Sunday, April 10

What was Jesus like?

This is the question that I spent an hour trying to answer today.

I somehow became the head re-writer for our VBS plays and this year we are doing the death of Jesus.  The title is "The Love of the Son" which is great because it gives me the Most Important Thing to focus on.

Somehow I volunteered to write up a short character study for each of the major characters in the play.  There are about 30.  Okay, maybe just 20... but still.

I've done Peter, Judas, Annas, Caiaphas and today I was working on Jesus.  Seems pretty simple, right?  Son of God... died for our sins... yadda yadda yadda.

Not so much.  The historical/biblical record of who he was and what he did is there, but then I have a section after the basic information that is titled, What was He like?  I have this section for each character and it is basically a run-down of known, and sometimes guessed personality traits.  Peter was impetuous... Annas and Caiaphas were prideful.  Deep stuff.

How do you describe the personality of Jesus?

We've all seen the videos made of Jesus doing miracles or preaching.  He's usually very serious and kind looking, but there isn't any personality in him.  The Bible isn't much help.  It describes him as an unremarkable guy, with nothing that set him apart from other people.  Nothing to indicate his deity.

So I started brainstorming.  Jesus came, knowing what would happen to him, feeling a deep abiding love for all mankind.  He was righteous and good.  That's what we get from the wooden portrayals of the Christ.  I would also like to think that he was joyful and maybe had a sense of humor.  Surely he looked at us the way we look at our children when they are trying to make sense out of complicated ideas.  I can't tell you how many times I've laughed at Jonah's funny ways of explaining things.

And then I remembered the smiling Jesus.  Have you seen these videos?  They are called The Visual Bible: Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus isn't some serious, emotionless God.  He is a deeply loving savior who submitted himself in love, compassion and mercy.  Jesus is played by a man named Bruce Marchiano, and it is a take on Jesus that you don't often see.  He is joyful.

I know that Bruce Marchiano is just a guy who is interpreting the bible as best he can, but some part of me feels like he has caught some subtext from the red letters that we tend to miss.  Jesus didn't come because it was his duty; he came because he loved us deeply.

I don't often spend a lot of time discussing spiritual matters here, but this seemed to be the thing that was most on my mind tonight.  There are a lot of questions and thoughts rolling around, waiting to become part of my overall understanding of God, and a part of the script I am working on.

Jesus wept.  I have to believe that he laughed, too.


Jenny said...

That's a subject that's always fascinated me, too. I read a book once called "The Jesus I Never Knew." (If I'm being fair, I should say I skimmed it.) I really enjoyed the portrayal of Jesus in that book; it was a departure from the Jesus "meek and mild" that was always pictured in my Bible as a child. If I can say this without sounding inappropriate, I think I like to think of the Lord with a little more sass than He typically gets credit for having. At the least, I'm like you; I need to view Jesus as a strongly emotional (including joy, humor, frustration, despair, etc.) in order to understand Him at all. I often think that, if He didn't have the full breadth of human emotion, coming to Earth as a human would've been rather pointless. Besides, if He came so that we might have "abundant life," what does that even mean without joy? Interesting post and topic!

Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux said...

I know the play is done for this year, but I thought of a book you would probably like a lot: "Walking on Water," by Madeleine L'Engle. It's about being an artist and a Christian. She has a lot of really great stuff to say about how all art is divine (and how some religious art isn't "true" art). She also blew me away saying that since Jesus was human, he set the example for how WE can also be--in her words, doing miracles, too.
That, along with your post, makes me think of Jesus going out into the desert to be alone (which I do, though not the desert), getting a bit exasperated when people don't understand, turning over the tables outside the temple, and so on. Nancy Donoval says in storytelling that the darker the story, the more humor is needed or the listener can't take it in. That makes me think he may have been a raucous guy!
Thanks for sharing this.