Yes, I know that Christianity teaches that Jesus was a God, but it also teaches that Jesus was a man; a man just like any of us — with all the foibles and fears and flunky mistakes we make each day. We have been taught to think of him walking on water, rising from the grave and ascending into heaven, but I like to picture him walking on the dusty roads of Galilee and admiring the feminine charms of the many women who followed him.
I don’t know what a God feels like, but I can tell you what a man feels like. Divinity is way beyond my pay scale, but humanity is right here close to home. If Jesus is going to be my hero and my mentor, he’s got to be human. I can’t imitate somebody who remembers creation and sees the future; I’ve got to have somebody who swears when he bumps his head and laughs when he hears a funny joke. I don’t relate to miracles; I relate to mannerisms. I’ve got to have a man. Besides, who knows what a God is like? R. Kirby Godsey, in his most recent explosive book, “The God Particle,” states: “The traditional way of conceiving God no longer works. Either God does not exist or she is very different from what we thought.” (pg.25)
Thomas Jefferson thought about this, too; he paged through all four gospels and separated the manly Jesus from the godly Jesus, and published a book called: “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” The book takes us from birth to burial, from problems to parables — but there are no angels, no miracles, no resurrection and ascension. Just the life of a man who did outstanding things for others and left a legacy of powerful sayings.
Some of his sayings reverberate today. He lived in a time when the Roman government was filled with corruption. They lied and cheated; their tax system was rigged to benefit the rich and not the poor; their laws protected the people in power and not the citizens of Galilee. Sound familiar? We don’t know the words Jesus used to oppose all this but the chief priests felt justified in saying to Pilate: “We found this man subverting our nation and opposing paying taxes to Caesar” (Luke 23:2). I think that was a lie, but the fact is: Jesus spoke out about inequality.
During those days, there was no economic equality. You were either rich and powerful or poor and helpless. Some of the poor worked and some of the poor begged, but both suffered a political helplessness.
Jesus seemed to feel comfortable in both camps. He would sit down and eat with the prostitutes and tax collectors, and yet, he could mingle with the chief priests and members of the Sanhedrin. Jesus excluded no one and he wanted us to think of each other — regardless of class standing — as brothers. The famous Gospel of Thomas has Jesus saying: “Love your brother like your own soul; guard him like the apple of your eye.” (Saying No. 25) (Well … but not that smelly homeless bum who sleeps under the bridge in Macon; let’s not get carried away.)
Jesus got carried away. He was reckless and fearless and driven. We don’t know if the Pontius Pilate story in Luke’s gospel is accurate or invented, but it sounds like something Jesus might have said. Pilate asks him: “Are you the King of the Jews? Instead of answering: “Come on, Pilate, you know the Emperor appoints our King,” Jesus smarts off like some hippie from the ‘60s, and says: “Now you’re talking!” (Luke 23:3)
The best-selling author, Father Richard Rohr, in his book: “The Naked Now,” says it well, I think:
“Our preoccupation with his divinity did not allow us to hear about his own proudly proclaimed and clearly emphasized humanity.” (pg. 68)
And he did proclaim his humanity. He was moved with compassion (Mark 1:42), ate with tax collectors and prostitutes (Mark 2:15) broke the law to eat when he was hungry (Mark 2:23) and when he spoke to the crowds his family said: “he’s out of his mind!” (Mark 3:21)
This is a man just like all of us; a man with deep feelings and wild imagination; a man with a mission and not afraid to shout it. A man willing to buck the system and die doing it. This is my kind of man.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His blog is www.progressiveheretic.com.