy.
I don’t know if Jesus dated or had a wife. If he did, the Bible doesn’t talk about it. Then again, it doesn’t talk about any of the Disciples having wives (Okay, maybe it does, and I just don’t remember). Let’s face it. The Bible isn’t very kind to women, so they probably wouldn’t have included that anyway. It wouldn’t have been weird if he had a girlfriend or wife. In fact, it would have been weird if he hadn’t. I’d like to think he did. He was human, too.
Even if you are a committed atheist, you must admit that Jesus was a fine fellow. If not atheist, maybe you’re just not a Christian. No one ever turned from Christianity because Jesus was a bad guy. Hey, the Koran mentions Jesus frequently, maybe even more than it does Mohammed.
Jesus said that he’ll come back one of these days. Maybe he’s your plumber. It’s doubtful that he’s preaching on TV. He’s probably just a regular guy–good guy but regular. If he does come back, though, I’m pretty sure we’ll all try to kill him again.
So, there you have you it. Jesus the man. Good guy. Now, some of you may be poised over your keyboard ready to set me straight and accuse me of heresy and blasphemy. Before you do, ask yourself this: What would Jesus do? Good guy, that Jesus. He’d just like this post and move on.