Most folks don’t realize that there are many different Jesuses. I’m not talking about south of the border where quite a few men are named Jesus. I am also not including the patients in the psychiatric hospital where I interned in the 1950s who believed they were Jesus.
The most popular Jesus is probably the mythical one. He’s the one folks meet when they read the gospels literally and think that the authors are stating facts about the man Jesus. These stories are all myths. That Jesus never existed.
Another well-known figure is the mystical Jesus. You meet him mostly in the Gospel of John, John’s letters, and the Book of Revelation. John had a school of thought that suggested Jesus existed before the beginning of time (John 1:1–18). For the mystics, it seems everything is a mystery, even John’s writings. If it’s any help, even after sixty years of studying the Bible, I find that most of what John says still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The real mystery for me is why this is even in the Bible.
Next is the magical Jesus who could do all sorts of impossible magic tricks, like spit on clay, rub it over the eyes of a blind man and voila, instantaneously restore his sight. That’s an outstanding magic trick, but I can go to Las Vegas for shows like that if I’m looking for a magician for my Christ.
Closely aligned to that Jesus is the one who does all those preposterous, nature-defying miracles. He walks on water, calms storms, and makes a premium wine out of ordinary water. People suggest they love Jesus because he can do all those things. I wish he could teach me how to make wine out of tap water.
Then there’s the combo Jesus. He is a human invention who is created by combining all the stories about Jesus into one. Most Christmas pageants combine the story of the wise men coming to see Jesus in a house with a star over it with the other story about angels in the fields near a stable, with heavenly hosts singing Handel’s Messiah. We have invented a whole new story, which is not in the Bible.
We can’t forget the weird Jesus. He is often depicted in art as a white Scandinavian instead of a Middle Eastern Jew. Another version shows him as a white baby, with a full beard and a crown on his head. That’s weird in my book. You can also go to the Holy Land to see the indentation where Jesus put his foot when he shot into outer space. We can also find weird Jesus in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas when five-year-old Jesus gets mad at a playmate, withers his whole body, and goes home. His parents are livid and make Jesus unwither him. He does, except for one small part. (I’ll let you figure that one out.)
There is one Jesus I really like. Some call him the historical Jesus, but I prefer to call him the real Jesus, a total human being who flourished some two thousand years ago as a charismatic and prophetic sage. Today, I see him as a radical revolutionary who changed the course of civilization without firing one shot. He’s my guy!
Which Jesus do you like?
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Vladimer Shioshvili at Flickr.com