Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jesus Christ, Tough as Nails

Over the decades, I've run into people who have an - interesting - view of my Lord.

I'm not faulting them. The Lamb of God really is meek and mild. He's the holy and immaculate sacrificial Victim, the sacrificial Victim in whom we have confidence and access to God, sacrificial Victim living forever and ever. (Those titles are from what I understand to be a private-use-only litany, "Litany of Our Lord Jesus Christ Priest and Victim".)

Jesus the Christ is also:
  • Our Eternal King
  • King of Heaven and earth
  • King and Ruler of all nations
  • Delight of the Heavenly Court
  • King from Whom proceeds all authority
  • King Whose Kingdom is not of this world
  • Jesus, King Whose Sacred Heart burns with Love for all of mankind
    (Excerpted from catholictradition.org)
No wonder Thomas Nast had a problem with Catholics and Catholicism: we're un-American! Well, not '100% American,' anyway. Catholics keep talking about this king of the world! So do quite a few Protestants - but 'that's different.' WASPs are, by definition, Protestants. And, at first, the only 'real Americans' around. Except for those Irishmen. And a few Scotsmen.

Catholics are pretty safe to have around, though. We're required to be good citizens, but I've written about that before.

One thing Catholics aren't, is a bunch who are determined to overthrow the local democracy/oligarchy/whatever and replace it with a theocracy. My mandate, as a Catholic, is to be a good citizen wherever I live and tell the truth about what Jesus did, His Church, and both who and what He is. You don't have to believe me: that's up to you.

Jesus Christ, Action Hero

Uh, no.

On the other hand, there was that incident in the Temple. (Matthew 21:12, 13) I doubt very much that my savior was the genial wimp that some folks seem to believe in.
Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild - and Tough as Nails
A member of the family told me about an online discussion she'd been in, about "The Passion of the Christ" (2004). The other people were, apparently, quite displeased with that movie's distinctly unsanitized portrayal of my Lord's last hours. They apparently thought the movie wasn't sufficiently 'spiritual.' At least one of them thought that Jesus was portrayed in an utterly improper way.

A particularly 'improper' aspect of Jesus' behavior in the film was one vignette during the Scourging. It was bad enough that "The Passion of the Christ" showed a pretty good simulation of a real scourging. What sent this person over the edge was my Lord falling to the ground - and then getting up again for more torture.

The person was upset that Jesus of Nazareth was shown as being like 'some kind of action hero.'

In a way, I sympathize with him (or her). The Son of God shown in "The Passion of the Christ" wasn't much like the very 'sprirtual' chap shown in "horrible lithographs of the Saviour (apparently seven feet high, with the face of a consumptive girl)" (C. S. Lewis, quoted February 15, 2010)

That "consumptive girl" is the face many people have in their minds when they think "Jesus." A case in point:

A man who worked with young adults in the less-affluent part of a city carried replicas of Roman-era nails with him. Big ones: the sort used in crucifixions. We don't use that sort of thing for carpentry these days: they're hard to work with, and tend to damage the wood.

He'd developed the habit because he had a sort of mission project in that - we don't call them 'slums' any more: maybe 'inner city' is still an accepted term. Young men would opine that this Jesus was a wimp, and wouldn't last five minutes in their neighborhood. They were probably right, sort of: that "consumptive girl" would be in very serious trouble. For a short while.

That's when the nails came out. This man explained what Jesus let the executioners do to him. The young men were impressed. And, I think, rightly so.

"Tough as nails" does not, I'm quite sure, appear in any litany. On the other hand, I don't have a problem, personally, describing my Lord that way. In my opinion, Jesus is a mensch. (look it up.)

You Mean: Jesus Was a Regular Guy?

If by that you mean a typical member of my half of a fallen race: not exactly.

Jesus said that He is God. And made it stick. I've written about this before. (January 17, 2010) More to the point, Jesus went out of his way to say:
" 'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.' "
(John 8:58)
Either he was a raving lunatic, or making a simple statement of fact.

