“We imagine that the man Christ Jesus would have been irresistible to us. Alas! He has never for a moment been beyond misinterpretation.” – George Steven, Free Church, Scotland, 1917
If we had been contemporaries of Jesus, if we had seen a living and breathing man walking our streets, healing our sick, forgiving our sins, who or what do we think we would have seen – or failed to see?
“… There is no expression, deed, or event that ever happens, which does not immediately take its place in the order of natural events, to be criticized and judged as such” (Steven, The Development of a Christian Soul, p. 67).
Judged, but also misjudged. There’s no wonder that he who came into the natural order of events as the Son of Man simultaneously evoked and disappointed the racial hopes of his people as long as he lived and breathed. His fellowship with sinners was counted as sin, his healing was called Satanism, his forgiveness blasphemy. And more recently, “His meekness has been counted weakness, his gentle speech timidity, his burning words ill-temper, his morality the morality of slaves. …” (Ibid.)
His love, his eternal truth, his good name (and that of his Father) were all freely offered to his times, an infinite sacrifice to the misinterpretation and calumny – the disappointment – of the finite. It was a tribunal to which he submitted in full, with no quarter asked and none given. Even in the matter of everyday appearances – the kind historians crave to know about their subjects. His place of origin (Nazareth?), family background (common), accent (provincial), apparel (unpretentious), formal training (or lack thereof). All such knowledge only created, for his accusers, another layer of the unacceptable.
We who believe in Jesus – then as now – believe from a different hermeneutic principle than the one applied by the religious elders of his day (and by the religious historians of our own day). This hermeneutic of faith allows us to ‘see’ a different Jesus than his critics apprehend – one who flies under (or over) the radar of ‘the historical.’ Even 2000 years of ‘history’ cannot separate the soul from this Jesus of faith. (to be continued)
“And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders …” (Mk 8:31)