Recognize any of the guys above? One is a famous movie actor , one is a not-so-famous blogger, and the other is an artist’s rendition of a typical male Jew during the time of Jesus of Nazareth.
Surprised? You thought Jesus had long, brown, straight hair surrounding a face much more Anglican or Roman, didn’t you? Yeah, so did I thanks to traditional Christian indoctrination. There were numerous things about Jesus that were drilled into my brain by folks who meant well but simply did not do much research. They just thumped their bibles in my face and threatened me with the horrors of eternal damnation if I did not buy into their stories of creation, God, and Jesus.
So, you may ask, what do those three guys have in common? Well, the man in the center photo says it all. His legend lives today as the rebel movie star who died in an automobile accident in 1955 in California. The guy on the right is also a rebel. Most of his adult life has been spent in throwing off the shackles of alcoholism and then the Christian fundamentalism of his youth.
And we all know about Jesus of Nazareth. Or do we? I can still hear the Sunday School stories of the son of God performing miracles, healing the blind and the lame, relating great stories called parables to the people on the hillside. They say he was born of the virgin Mary, was crucified and then resurrected to ascend into heaven where he sits with his father, God.
But, did you know he was a revolutionary, an enemy of the Roman government, an insurrectionist, a panhandler and beggar, and…..a rebel? What? You thought he got himself crucified because he opposed the Jewish hierarchy, that the Pharisees demanded his death? Yeah, that’s what I was taught too. Actually, it is also a credible theory that the church fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries added that to the story when they revised and Romanized the early writings of the followers of Jesus and formulated the Bible centuries after the fact of the crucifixion of Jesus. The Greek and Aramaic verses of Jesus’ followers were translated to suit the needs of the new state religion of Rome. They wanted to discredit the Jewish culture and turn the newly formed Christian Church against Judaism.
Surprised again, aren’t you? But, I am not here to again crucify the man Jesus or find fault with Christianity. Truly I am hanging there on the cross with him. His life, his words, his compassion for the poor and suffering, his adherence to a code of ethics, his struggle to champion the rights of all people are also my cross to bear. The discovery of scrolls of the Dead Sea and the Nag Hammadi scriptures reveal a Jesus of the first century who is far more intriguing and mystical than the Jesus we read about in the Bible. He was a rebel and he had a cause.
In today’s social and political upheaval we also need to be rebels, we need to follow our personal creeds to ensure that Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life overcomes the powers of this world which would enslave and oppress. That’s who He is and that’s who we need to be.