The Readings for the 19th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Nonne hic est Jesus filius Joseph, cujus nos novimus patrem et matrem? quomodo ergo dicit hic : Quia de caelo descendi?
Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith he, I came down from heaven?
Every spring breeze carried a reason or a rumour. Jesus seems to have been surrounded, even in Jerusalem, by folks who thought they knew him very well. I imagine it was a small community of folks from up in Galilee and also some folks in Jerusalem. Of course everyone was talking about him – as they had been about John the Baptist. Every spring breeze carried a reason or a rumour. And the more folks talked, the more there was speculation about who he is. And so there would be the folks who snoop out the truth. He comes from Nazareth. He’s a carpenter. He’s not trained as a teacher. A reason or a rumour…
And so, of course, outside of his intimate circle, there grew up another image of Jesus, one that wasn’t quite so flattering. Just a few verses earlier Jesus was saying, “You don’t care what I teach, you just want more miracles…”
2,000 years later it’s pretty much the same. Everyone knows who Jesus is. Don’t bother us.
He’s a pro-America libertarian cultural warrior to people on the right.
He’s a hippie peacenik to people on the left.
He’s a protofeminist.
He’s a hyper masculine boxer of demons.
He’s a mythic retelling of Pan.
He’s a failed revolutionary whose body was fed to the dogs.
He’s a teacher with nothing original to say.
He’s a mystic who traveled to India and learned wisdom, and brought it back westward.
He’s irrelevant to all of these groups when he steps out of their bounds.
Every spring breeze carries a reason or a rumor.
Sadly, each group includes a goodly number of folks who claim to be Christians of every shade and flavor who have serve out their tiny, boxed up Jesus to the world as an inoculation to protect them from meeting the real thing.
I know reasonably good people who are so convinced that Jesus looked and acted just like them that they can’t understand how 2,000 years of Christians could get it wrong. Or, maybe, they have a theory about Paul taking Jesus’ revolution and running it into the ground, or Constantine overpowering the church – as if “yes” could destroy what 300 years of “no” only made stronger. Most just seem to say, “Everyone was wrong until Pastor XYZ finally understood it” or “Until General Convention elected a woman as Presiding Bishop” or “Until the Jesus Seminar”. They’re on a quest for a Jesus that won’t threaten them with annihilation of self, that won’t demand virtues from them (or that will only demand virtues they have recently invented). The Blind guides of the blind, as Jesus calls them.
And there are those who will give Jesus in such small doses, with no context, with no depth, that folks develop an immunity to Jesus anyway. If you only hear about (the very right and orthodox) love of Jesus, with no discussion of his anger, no discussion of his hatred of sin, no discussion of his desire to change a sinner into a saint, then the love of Jesus is just another vaccine. It’s a vaccine equally as effective as those who only preach hell-fire and fear.
So, you ask, how can I know?
Is it possible in a world filled with all these anti-Jesus vaccines, to get exposed to the real Jesus, finally? Is it possible to find Jesus despite all the fakes? Or, won’t just anyone be pointing me in their own pre-made direction? When every spring breeze carries a reason or a rumour, how can I find Jesus?
Asking is the first step: admitting you don’t know, or that the folks you follow may be on the wrong path, admitting there is a wrong path at all, admitting the possibility that you could be wrong about Jesus is as important as his truth.
For the first step is humility.
Jesus gives us his own flesh as food. He says so. He doesn’t say aa symbol, he doesn’t say a sign, or a warm memory. He says “my flesh is bread”.
Chew on that for a while…
And you become divine.
The vaccine will make you far, far less than you can or should be. It’ll make you dead.