I mentioned in post number one today that a theologian named Marcus Borg labeled Jesus of Nazareth a “movement initiator.” That’s funny to me because it’s so demonstrative of effort. Borg was a Believer, but he really thought that things weren’t good enough as is. He seemed to think, “Maybe if we change the words and labels more people will buy into this garbage.
“Messiah? Too old testament. Movement initiator? Brilliant!
“Christ? Too Greek. Che Guevara? That’s the ticket!
“Son of God? Too not-atheistic. Barack Obama? Exactly!”
Well, I have a revision of my own that I’d like to share. This one came to me the other morning. Different than a phrase, mine is an image. But I’m no artist, so I’ll do my best to describe the image.
To make it palatable, you need some backstory. The backstory is that a good friend, or former good friend (he has a girlfriend now and naturally we don’t talk anymore), is a little brother. And through conversations he shared with me that he has lent his big brother money and never been repaid–not that he ever expected to be. Why did he lend the big brother the money? Obviously love is the reason.
Most of you know that I, too, have a brother. But in my case, I am the big brother. So the other morning, I am reporting in to my little brother that a big conversation with the ex ended terribly and left me without hope, at least in the financial realm of life. As we chit-chatted via the wonder of texting, I jokingly asked him for money. (Actually, I asked him to buy me a house.) Suddenly, my friend’s situation came to mind, and I felt terrible because it occurred to me that maybe my question, despite being ridiculous and clearly a joke, would actually cause my little brother consternation because of how much he loves me. Still with me? I suddenly feared that I was becoming my friend’s douche-bag older brother who was taking advantage of his position in relation to my good friend. And that was not my intent at all.
Now, whether or not my little brother felt any pang of “maybe I should…” before he texted me a resolute “no”, a new version of Jesus’ attitude/demeanor before/during the crucifixion came to mind.
Mel Gibson and the events as recorded in the Gospels seem to have it that he willfully submitted to the punishment because he knew that it was what had to happen if we were ever to understand the better. But for today, at least, I’m kinda in love with this new revision of his emotional state at that trying time. Instead of willful submission, try picturing Jesus of Nazareth in a discussion with the human race. His side of the argument? “Listen to me. Life because better. I speak the truth.” Our side? “Prove it.”
And much like my friend, Jesus would really prefer to avoid the debate. Not because he doubts himself–no. But because he knows how far he will go to prove his conviction. He knows that he will do anything to convince humanity that he’s telling the truth–that he loves us more than he loves himself and that that’s because we deserve the love that we just won’t accept for some reason. So my revision of Jesus during the passion is an unkemptly bearded man pleading with me, a sure sadness in his eyes, “Please don’t ask me to prove it. Please.” And then to himself only, continuing, “Because I will. You don’t know how far I will go.”
Forgive me, brother. My request was in poor taste.