A Poetic Reflection On The Life Of Jesus
Narration for a multi-media production created by Vern Bennom Grimsley and David Kantor
The career and character of Christ were such that one out of every three persons on this planet today calls himself, or herself, a Christian.
His name, "Jesus," was the Greek form of the Hebrew "Joshua." It is translated "Savior." It was a common name in Palestine two thousand years ago.
Christ is from the Greek "Christos" meaning "the annointed one" or "the Messiah."
Scholars estimate that the entire Bible covers only about fifty days in the life of Jesus and the first thirty years of his existence are hardly mentioned at all. And yet, the ideals of his life and teachings have dominated the art, literature, and the ethics of Western civilization for twenty centuries.
Some two thousand years ago this Jesus of Nazareth was born and since that time it is remarkable to consider that no king, or general or statesman who ever lived has influenced the world as much and as little as he; as much because thousands have been spiritually transformed by his life and teachings, as little because millions who have heard his message have never dared to take it seriously.
Most people know more of theories and theologies about Jesus than they know of Jesus' own life and teachings. Some have become so bored with the religion about Jesus that they have failed to find the real religion of Jesus.
This Jesus of Nazareth came not to write a creed, but to teach a truth; not to build a temple, but to help men and women to discover the kingdom of God within themselves; not only to tell us what we should be, but to tell us who we are -- children of the living God -- heirs to a vast kingdom which stretches from the portals of time to the frontiers of eternity.
This Jesus of Nazareth came to thaw the frozen forms of human ideas about God into the liquid liberties of enlightened sonship and daughterhood with God.
He lived and proclaimed that we can personally know God -- that we do not have to settle for merely finding out about God, but can actually find God. He showed us that human life could become a thrilling spiritual adventure, that human strivings could be infused with divine purposes.
Somehow God wrapped his heart in human flesh and a man named Jesus came into the world. In the life of Jesus God became visible. The Diety was no longer an abstract conception, but a vital person. In the life of Jesus theology became biography and thus was the love of God revealed. The very heart that throbs at the center of this vast star-shimmering universe of universes was somehow the heart that beat in the breast of this Jesus of Nazareth.
But what was this Jesus really like? It was virtually impossible to be neutral about him in his own day; he was the most controversial figure of his time and of ours.
Shepherds leaning on their walking staffs with their backs to the burning sun would discuss him all afternoon. Their teeth would flash when they laughed to hear some passing traveller tell how the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem tried to trick him with a question and lost.
Women talking at their village wells, their sandals grey with powdered dust, would tell of the Samaritan woman he asked for a drink one time, and clucked their tongues at his indiscretion, for single men were not to speak to women thus.
Then they would wonder what he meant by the "water of life" when he told that woman about water which quenched the thirstings of the soul. How could this be? Some thought him a dreamer and some a deliverer.
People in the temple courtyards would debate his heresies. Young fishermen straining hand over hand with wet nets on the Sea of Galilee wondered if he could be the Messiah. Carpenters at their splintered benches, farmers plowing furrowed fields, young boys walking home from synagogue school -- all talked about this strange new preacher and of those stalwart twelve who followed him. No one was neutral. And even in our day, as in his, each person must decide what to do about this Jesus.
If somehow I could return and live one day with Jesus and the twelve, I wouldn't choose the time he fed the multitudes or even when he gave the Sermon on the Mount. I wouldn't choose the day he entered Jerusalem to the ringing of hosannas from the welcoming throng, or the day he died, or the morning he rose again.
I would choose an ordinary day, perhaps at one of their encampments in Galilee. I would love to watch him rising in the dawnlight duskiness of early morning and, throwing a cloak across his broad carpenter's shoulders against the lakeside chill, watch him walk through the coarse grass heavily hung with cold dew; see him take a stick and stir the coals of the fire to bring them to life again; hear him greet the apostles as they rose from their slumbers; see him eat, discuss, debate, ask questions; observe him settling an argument; laughing with the children of those who came to listen to him speak.
And then after supper I would watch from a respectful distance as he climbed a nearby hill to commune with the Father and draw strength for his mighty mission upon the earth.
I would learn more watching him one day than I could put into practice in a lifetime -- more patience, love, understanding, loyalty, strength, determination, joy, zest and vitality than I could begin to assimilate.
Yet the living spirit of this living Christ is real and present here and now. In this discovery lies the vital truth.
Thick volumes of printed history divide ancient Palestine from the twentieth century today. Yet many of our problems are still the same. And hence the need today to hear once more, the words of Jesus that he uttered then. The words of confidence and assurance which give people the power to live their lives with meaning and purpose.
He lived, he taught, and then he died.
Political might, dominion, pomp and power are always more impressive than the quiet teachings of truth. When Caesar Augustus died you may be certain that all of Rome wore black for many days. The solemn sounds of muffled drums were heard along the flower-strewn pathway of his funeral march.
Gold-glinting trumpets heralded the day of his death. The flutes and pipes wailed melancholy melodies. The very statues of the fallen Caesar were garlanded with flower blossoms in the public squares.
A thousand messengers rode horses foaming at the flanks to cry the news in distant provinces and protectorates that "Mighty Caesar has fallen! Let all the world weep!"
Wet blades flashed red in silver sunlight as the priests of Rome with sacrificial swords gave offerings of blood and beast to the countless gods they served for mighty Caesar had fallen and all the world must mourn.
But there was another who was born, who lived and who died in the world of this Caesar Augustus -- or was it the other way around?
Perhaps it was Caesar Augustus who lived in his world -- the world of this Jesus of Nazareth who died by criminal execution, rejected by the religion of his fathers.
The soldiers of Caesar gambled for his robe. His body was laid in a borrowed tomb. He died without ceremony, funeral or eulogy. Yet, he is the one they remember, not Caesar, but Jesus of Nazareth.
As a child he came to us, born of the womb of infinity, wrapped in the swadling clothes of time and space. The sovereign of stars and smouldering suns he was. His hands had held the very planets in their paths -- his fingers formed this glowing galaxy. He sprinkled the blackened sky with glistening beads of liquid light and hung the midnight with a thousand diamond constellations all linked like necklaces across a jeweler's velvet cloth.
As a child he came to us, born much as each of us is born; but he lived among us as few have dared to even try. In Jesus we caught a glimpse of God as neither prior nor since seen, and we have not forgotten it. The world can never be the same again, for we have seen what God is, and have seen what we can be.