We all have different pictures of Jesus in our heads. There’s White European/American Jesus who generally just creeps me out. And I have sweet Baby Jesus, who I admit, hasn’t done much for me spiritually, but did great things for my toy collection as a kid. But then there’s Human Jesus. Human Jesus changed everything.
I used to be afraid of Human Jesus. Not in the same creepy way as European/American Jesus, but because of what having a God-who-became-human might mean. Of course, I was taught to admit there was a Human Jesus . . . just make sure to quickly add that we all agreed God Jesus is what’s really important. After all, we had to admit Jesus was human, but that didn’t mean we had to like it. I mean, liberals, progressives, and even secular ego-driven, anti-god academics admitted to a Human Jesus. It’s God Jesus that really makes a difference. But in seminary, Human Jesus moved from being an embarrassment in my life to being a savior.
Human Jesus saved me at a time when I needed saving. I had come to the place where I was about to divorce God altogether. Once I started admitting to myself that Jesus didn’t make me a super-human, that most of the world couldn’t care less about theology, and that I was still just as broken (if not more so) than my non-Christian friends, God and I just didn’t seem to have anything in common anymore. He seemed too distant, so intolerably perfect and Stoic. I couldn’t even relate to Jesus, what with all his white clothes that never seem to get dirty, Buddhist monk-like poise and patience, and I-know-everything attitude.
I desperately needed a Human Jesus. And thankfully, while in seminary, I got him. And I’ve never looked back. Over the years, Human Jesus has helped me undo a lot of the fantasies I had constructed about Christianity. Here are a few things Human Jesus has taught me:
God gets that we are a mess. Jesus entered into the shit and the beauty of human existence. He was able to experience the love of his mother and the betrayal of his best friends, the beautiful sensuality of getting his feet wiped with the hair of a young woman and the tortuous pain of getting his feet nailed to a cross. It was through seeing Jesus as unapologetically human that I was able to see that God doesn’t want me to become superhuman, he accepts me for me. He doesn’t expect me to be anything but human and he demonstrates this by becoming human himself. Christianity isn’t a rulebook for how to be perfect like God, it’s a story about how God became like us. And that’s an important difference.
We have a very human-looking Bible. Human Jesus shows me we have a God who doesn’t mind “looking bad” for the sake of humanity. If the same God that came as Jesus also gave us a book, I would expect it to look very human. It would have to speak, as Calvin would say, in baby-speak — imperfectly, through language, culture, and customs we as very limited humans understand. Does it run the risk of looking, well, ordinary, unrefined, and altogether human? Yes. And that’s the point. My Bible looks a lot like Jesus.
Love is not about fixing people it’s about being with them. If you want to truly relate to and talk to broken humans, you run the risk of looking broken yourself. Get over it. The streak I see in Human Jesus and Human Bible is this: the One in power giving up that power to become one of us. It is not the rich “helping out” the poor, but learning to be with the poor. It is not the holy instructing the unholy, but the holy becoming so involved in the lives of the unholy that people are uncomfortable with how, from the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference. The God I see in Jesus is a God who threw caution to the wind in the name of love. Damn it all! For the sake of love I will throw off my royal robes, my power, and my reputation, and instead be called a glutton and a drunk, a nobody who dies without notice, a traitor to my state.
That Jesus saved me once and continues to save me almost every single day.