This is more along the lines of a personal reflection/thought thread.
I’m a personal Jesus film geek. Lately I’ve been watching Dennis Potter’s play Son of Man (televised by the BBC back in 1969). It was a very controversial production for its day; part of the reasons were because of its portrayal of a human Jesus who is tormented by self-doubt, and because it ended at the crucifixion (the same charge leveled against some other Jesus films, because, you know, you gotta include the resurrection :p) - at “My God, why have you forsaken me?” no less. Even today, I expect some people wouldn’t be able to stomach this portrayal. Not to mention that Colin Blakely’s Jesus is hardly the Christ of popular Christian imagination: Blakely’s Jesus is ragged, out of shape, a bit balding, has a rough Irish (?) accent, and generally doesn’t look or sound like a ‘nice’ guy.
But the controversy aside, there was something in the production that really moved me to ponder. Potter’s Jesus literally has a fire in His belly: it is the fire that moves Him to preach with a burning, almost wrathful zeal, but also threatens to consume Him from within. In fact, this Jesus seemed as if He was almost on the brink of sanity, worn out by the fire of God that burns inside Him. (There are shades of Jeremiah 20:9 here: “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire / shut up in my bones, / and I am weary with holding it in, / and I cannot.”) In fact, there are two scenes where He expressly asks people what they think of Him: do they think He’s mad, demented?
Do you think I’m mad? That question stuck with me. In the gospels, you have people occasionally accusing Jesus of being insane/demon-possessed. Which reminded me: what about us Christians right now? What about me? If somehow I managed to time-travel back to the time of Jesus and met Him, will I think that He is in His right mind? I know some folks will be all too eager for a chance to time travel and meet Jesus face-to-face. But I’m wondering, maybe we’re engaging in premature decisions? What if we finally meet Jesus, and it turns out that He doesn’t exactly fit our notions of how He ‘should’ look or talk or behave?
Some historians say that the historical Jesus was a polarizing figure: there was something in Him that made it impossible for you to form a middle opinion. You either loved Him, or you hated Him. I say we Christians often take that for granted: we often assume that just because we are Christians, we’ll find Jesus ‘palatable’, agreeable to our tastes. We Christians have gotten too comfortable with, too used to Jesus. It’s natural: we’re Christians, many of you live in historically Christian cultures, and so Jesus has in a way been a part of our lives since we were born.
But we’ve never considered the other possibility: what if Jesus managed to offend us, as He did some of His contemporaries? What if we found the actual Jesus to be so completely different from our expectations of Him - what if we become one of those who are offended at Him?
You know that thing some people like to say? “If Jesus came today, He would be crucified by (insert adjective here)” - usually ‘conservatives’ or ‘liberals’ or whatever group you wanna target? (I actually find that statement completely laughable. And cliche. ;)) Do you notice a pattern in those statements? The one who is making that statement implies, “Jesus will agree with ME.” “Jesus will be on MY side.” Everybody wants Jesus to be on their side; He’s God, and is probably a nice person. I mean, who wouldn’t want the Son of God to be on their team? But nobody ever stops to consider: what if WE are the ones who end up asking for (God forbid) Jesus’ death? We often imagine ourselves to be part of those who would weep for Jesus on Good Friday, but we don’t realize, we could also very well end up being those who shout for Barabbas instead. We like to think that we’ll say “My Lord and my God,” but there’s also an equal chance that we’ll say, “Crucify Him.” Before we judge others, it might very well do us some good to check ourselves first.