Saturday 22 March 2008


I think we are justified in still being fascinated by Jesus Christ.

I know there are many who would criticise 'The Passion of Christ', but I'm not one of them. I think the film brings home a powerful message, whether you accept the divinity of Christ or not.

It's about Sacrifice. It's about enduring torture and execution, because you firmly believe that by doing so, you can change the world.

And I suppose, ultimately, we need to get inside the mind of Jesus here. We don't do that, because we're scared to. It seems almost blasphemous.
But don't worry, even as believers, its acceptable. All Christian Denominations accept the dysophysite position, that Christ had two natures. We cannot comprehend the divine Christ, though we may have to debate what that was shortly.

We are agreed Christ had a human side.
So this human Christ, had human emotions. Human fears.

Now whether you believe who he was or not, it seems clear he went to Jerusalem intending to die.
There's a lot of occasions in the New Testament, where a lot of things are said to be done to fulfill scripture, meaning OT prophecy. Often, this is a gloss by later writers. The OT says a prince will be born in Bethlehem. It doesn't say he would be the Messiah, and it's probably not meant to be a prophecy. A prince probably was born, back in 700BC in Bethlehem.
But there is one definite prophecy concerning the Messiah, and that is riding into Jerusalem, on a donkey.
Jesus knew what he was doing. For so long, he refuses to answer the question of whether or not he is the Messiah.

At this point, he does. He deliberately and consciously behaves as the Messiah has been prophesied to do.
So divine or not, he knew what would happen.

Alea Jacta Est.
Was he hoping that his actions would cause a revolution?
I don't think so. I think he meant to create a scene that would be remembered for all time.
And he was prepared for it. He had an inkling of what he would endure.
At least, by the time he brings the disciples together for the last supper, he knows they will come for him. He knows what tomorrow will bring.

And this is why we say, a part of him, surely, MUST have been divine.

Because to behave the way he did he must have been sure of two things, and that takes a lot of faith.

1. That it would be worth the sacrifice, in terms of the positive results.
2. He could endure it, knowing that.

He was whipped, scourged, thorns embedded in his head, forced to carry the instrument of his own execution up a hill, where he was nailed (these nails actually passing through the most sensitive nerves in your body) to a piece of wood and left to die of asphyxiation.

And still he said 'Forgive them, father, they know not what they do.'

Was he the Messiah?

Was he the Son of God?

Difficult. He died as the Son of God, perhaps.

He was the Messiah, because he decided to be. He was the Messiah, because what he did, was so great, so enlightening, so earth shattering, that people stopped and stared in amazement.

Because he was dieing for them. Dieing to show them how much he loved them. All of them. Not just his family, or his wife, or his children. His family consisted of his mother, weeping at his feet at the bitter road her son's life had followed.

And that sacrifice changed the lives of those who were touched by it. They couldn't keep quiet about it. They went and told the world about the man who had died on the cross, to show people how to love.

I think sometimes we get lost in the New Testament. For a start, I have no idea why it is that the letters of St Paul get canonical status, whereas those of Clement do not.
Paul never met Jesus, his preaching is second hand, and he argued with Peter on doctrinal issues, when Peter actually knew Christ. Paul's views, ultimately, are Paul's views.

And what of Christ? What did he say? The Gospels probably tell us a lot of what he said, but he probably said a lot more.
And some of it makes more sense in a land of figs and olives two thousand years ago, than it does today.
One is reminded of Frank McCourt's essay, 'If Jesus lived in Limerick.'

It's the example I think. It's what he showed us.

You see, it's those final moments I wonder about. Suffering on that cross, gasping for breath, every limb in agony, skin rent all over his body. What was he thinking?
Did he look down, see John and think 'What happened to all my other disciples?'
Did he think 'I failed. This is in vain. I'm going through this for nothing.'?

Scripture tells us the answer 'My God, My God, why have you foresaken me?'

And did he then get a little burst of hope run through him, a subconscious comfort, that no, no one would ever forget this?

It's that surity that he had, that's the virtue. That's why we look at him and say, he was divine.
He wasn't the last. Those who took up his cause, showed willing to follow where he had lead. But for them, it was easier. They knew the answer to the question he didn't. They knew their deaths would make a difference. That every life lost in the name of this message, would sell the message further.

