Who is this Jesus that the Nebraska village kid accepted into his life at eight years of age, the historical figure who many millions have allegedly turned to and sought to follow in the last 2000 years?
Tragically, like so many other words, "Jesus" has come to mean almost anything--another semantic empty bucket to be filled by human speakers whether with silver or slop or manure. The first thing which comes to mind is how Jesus gets used for excitement, frustration, anger--"Jesus F. Christ! Look what that idiot driver just did!
Such cursed meaning grieves deep. Think how we would feel if every time someone got frustrated they used the name of our sweetheart as an expletive.
My earliest memories of Jesus aren't from some creedal statement. I don't know if this is normal for being a kid or because I didn't grow up in a creedal church. We were American Baptists, my father a serious pastor of a small village church of probably about 30-40 town people and farmers. What first comes to mind now are the pictures of Jesus from the walls of the church and our parsonage and from Vacation Bible School. Jesus was my savior, my shepherd, my friend...yes there were those warm pietistic hymns I so loved..."What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Shepherd Like a"..."Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"..."Nothing but the Blood of Jesus"...In this indifferent, sometimes hostile world, I knew Jesus cared for us--he loved me so much that even if I had been the only sinner in the whole world, he would have died for me. "The Wonder of It All"...another great song rises out of my memory.
Even when I reached my teens and began to seriously abstract and to consider complex doctrine, I never could find a home in the doctrine of the Trinity. I, of course, as a good Baptist accepted the concept, but it seemed unreal. Jesus, as Son of God, I could understand. And God as Father...And the Spirit was God's influence here and now, his inner presence within us, guiding us, correcting us.
Indeed, to me that is the wonder of the Friends way of viewing all of this; its key phrase is "that of God" in each person--the Spirit/Light of God either wooing those still prodigal and lost, or guiding ones now seeking and following. So God (Ultimate Reality) isn't a group of fickle supreme beings or impersonal Fate (like the Greeks), not an animal or an urge (like other pagan religions) or Chance, Energy, and Matter (like modern Non-Theism).
No, Humanity--in their essence--is the image of True Reality. To most Friends for the last 360 years, Jesus, the Christ, is the true Image of the invisible God, the Ultimate Reality beyond our finite minds' ability to intellectually grasp. This is what the Incarnation is all about--not some abstract theological doctrine--but that Ultimate Reality is revealed in the life of a common laborer born in a despised backward corner of the Roman empire, illegitimate in birth, rejected by family and community, and finally executed by the political and religious leadership as a dangerous revolutionary.
The strangest of all quandaries, however, is how did this Son of Man--both a term emphasizing his common humanity with all humans and his prophetic supernatural reality, one who showed great compassion to all types of individuals caught in their sinful ways, from the rich and famous to the poor and despised--come to be the poster boy for endless forms of war, oppression, cruelty, torture, slavery, intolerance, discrimination, prejudice, and unkindness?! 2,000 years worth of mostly horrible abyssed distortion and going very strong now as many modern Christians continue to wax intellectual about Jesus being the Son of an amoral god of powerful sovereignty who destroys most humans for his own glory.
I suppose all of this is the strongest reason to consider whether maybe there is no meaning or purpose to the cosmos--that the nontheists are right--that Jesus was one deluded Jew, pathetically wrong. And we humans are here only briefly and absurdly alone in an indifferent cosmos going no where for no purpose, as Bertrand Russell said--from darkness to darkness.
Only of course, I didn't choose such a path, nor many of the other human ways of perceiving existence, nor do I now. Despite the naysayers and twisters of all types, I still respond to the love of Ultimate Reality revealed in Yeshua, the Chosen One.
Next, we will consider the issue of the Atonement.
In the Light,