When they reach a certain age, some people begin to check the obituaries in the paper just to make sure they are not in there yet. Obituaries could be the last hurrah, a final chance to toot your — or your loved one’s — horn. Some suggest that we write our own obit before we die so that we can have the last word about ourselves.
Recently I wondered what Jesus’ obituary would look like, had someone written one. Jesus was executed as a common criminal, so no one bothered. But, if there had been a Jerusalem Gazette, what would have been the final word about this carpenter’s son?
The only identifying piece of information about him was the sign stating the reason for his execution, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
I imagine Jesus’ obituary would run something like this: “This past Friday a certain Jesus of Nazareth was executed under orders from Pontius Pilate. Jesus leaves his mother, Mary, to mourn him. Jesus was the son of Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, in Galilee. Jesus assisted his father in this trade until several years ago when he began a ministry as a wandering rabbi that brought him from Galilee to Jerusalem. His following included prostitutes and tax collectors. His only earthly possession was a seamless tunic for which his executioners gambled.
“Jesus gained a reputation for going about doing good. He supposedly healed the sick, fed the hungry, and even, some said, raised the dead. Jesus preached that everyone was included in the kingdom of God, especially sinners. Jesus taught his followers to call God, ‘Abba,’ that is, Dad.
“Some began to openly call him the Messiah. But this all came to nothing when he riled the religious authorities in Jerusalem who brought him to the Roman governor, Pilate, with the charge of sedition against Caesar. His movement apparently came to an end when he was crucified and buried in the borrowed grave of Joseph of Arimathaea.”
Is it not remarkable that someone with this kind of obituary would now be praised and proclaimed as Lord and Savior? Is it not mystifying that someone with this kind of pedigree would now be included in a creed that calls him “True God from True God, one in being with the Father”?
How do we explain that someone with no credentials, would, in our own day, have a following that includes nearly one-fourth of the people on earth?
There are human attempts that try to explain this movement. Mass hysteria? But for two centuries? How long will we feel the “Bern” or any other political movement for that matter?
The earliest followers put this spin on it: “See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen ... but the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6-7).
And today Christians put it this way: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 18:24).
The last word, indeed!
The Rev. Fred Nijem is pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Warner Robins.