Considering that he left his tomb and had a working lunch and several other meetings with his disciples - after he'd been tortured to death - I'm inclined to think that Jesus is exactly Who He said He is.

So, Jesus was - and is - God.

He's also man. Human. The way I've explained it to my kids, sometimes, is that "He's human on his mother's side." No, I don't 'fully understand' it. It would be a little unsettling if I did. I'm human - all the way - and don't have God's capacity.

Not - even - close.

The Catechism of the Catholic has more than a few words to say on the subject. (456-483, for starters)

My Lord is God and Man.

That sets Him apart from me and 'regular guys.' But it does not mean that he has to be that limp-wristed wonder I've seen a few times too often in 'religious' pictures.

Jesus Christ, Mensch

I wouldn't do it, even if I had the talent and resources: But I've sometimes felt like doing a remake of one of the Jesus movies. With Dwayne Johnson in the title role.

These days, he's a little old for the part - but I think you get the idea. Actually, the ideal for what I had in mind would be Arnold Schwarzenegger, around the time he made the Conan movies.

Part of my motive for making a movie like that would be knocking folks out of the well-worn track they're in. And, for the fits it would give to quite a few terribly, painfully, exquisitely 'spiritual' people.

Given the dubious motives I'd have, going through with a project like that would be unkind, uncharitable, and probably destructive. There is no way I'd want to deal with the consequences.

I don't mean the flack I'd get from folks who watched it - and more who hadn't, but 'knew all about it' anyway.

I expect to be up for a judgment in no more than a few decades. One of the last things I want to explain is why I did something that I knew would probably drive people away from my Lord and His Church. I'm going to have to rely on His Mercy enough, as it is.

I'm getting off-topic.

The point is that I can find nothing in Scripture to indicate that Jesus of Nazareth was a 98-pound wispy weakling. That's an image that seems to come at least in part from a 19th century marketing ploy that went horribly wrong.

Yes, Jesus was gentle. He was also someone who knew what was going to happen to Him on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. And finished the mission anyway. Maybe it's my Viking and Celt blood - but I respect a man who can do that: sober.

So: 'like an action hero?' Yeah.

Think about it. By the time my Lord had been scourged, he'd taken more damage than the Schwarzenegger action hero in those movies: and still walked to Golgotha. Where he knew he would be nailed up and left to die.

There, after talking with the other men who were being executed with him, my Lord assured one that they would meet soon in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Gentle? Compassionate? Yes. Also filled with stone-cold courage. I know this doesn't sound 'spiritual' - but Jesus has guts.

Accounts of my Lord's death are in all four gospels:Related posts:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Jesus is cool. ^_^

Oh, you might want to think about this phrase: "many people have in their minds when they thing 'Jesus.'"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

Got it, fixed it. Thanks!

And - cool? Yeah I'd say so.

Another case in point: When a crowd got peeved with my Lord, took him to the brow of a hill and intended to throw him down, headlong?

"But he passed through the midst of them and went away." (Luke 4:29,30)

Maybe it was something 'supernatural' that he did - but I suspect that one of the 'Jesus' movies got it right. The actor playing my Lord (about the right age, for once) was being hustled by the crowd. Then he stopped, looked to the men on one side, turned his head and looked at those on the other side.

In each case, the actor didn't perceptibly change his expression - although he was a trifle intent.

And, in each case, the guys he faced got a startled 'hey! I don't want no trouble!!' look and backed away about a pace and a half. Pushing back the guys behind them.

Then the actor turned around, and they made a hole for him to walk through.

Supernatural? Except in the sense that everything that our sort of creature is above nature (made in the image and all that), no. In that case Jesus was portrayed as having the sort of built-in authority that everybody has. And some of us, more than others.

Which is one of the reasons I think men should understand the spiritual equipment they're born with - but that's another topic.

Yeah: Jesus is cool. Frosty.

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