It seemed obvious to me that a Christian newspaper would, at some point, need to provide a portrait of Jesus.
As a legendary or historical figure, Jesus has been the subject of many studies and written works. Throughout religious history, he also became the pretext for conflict due to differing opinions on his nature, his words, and his message. And I imagine that anyone, when questioned on the case of Jesus, would have a specific personal opinion on the above three points.
I myself being unobjective, I have chosen to portray the Jesus that I know. If the reader judges my portrait incomplete or too biased, he or she can find a more dispassionate description on Wikipedia here.
The Jesus that I know would have been born around the year AD 1, as implied by the Gregorian calendar which we use in western culture. Numerous sources allow us to learn about his character and his works. Most information is found in the Bible, yet there exist some secular sources as well.
One extra-Biblical example we find is a text dating back to AD 116 from the Roman historian Tacitus’ Annals. The text relates how Emperor Nero, after being accused of causing the fire that ravaged Rome in AD 64, desperately seeks other culprits and throws the accusation on those whom “the populace” named Christians. “Christus, the founder of the name [auctor nominis], had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator [procuratorem] Pontius Pilatus” (Bowman 2017).
Few people question whether Jesus existed. The big question is rather “Who was he and what did he do?”
In response to the first question I have chosen the following passage:
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
The Gospel of John, chapter 8, verses 3-11
Jesus: a good moral example?
Certainly, but not only that! It was indeed his moral character that first impressed me when I began reading about him. Today, however, I would say that in Jesus there is more than just a good example to follow…
…especially given what happened two thousand years ago.
The secular texts mentioning Jesus often describe a man who caused agitation among the Jewish people. In other words, he was another guru who started his own cult. As Christians, however, we hear a wholly different story, the story of the one true God who sent a part of himself to earth, offering mankind a second chance!
As an illustration, imagine that one curse word costs you ten dollars, one lie costs a hundred, and one bad thought costs several thousand. However, an act of charity earns a few dollars. Donating an organ pays ten thousand dollars – a good amount of money but too exceptional to compensate for the debt that you’ve already accumulated.
Imagine now that one day, God hands you your life’s very, very expensive bill. God knew that everyone would come before him with an overwhelming bill, therefore he came to this planet in human form, as Jesus, in order to die in humanity’s place and thus give each person a check containing the amount of his or her personal debt. Christians claim that when God hands them their life’s bill, so to speak, they hand him back the check they received from Jesus.
To extend the metaphor, everyone would have received his check two thousand years ago when Jesus gave his life, yet sadly not everyone deposits it into a bank account.
And with that, I have come to the end of this portrait of Jesus, the Jesus whom I know, the Jesus who loves, who turns the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42). He is the one who forgives and prays for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34), and the one who heals…
…and who paid my debt!
Bowman, Jr., Robert M. 2017. “Tacitus, Suetonius, and the Historical Jesus” Institute for Religious Research. http://bib.irr.org/tacitus-suetonius-and-historical-jesus.