I have been an ordained minister--seminary trained, Master of Divinity--since 1983. I was a licensed minister for three years prior to that. That is thirty-one years in the ministry and I have to admit that I still have a lot more questions about the big guy--Jesus, in this case--than I have answers. Actually, I should qualify that statement. It is not that I have a lot of questions as it is the people around me who expect me to have the answers. The problem is that I do not have any answers, thus the questions.
First of all, his first name was not Jesus, and his last name was not Christ. Of course it is easy to assume this as this is how most of us Christians know him, but it was not his name. Odds are his name was Yehoshua or Yeshua or Joshua. Through the wonderful world of translations the Greek to Latin to English ended up being Jesus and it stuck. I like either one, but we Christians stick to the Jesus--no use in any of us being literal! I kind of like the name Joshua, but most of the congregations kind of look at me funny when I refer to Jesus by that name. Everyone knows, according to the King James version of the Bible, that the Big Guy's name was Jesus.
Outside of the argument over the name of the Big Guy there are a lot more questions than there are answers. Lots of folks like to argue over the birth story of Jesus. Granted it is a pretty wild story with virgins, the Holy Spirit, and immaculate conceptions--but it is such a beautiful story that one has to look beyond the unbelievable and just believe. Then there are all the gaps in the scriptures about the life of Jesus--especially those years between his visit to the Temple around the age of twelve and when he began his ministry around the age of thirty-three. What happened in those nearly eighteen years--no one seems to know. One of my favorite explanations of what happened during those so-called "missing years" does not come from a theologian, but a singer by the name of John Prine. Here is his explanation:
"the Missing years" by John Prine
Others have written things about the Big Guy trying to make sense out of him, his life, and how we Christians came to believe what we believe. There are lots of christological writings out there written by wonderful theologians, but sometimes the best understandings come from outside the church. One of my favorite books about Jesus came from Christopher Moore who wrote Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. This humorous account makes one step back and have to think . . . besides, who really knows because of those "missing years".
The picture that starts this blog entry is not even appropriate when we talk about Jesus. The picture does not show a person who lived in the Israel region of the world at the time of Jesus' life--it is an Anglican, Western world view of what we think Jesus would look like. Jesus was of Middle Eastern ancestry--Arabic descent, yet we insist on painting the Big Guy as looking like us. Why the Big Guy did not stand still long enough for a picture I will never understand, but most of our images of Jesus are way off the mark. Millions believe that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus and when three dimensional pictures are produced of the individual who was buried in the cloth the results are far from what many would see Jesus as looking.
Three dimensional image from the Shroud of Turin--
the supposed burial cloth of Jesus.
Doesn't quite fit our Western ideals of what Jesus looked like, though it probably fits quite well with the prophet Isaiah's description of the Messiah.
As I stated earlier, there are more questions than there are answers, but I can handle not knowing. I can handle this uncertainty because I know the Jesus I love. The Jesus I loved was a person of justice and peace, love, inclusiveness, compassion, empathy, and a gentle sense of humor. The Jesus I know is one who walks with me on a daily basis and puts up with a lot of irreverence but still loves me. I like what I read about the guy in my Bible and what I read from the secular world. The Big Guy is put it all on the line for me and for that I appreciate his sacrifice and love, but more importantly I appreciate his willingness to show me how to live. I really like the Big Guy being a part of my life whether I can answer all the questions or not. I have no clue what Jesus looked like, but my favorite image of Jesus comes from the movie Dogma:
This is the Jesus that affirms me! May you find Jesus in your life and may it be a blessing unto you. I may not have the answers but I will listen to the questions and talk to those who ask.