Forty Days Returning, Day 33–The Real Jesus, Revisited

We are in countdown mode. Palm Sunday is coming and after that Holy Week, and this year’s blog will be history. When it’s all done, this 40 days has been a compilation of previous posts, returning, as the name suggests, to earlier pieces written in commemoration of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I, a “spiritual but not religious” former Christian spend time thinking and writing about various aspects of life in relation to the season of Lent. I am grateful to have once observed the season in a more faith-based, traditional manner, and while I no longer associate myself with any particular faith tradition, I do not forget from whence I came.

And so as we prepare to enter Holy Week, I will find myself thinking a lot about Jesus, and how he perhaps spent the last few days on the planet. So I offer this post from 2016 that speaks to the humanity of this man who is considered by many to be the son of God. Thank you for reading.

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The Next Forty Days, Day 34–The Real Jesus

I bet Jesus farted, probably a lot, depending on his diet. Back in his day it was probably less socially unacceptable to fart, have body odor, and other things that most people in today’s society would raise and eyebrow over, if not scoff at and comment about, a person who smelled bad or farted out loud. Perhaps I would scoff too. But as I put myself in Jesus’s sandals and look through his eyes and walk in his body in the last of these 40 days, I prefer to see Jesus as he probably really was: a regular human being like me.

You see, my Jesus is not the clean, handsome, blue-eyed, muscular man depicted in so many paintings and films and made-for-TV movies, who glides gracefully through the crowds, gently touching people on their heads, smiling beneficently at everyone. My Jesus is sweaty, grimy, unshaven and unkempt. He does not always speak in calm, melodious, dulcet tones, or the powerful, booming voice of the son of God. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, my Jesus is more like me. I don’t mean physically like me; I’m not going to get into the various arguments about Jesus’s hair color, skin color, eye color. What I mean is that my Jesus is human and real and frail, as I have felt so often in my life. My Jesus is a person I can relate to.

Jesus traveled from place to place, teaching and preaching and speaking to people, sometimes–I imagine–for hours at a time. I bet he got sore throats. I wonder if his disciples give him hot tea to ease it. I wonder if he got laryngitis. You see, even though Jesus was the son of God, he was often quoted referring to himself as the “son of man,” meaning, in my mind, that he was acknowledging his humanity, not his divinity. So when he got tired, he rested. When he was hungry or thirsty, he ate or drank. He went to the bathroom. He perhaps even got sick on occasion. When he was overwhelmed by the masses of people hovering around him, he withdrew himself to quiet places to pray and refresh himself. These are things a regular human being would do.

During these last few days of Lent I can’t help but spend time inside Jesus’s head and heart. On the liturgical calendar this Sunday is Palm Sunday, commemorating when Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the roar of appreciative and adoring crowds. Of course a few short days later some of those same people were shouting, “Crucify him!” What must that have felt like, to know that these things would happen, that he would go from the pinnacle of popularity and being embraced by the populace to public humiliation and suffering days later?

Jesus was happy. He was grief stricken. He felt the sting of betrayal, the separation from loved ones, abandonment and loneliness. In those last days he fretted about what was going to happen to him, trying in vain to get out of it, but in the end accepting what was going to happen and pulled himself together enough to go through with it. Jesus was just like you and me.

The vast majority of we ever read about, hear about, and see are about Jesus the son of God. How are we supposed to see ourselves in him? He is so far above us, so much more capable of forgiveness, of gentleness, of patience and peace. But the son of man? Now there’s someone I can get behind. I recognize myself in that Jesus and recognize him in me. I can aspire to do the simple things he did–love others, be kind to the people around me, give of my time and resources to help them–and feel a kinship to him rather than being intimidated by his godliness, his healing people’s diseases, transforming water into wine, walking on water, and quieting storms.

The real Jesus loves me. He does not expect me to be perfect by some impossible standards created and upheld by a religious establishment that might not recognize him if he walked in the door. He expects me to do my best with what I have, to show up and be real. The real Jesus knows all, not so much because he was the son of God and had access to all knowledge (which I imagine he did), but because he was the son of man and experienced some of the same things I do. Yep, I bet Jesus farted and burped too. Maybe he was even a little embarrassed by that. I will never know for sure, but it make me smile just to think about it.

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