(Painting “Christ at Thirty-Three” by Heinrich Hofmann)
Since releasing Messianic Men, I’ve had a number of unsolicited comments from people who are enjoying the book. When I set out to write the book, I had nothing more in mind than a biography on Jesus. I had no point of view in mind, apart from my belief he is the Son of God. I did have a couple of opinions regarding theology I planned to address, in the context of Jesus’s actual words. But beyond that, I merely hoped to craft a book that young adults, wondering if it was safe to believe in Jesus as more than a fairy tale, would appreciate. I wanted it to be a riveting narrative, but also firmly set in historical evidence. But I wasn’t sure what direction it would take, apart from his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.
There is, however a theme arising from those writing me to tell me they are enjoying the book, and why. What I am hearing repeatedly is that I am taking Jesus and those he encountered, and making him and they real flesh and blood human beings. I am bringing out the humanity of both Jesus and the saints and sinners gathered around him. A few of these people made it clear that this was something they don’t get much of.
Now, I didn’t necessarily think I was exemplary in this regard. I’ve heard a number of excellent teachers in the various churches I have attended over the years. I have seen some tremendous films in this regard as well. Yet, I am hearing this repeatedly, enough to think that perhaps I did indeed hit upon an aspect of Jesus’s humanity that is not often depicted.
And I think I know what that is…
There is a difference between thinking you are the Messiah and actually being informed of the fact early in life. Many people over the years thought they were Jesus, or a/the Messiah. And they go about doing a pretty terrible job at it. Fact is, they aren’t the Messiah. They make it up as they go along. If and when they fail, well nobody believed them anyway. Of course, it is tougher to be a Messiah after Jesus set the mold and created the standard.
But imagine if you, as a young lad, born in poverty to average parents (i.e., not the firstborn son of an earthly king), were told you are indeed The Messiah, and that angels, and stars and wise men and prophets confirmed this to them. That alone will make you much more serious about what you need to do to fulfill your destiny.
when people tell me my book humanizes the New Testament characters. I think this is what they mean. Mary and Joseph, for example, have to convey this destiny to their son/adopted son. Now, consider what that must have been like. We make jokes about it, because it’s now a fait accompli. But…well think about the pressure, the responsibility, of both parent and child. So yeah, I love conveying how Mary and Joseph are flesh and blood saints and heroes in my book.
Now, we do tend to make Jesus fully human in our depictions: that is, a fully human hippie preaching love and acceptance. We tend to depict him as the kind of guy who goes about doing good, and just letting the chips fall where they may. A lot of us go through life like that. It doesn’t get us far though, does it?
But this Jesus, the actual, fully human Jesus, has a unique spiritual/social/political work to do. His prep school is great, but it at all by society’s standards: Scriptures study in backwoods synagogues and the hard knocks of life. He has no Temple pedigree, no college education, no inside job waiting. His forerunner – John the Baptist, is part PR man, and part competitor. Therefore, his disciples aren’t necessarily looking to swap allegiances: they found their guy already thank-you-very-much. They will have to be won over themselves. Oh, and John – there is no doubt he was a miracle birth. His mom was ancient, like Jewish heroes Abraham and his wife. VERY JEWISH. Jesus…well, Mary SAYS she was virgin…there are whispers.
Jesus also, as the man of destiny, has no alternative. He’s the only person available for the job, and the best and the brightest of his culture are not interested in joining his campaign. In fact, they are going to aggressively oppose him. So, he has to train up a group of, well, rough and similarly sketchily educated men to carry on the job – and carry it on correctly. These men will have to set aside everything the world has taught them on how to survive and face adversity and enemies, and do it in a way that has never been done before. They don’t get to fall back on any claim of divinity. And the guy in charge of that motley crew, Peter, makes Donald Trump look like a sliver tongued orator with an ego in check. By the time I ended the book, I found myself almost having more respect for Peter than Jesus Himself (blasphemy! Even Peter would slap my face for saying such a thing – all the more reason to admire the guy).
So, to get back to Jesus, if you were in his shoes, and informed by your family that the destiny of mankind for all eternity rides on your shoulders, how would you react? Oh, and don’t forget, biggest thing of all…you are to be a sinless sacrifice, and die a gruesome death. Now…go out there and Be The Messiah of the World.
Go out there, and take on the invisible, forces of darkness. Destroy sickness and disease, cast out demons, being on call at all times. Confront the rulers of the age, and do it without laying a hand on a single opponent. Keep your anger in check, and train up the men who will carry on the mission after you undergo your gruesome death.
Messianic men is written with this in mind. And that is what humanizes Jesus. Bonus: He done good. Order, or sample a bit of it for yourself here!