There is something here, that we lose sight of, that Early Christians didn't.
The Church understood it, it had a dual code of morality, one for Shepherds, one for Sheep.

Christ probably faced huge inner struggles in deciding what to do with his life. I discussed these in my Christmas post.

He had a choice. He could have settled down with Mary Magdalen maybe, raised children, been a carpenter, liked by all in the village for his wise insights, the great attitude he showed to his neighbours.

But he rejected that. Deep down, he knew it couldn't fulfill him. It couldn't, because it would be accepting failure. He knew that he would actually rather be nailed to a cross to change the world, than die of old age, surrounded by children, his loving wife crying over him.

Ultimately, this is the Christ I see. Not the Son of God, conqueror of death, but the man who was nailed to a cross to change the world.

And I find myself fascinated to distraction by the choice he made.
Because it makes you feel unworthy by comparison. There is a part of you which envies him. Envies his nerve, his faith, his determination.

I think it matters a lot to me now, because Christ was my age- thirty- when he made his choice.
A part of me looks at the choice, settle down to a pointless life of mediocrity, or go change the world, and it looks clean cut. Put like that, everyone would go for the second choice.

But of course it isn't that simple. It means rejecting a lot. It means rejecting finding love for yourself, having a family, it means a lot of things.

That doesn't seem too much of a price to pay either. I suppose this as about as far as I've ever got. I can see that Nest building is not really compatible with higher ideals. Single life, unburdened by family or material possession, is a prerequisite for any kind of purposeful existence.

But then, then you look at brutality of what he went through.
Could you go through that, not knowing for sure it was going to do any good, but really put all your faith in it, that it would?

Would you let them torture and kill you, stripping every last bit of dignity away from you, in the belief that the world would be a better place for them doing it to you?

Because you would never know the answer. You would die in pain, not knowing the answer.

And so, I'm left with this. If I KNEW it would do any good, then I'D LIKE TO THINK, I could go through that. I wish I had it in me.

But that's not enough. Wishing changes nothing, it stays a vision of glory, a yearning deep within me, that most likely, I'm totally unworthy of.

We live in a world where people aren't prepared to do what he did.
But sometimes, someone has to. It's the only way the rest of us get a wake up call.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post Crushed. I think too many people forget the emotional struggle that Christ must have suffered and surely it was as painful as the physical suffering.

Anonymous said...

I dont - and can't - see Jesus as the Son of God, no matter how hard I try. I dont believe in the resurrection. And I don't believe that he was born of virgin birth.

Blasphemous to most I don't doubt. But I do believe that he was touched by God in a profound way. Like Spinoza, I see Jesus as a prophet of God rather than a messiah.

There is a definite mana of God that everyone can either choose to accept or deny - embrace or repel. I think that, what made Jesus so special (divine) was his total acceptance and commitment to God where all others would doubt and fail. A pure and unwavering belief. Belief that what he was doing was right, was good and would endure.

But was he the Son of God? To me, still no. He was just a man.. and that, for me, makes him even more holy.

Anonymous said...

> He was the Messiah, because he decided to be. He was the Messiah, because what he did, was so great, so enlightening, so earth shattering, that people stopped and stared in amazement.
*Nods* And as you say, thirty. God chose us by sending Jesus, we choose to be chosen by accepting Him. You can ‘decide to be’ used by God, too; as you say, it IS about time, and throughout history, thirty is the age where all the heroes start out… :-)

> And that sacrifice changed the lives of those who were touched by it. They couldn't keep quiet about it. They went and told the world about the man who had died on the cross, to show people how to love.
It takes sacrifice to demonstrate true love. Even in the little things, it’s obvious enough; sacrifice of time, money, convenience; being considerate for the other person’s sake, at the cost of your own, even if just as a listening ear on the phone when you’d rather be doing something else. Jesus set an example to follow, but many of us only remember his example of sacrifice once a year…

> Single life, unburdened by family or material possession, is a prerequisite for any kind of purposeful existence.
Not necessarily a prerequistie. There ARE ways where it’s better to be a couple; like if you’re in the hospitality ministry, opening up your home to lonely people, starting a foster home for orphans…. But if you really want to be free to go where God calls, to take up your cross and follow him, then yes, better not to have a family. ‘cos once you do, your primary responsibility is to please them; easier to only have one master, God.

