Two thousand years ago, a Jewish carpenter lived a conventional life for 30 years in a tiny village in the Middle East. Then he became as they might say today, “radicalized.”
Historians agree that Jesus did exist – there are reliable ancient records of him. But most of what we know about him is limited to opaque and contradictory accounts written decades after his death in what we now call the Gospel of the New Testament.
In one sense, those Gospel accounts are profoundly simple. They say Jesus was the Messiah prophesized in the Hebrew Bible. As such, he performed miracles to save those needing saving. He came back from the dead. That’s the word.
But in a personal sense, the Gospels present a more complicated and contradictory man than the one presented in Sunday School or even adult church services.
Read the Gospels yourself. You’ll read that in his three years of preaching, Jesus railed against the powerful religious establishment that charged tolls on the road to heaven, as religions often do. And he had no use for the occupying Roman pagans. But he regarded neither as the real enemy.
With compassion, he cured the sinners and detritus who were shunned by his ancient society including prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, the crippled and the blind. But he often implied that their condition was not medical or circumstantial. Rather, it was spiritual — a lack of faith.
He sometimes judged people, even as he admonished them not to judge others. He came to serve, not to be served, but he instructed those he served to serve his father.
He took no payment for his work, but demanded something harder than payment: “Sin no more.”
His patience was superhuman, except with his rag-tag band of friends who often exasperated him. He all but muttered, “Geez, I’m surrounded by idiots!”
But at other times he trusted those friends to be the rock on which he and they might build a world-changing faith. Most of them did not disappoint.
He taught kindness and forgiveness but had a temper. Enraged that merchants at the temple traded on God, he trashed the place. He had a wry sense of humor and was occasionally sarcastic.
He and his friends drank a lot of wine. When they ran out, he made more.
He was tempted and occasionally afraid. He was coy about who and what he was, to the point that a reader of the Gospels is left wondering if he himself wasn’t sure till the end. He seldom called himself the son of God, but often called himself the son of man.
He preached that this earth doesn’t really matter so much as the kingdom to come. For that, some thought he might be insane.
But he was strong. He willingly went to Jerusalem for his trial and death. There the people betrayed him, as he knew they would, scourged him to the bone and mocked him.
He dragged through the streets the massive timbers of his impending torture and execution as a rebel and blasphemer.
He did so willingly. Just because.
In his final hours, he endured agonizing pain inflicted by those he came to save. With his last breath he cried out, “Lord, why have you forsaken me?”
We don’t know which word of that question was emphasized, which makes all the difference in its meaning.
He was fully a man, and more. I’d give anything to have a beer with him.
Humanity’s view of Christ changed in the two millennia after the Gospels. This most masculine of men became feminized. The medieval church seeking to domesticate the masses portrayed him as a pacifist and a weakling — a soother and a smoother — perhaps because that’s what they wanted from their customers.
While plump priests and popes were bedecked in crowns and satin robes, Christ is shown as a doleful, skinny, humorless, hippie vegan with long hair parted in the middle, sometimes holding a lamb.
But men in the time of Christ did not have long woman’s hair and did not carry around lambs. Carpenters then and now are not skinny, but brawny. They don’t cuddle cute pets; their muscular arms wield hammers.
Christ’s unpredictability and contradictions confuse me, and the church’s creepy stylization is even more perplexing. It’s well worth trying to understand him but I still don’t fully and probably never will, at least not in this world. I have a hunch he wants it that way.
But I do know this. He’s not my mom. He’s not there to dry my tears or tell me I’m special or ward off things that go bump in the night. The lion of Judah fights fiercer foes.
(Published Dec 15, 2019 in the Aspen Times at https://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/glenn-k-beaton-heres-what-i-know-jesus-christ-is-not-our-mom/)
Than you Glenn, and Merry Christmas!
Do we understand why believing in the Divine Creator requires a 100% faith commitment?
From an psychological standpoint, and one that professional atheists should examine, I believe it’s because if there was undeniable proof in God’s existence, and if people under their own ‘free will’ declared that they still deny God’s existence, then the overwhelming majority (the believers) might declare that the unbelieving people are insane, dangers to society, and obviously products of the devil. They may even have the unbelievers committed to insane asylums, prison, or put to death for their unbelief in the face of undeniable evidence.
At that point, the Earth would be ruled as a theocracy, a system known to be very inhumane and un-Godly.
Our God knows what He is doing.
Thought provoking. Thank you.
First time visitor; found you through Scott Johnson at Powerline. https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2019/12/and-the-beaton-goes-on.php
Looking forward to reading more. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Came here from PL. God bless you, Glenn!
