So, I’m in a car, riding up to a cabin, when we pass by a wonderful yard display concerning the holiday season. Sure, I have seen better, but this one did a valiant effort. They had everything: Santa with reindeer pulling his sleigh, lights, cameras, actions, and a Nativity scene. It was the Nativity scene, all is its plasticized placidity, that particularly caught my attention. Here, I thought to myself: “What would Jesus think of all of this? What would Jesus think of all of this pomp and circumstance dedicated to him on a day that, in all likelihood, isn’t even his birthday?”
But, then I thought, what if Jesus wanted all of this?
What if Jesus was like any other person; who wanted to be recognized, who wanted to be special, who wanted to be big? What if, as a child, he had those dreams that I’m sure we all have, those dreams of reaching for the stars to pluck one out so we can take its place (or something along those lines…)? What if he, like everyone else, just wants to be better than what they are now?
And what if he actually set out to accomplish that? What if he, coming upon his dreaded 30th birthday, finally left his father’s carpentry business to make a man of himself? Sure, his mother must be just sobbing at this point, to finally lose her baby that she had been holding onto decade after decade, but I’m sure his dad is thankful to finally be rid of him. Perhaps he’s a little jealous that he never got the same chance he did. Maybe he’s too cynical to think his son will amount to anything, and he’ll surely come crawling back after he’s had his heyday in the big city.
But Jesus goes on, and he starts hanging out with some pretty radical (and mostly crazy) people, who start teaching him about all the evil that Rome is doing to the Jewish community, as well as all the evil that the Jewish community is doing to itself. He learns about all of the terrible social injustices done in the name of empire, and he learns about the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He’s getting worked up, oh boy is he getting worked up, and now he is pissed, so pissed that he wants to go and do something.
He starts to rise up the ranks of his posse, and is becoming a pretty smart and influential figure. They do some small time revolutionary stuff, like vandalizing forts and firing spitballs at the Sanhedrin, but then one day, this guy Jesus gets an idea: “What if there’s more to this? What if I could be greater? What if I could be the best? What if I could defeat Rome and bring a new awakening to all of Israel? To all of the world? What if it’s me?”
So, he starts to nurse this thought, and it doesn’t help that his brother-and-law thinks he’s the savior of the world, or that other people think he is either. He likes this, he’s rolling with it, and more and more people start gathering around him. He starts to teach some cool stuff, and then he starts to do some amazing stuff, like healing people and…stuff. This catches him by surprise as much as everyone else, but he does his best to keep it cool, and show that he is in charge. “Maybe I am the Messiah” slowly turns into “I am the Messiah,” and Jesus turns his gaze towards Jerusalem, the heart of the beast, for a grand showdown against Judaism and Rome, all in one fell swoop.
He gets there, and the shit just hits the fan at full force. The people are going nuts. The authorities are pissed as hell. The religious leaders are foaming at the mouth. And Jesus is going around town doing his thing. He climbs to a high place among the throngs of the people, and declares that he will destroy the Temple, the Jewish religious system, Rome, and the whole damn world itself!
Later that night he throws a party with his friends where he gloats about the future glories of his new world order. But later that night, while out for a cigarette, he gets arrested. He is put before the very authorities he was lambasting earlier, and while he’s nervous, he remains defiant. But it gets worse, he’s found guilty of “hooliganism,” and he’s beat the ‘eph’ up, and sentenced to death.
He shuts down completely. He withdraws into his quiet place, and looks over his whole life. He thinks back to growing up, to all the good things he had. As he’s walking to the place of his execution, he thinks about his mom, his dad, his friends. He misses them bad. As he’s being lifted up upon his cross, he thinks about the last few years, and where he could have done better. He thinks about all the time he wasted, he thinks about all the missed opportunities for work, play, and love.
He looks down from his cross to find few familiar faces. All those who loved him are gone; all those who believed in him have fled. He is alone, he has failed.
He looks up to heaven and curses God. “Why did you let this happen?!” “Why did you let me reach too far?!” “Why didn’t you let me be your servant?!” “MY GOD! MY GOD! WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!”
Drawing his eyes down from heaven, he looks out upon the horizon. In this moment of death, he has a vision. He sees that all that he has done has not been for naught. He will be remembered for what he did. He sees his fame being brought to all corners of the earth. He sees the rise and fall of nations in his name. He sees the wealth of his disciples, his priests, his kings. He sees castles and palaces, cathedrals and basilicas, statues and monuments. He sees markets filled with memorabilia of himself: postcards, balloons, trinkets, treasures, and countless other shit. He sees tacky portraits and light-up plastic figurines, and in his final breath, his mouth draws a smile.
So, we come back to my question: “What if Jesus wanted this?” I suppose it raises a lot of other questions, some which immediately come to mind are “what difference does Jesus make, then, in the world?” “For what purpose did Jesus die?” “Why do we remember him?” “What’s the point?” “Why bother?”
And I suppose theology enters the game here to provide answers to these questions, but for now, let us reflect on this. What would Jesus think of this holiday season? What if Jesus wanted it this way? What difference does it make if he did?…
Please feel free to reply back with your thoughts and questions. I’ll respond later this week with some more of my thoughts as well as with yours.
Merry Christmas, and I mean that in the most sincere way I can. You are all beloved.