>Could you go through that, not knowing for sure it was going to do any good, but really put all your faith in it, that it would?
That’s a good question. In some ways, that’s why his sacrifice is worth so much, that because he loved us, he was willing to take the risk of his sacrifice being in vain. Jesus knows that by dying for us, he gives us eternal life if we believe. Yet he runs the risk that even though they hear the message, there are still those who reject him, and waste his sacrifice for them; and some also who will never even hear his gospel…

Anonymous said...

"Single life, unburdened by family or material possession is a prerequisite for any kind of purposeful existence" ----

On the one hand, family, or posessions will diminish your ability to take risks. If you care for your family or posessions, then taking a risk that would cause them harm becomes unbearable (I know via the family part of this) but sometimes they become the purpose... either way thanks for the post I shall ponder...

Anonymous said...

What gets me is knowing a goodly portion of the locals were surely munching on sandwiches, passing the popcorn (if they had it), swigging back the red wine and having a merry old time spectating at the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ... a good public execution was, after all, pretty much the only public entertainment in those times...

Anonymous said...

jmb- I actually first began to think about this, from reading a Jwish Author on the subject. He pointed out that it is possible (if we treat Christ as human alone), to see how his thought develops. He suggested (and I sympathise), that the Christ preaching in Galilee is not a Christ determined to die, nor (yet), does he accept himself as the Messiah. In essence, circumstances drove him in that direction, and closer reading of his remarks supports that view. It certainly provides for a very different interpretation of the whole 'Who do you say I am?' conversation.

I think it's clear he consciously engineered his own death, however we look at it, and that takes guts.

David- Some points of interest- did you know Muslims accept the Virgin birth and the Ascension, but not the crucifiction and ressurection? They say the Romans crucified the wrong guy by mistake.

Nietsche argues a similar view to Spinoza in somways. Nietzche, argues that the next step in mans development, total embracement of the will to power, and assuming the place of the dead deity, the Uberman phase, is foreshadowed in Jesus, amongst others.

Nietzche wasn't hostile to Jesus, more to what he described as Paulicianity.

I think your last paragraph accords with this view, and in fact it's certainly my view, but it's one area of Nietzscheism one is reluctant to spell out too bluntly, because of course, Hitler got carried away with this bit.

Of course, it raises profound questions about faith and what it is. History doesn't record too many of the thousands we decided were false messiahs.

Of course maybe that's the point. The decision that it may well not work, but it's still worth trying.

I try not to get involved in his divinity. That fact would certainly lead some bloggers to say I'm not Christian.

I don't agree. Christ had a philosophy. It was a good one. It changed the world for the better. One can count him as one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived and respect the Ideology, without being convinced the Trinity is a scientific fact.

It's a shame Christism isn't allowed as signifying Ideological acceptance of his position.

Eve- There is something funny about thirty. I guess it's when you realise 'now or never'.
Or you going to waste your life, or not?

We do seem to forget it, but I think we're not really a society that is prepared to sacrifice.

I think having a partner and family, creates problems for anyone trying to acheive anything constructive.
This is partly why I think removing such concepts from our society wouldn't be a bad thing.

This was always the paradox thrown up by Christianity. It has been suggested, that it may have had a slightly negative effect in terms of mental evolution, simply because all the brightest and the best, are removed from the reproductive cycle.

And yet of course, by the same token, really, the brightest and the best are better off not being burdened by partners and families.

Yet another argument in favour of free love and Communism :)

It does raise the question, doesn't it?
I suppose the faith comes from this. It's faith in your message. If you look at your message and think 'That's a good one. If I REALLY CAN force everyone's attention on it, they'll see what I mean.'
And doing what he did, means people think, the man must REALLY have been sure about what he said, let's take a look at what he said.

It's faith in your own message, isn't it. That it's right.

Bill- Exactly. It reduces your options, your thoughts are clouded by emotional attachments. You aren't really capable of always putting the cause first.

You cannot ever allow individuals to be a purpose. Well, you can, if you don't want to acheive anything, except having a family, but if you are aiming for something higher, then really, you have to go it alone.

Gledwood- Interesting point. I wonder how much of these executions were embellished a bit to amuse spectators. Hanging, drawing and quartering for instance. More for public entertainment, I should imagine. I should think the victims had stopped feeling anything long before the show ended.

But yes, I think there always an elemtnt of 'rollup, roll up', to these things.