Me too; First time visitor; found you through Scott Johnson at Powerline. https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2019/12/and-the-beaton-goes-on.php
The Aspen Times loss is my gain – thank you for the grace in which you handled that situation.
I’m bookmarking your website – Looking forward to reading more. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Power Line led me to you. I’m saving the link and will probably be a regular reader. Very interesting.
I just read about your being fired because you are a conservative. I think this is abhorrent. The left will do anything to silence the conservative voice, and this is just another disgusting example. I will do my part to spread your story, I wish you luck. Please continue your fight of being a sane voice in a sea of Oppression.
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Best, must succinct and powerful defense of Jesus and Christianity.
Indeed, Jesus was not a ‘saint’, nor a refugee nor a socialist or your mommy.
I see Jesus as demanding with compassion, like the Father.
As Jordan Peterson invites us, no, no, you’re not OK as you are – you can be better.
The irony for today’s atheist post-modernist left’s is that if a handful of troubled souls identifying as of the opposite gender for a few seconds in history can define a new social reality, then billions of people identifying as children of God over 2000 years and constructing the most successful society in history, surely define a Truth by the left’s own standards.
Fine writing, historiography, and theology. You are right to wonder. He underwent three self-realizations, which can be sussed out from the Gospels. First He realized that he is a messenger of God, a son of man, akin to an OT prophet. Then He realized that he is closer to God than that and the term son of God comes into use for and by Him. This term is familiar to Greco-Roman culture but applied to Generals and Emperors, not carpenters and criminals. Finally, He realized that He is even closer to God than a Son is to a Father, and with that awareness He declared that He and God are one. So yes, there is a developing awareness there that is inside the Gospels but not clearly stated in one place. Once you see the development, I think wonder will increase and confusion decrease.
The two great Christological Councils, Nicaea and Chalcedon, even though unaware of its historicity, tried to put that development into language familiar to Greco-Roman classical diction — adapting what we tend to see as, say, a Pythagorean Stoicism — and also loyal to Jesus’ final realization as one with God. This was a very tough project made not easier by the fact that Jesus’ personal experience in developing self-realization is not stated succinctly in the Gospels. The canon-formation process is partly at cause for that, but even more so is the demand of piety that His final stage of self-realization — unity with God — is that on which faith in the soteriological force God throws into existence through Jesus of Nazareth as The Christ of God is most reliably built.
Thank you for your blog and other labors of love. I was unaware of the blog, learned of it just now through Power Line. I will add it to recommends on my blog, Theological Geography.
Thank you for your excellent insights, David. I’m not a student of the Bible, as you are, but am a curious reader or it. My background is in law. A lawyer would criticize the Bible as unclear. I say: Exactly, and wonderfully so. Glenn
Good point. As law, the Bible is indeed unclear. The Mel Brooks-ian sense of “stinks” also comes to mind. It is best read, perhaps, as a collection of treatises on military engineering in the spiritual dimension of life, the dimension of life, felt only by humans, in which power and meaning unite. Were one to itemize periods of history showing as Heinlein’s “bad luck,” one will find they correlate with clergy, of whatever religion, preaching their scriptures, whatever they are, as a library of statues, and of divine origin no less. We need law to protect us in the here and now, and we need religion to reconnect us with the freedom native to our divine interior in the now and soon. Again, thank you for your labors of love. I feel akin.
I enjoyed reading this editorial. I found you because I read your column had been abruptly terminated by a liberal publication. I realized you would be worth my reading time-I was so right! I may have a different opinions on a few of your personal observations, but “yay” that’s ok. I appreciate your choosing to put this thought provoking musing out there for us to ponder. I’ll be following you, now and regarding as I may. Good luck, Glenn! 👏⭐️
Thank you, Margaret.
Glad to be here Glenn
Anxiously awaiting your next piece!
A new follower/supporter of Glenn Beaton.
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Enjoyed your articles. Thanks.
Powerline brought me here, and for that I’m grateful to them. I keep returning to your article on Jesus Christ, and though I may disagree about “contradictions”, this is one of the finest articles on Lord Jesus I have ever read. Thank You. I will be a regular visitor to your website, and I genuinely look forward to reading more of your work in the future. May you be Richly Blessed! (ps- Having a beer with Lord Jesus sounds great! Where do we sign up? 🙂
Thanks, Brent. As for that beer, it would be out of this world!
And another thing…
How you handled the absolutely disgusting treatment from the Aspen Times could not have been better. You showed the world a huge amount of personal class, which I believe will be well-rewarded. Your writings will now reach more people than ever before. The Aspen Times meant to silence you – instead, God has turned their evil intentions into a massive new forum for you, with a lot of dedicated readers. Funny how things work out…
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