I’m a Muslim, but I think Jesus would have a drink with me. He would be cool. He would talk to me.
Let me start off by saying, I think Mike is right. I’ll get my own quick personal assessment of Jesus out of the way up front. Who you are and what you have done didn’t matter to him. He shared drinks with tax collectors and prostitutes. Some of the most despised people in Judea. Matthew was a tax collector and he brought him into the fold. Much to the disapproval of the other apostles but Jesus set them straight. You are all equal before GOD and you are all worthy of forgiveness and acceptance. I don’t believe he was the Son of God. I believe that was a myth attached to a revolutionary prophet whom many did not want forgotten. I believe he was a man. A great man, but just a man. So, with that out of the way, let’s begin our story.
Late in the first century B.C.(4 maybe 5 B.C.) a child was born to a Mary and Joseph of Nazareth in the town of Bethlehem where they had to travel to participate in the Roman Census. Only the gospels of Matthew And Luke make any mention of the nativity scene we are all so familiar with. It wouldn’t be hard to believe that the inn they stopped at was full. The census brings many people to town but it is unlikely any establishment in that area would have turned a pregnant woman away. So, the barn animals and sheep herders are probably out. The “3 Wise Men” could have still shown up though. Archangel Gabriel too. Not like they were busy. Speaking of sheep herders, wasn’t Jesus born in December? Not a lot of sheep rustling going on there in the middle of winter. Jesus’ birthday is unknown but many are convinced it had to be during the spring. Maybe late January but probably March. The reasons for the December 25th date are also disputed. The most common reason is the attempt to spread Christianity by co-opting “pagan” festivals but historical evidence on how and why is scant. But it is a safe assumption. Regardless, the “savior” was upon us.
Jesus was a marked man from birth. According to the Gospels, King Herod of Judea had heard of the “birth of the King” in Bethlehem and, well, kings hate competition. Herod was a fan of what we like to call overkill. Borrowing a page from Yehweh’s book(which is kinda what Jews did anyways I guess), he immediately ordered a slaughter of all infant males in the town of Bethlehem. Herod was historically a cruel and vicious man, so it’s not hard to believe he would have issued such an order. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him of the impending massacre and to gather his family and flee to Egypt. Which he immediately does. There is not much more historically or in scriptures documenting their brief time in Egypt. They waited out Herod’s campaign of madness and returned to Nazareth.
In the gospels very little is mentioned of Jesus’ childhood. We see him around the age of 12 or 13, debating scholars in the Temple at Nazareth, then it skips ahead to age 30. I shall not be doing that. There were several gospels written on Jesus’ childhood that were never considered for canonization in the Bible. Let’s get into it with “The Infancy Gospels”. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas to be exact. We begin with Jesus at age 5, playing in a stream. He is said to be moving water and dirt together to fashion clay. He then sculpts 12 clay sparrows. So far so good, but it happens to be the Sabbath. You don’ t do these things on the Sabbath. So, someone went and told his father that Jesus was breaking the law.
Joseph came down to Jesus, where a small crowd had already gathered and asked him why he was crafting on the Sabbath when he knew it was forbidden. Jesus did not answer but turned to his clay sparrows and said, “Go!”, and the sparrows came to life and flew away. The crowd was amazed. Some even a little fearful. Now, in order to craft these birds, Jesus had to spend some time pulling water into a pool in a specific spot. Took a bit of doing. After this demonstration, a random child among the crowd picked up a stick and dispersed all of Jesus’ water. Jesus was pissed. He then displayed the evilbadassery that apparently defines his whole childhood. He said to the boy, “O evil, ungodly, and foolish one, what hurt did the pools and the waters do thee? behold, now also thou shalt be withered like a tree, and shalt not bear leaves, neither root, nor fruit.” The boy dropped to the ground, dead.
- “Know thusly that thou art fucked.”
Needless to say, people were pissed. None more so than the parent’s of the dead child who accuses Joseph of harboring a supernatural child of evil. But Jesus wasn’t done. Some days later, while walking through the town, another child rushed by him and bumped him with his shoulder. Well, Jesus gots ta keep it real. He turns and tells the lad, “Thou shalt not finish thy course.” And, sure enough, the boy fell dead. Now the people were ready to throw Joseph and his family right out of town. They told him the boy cannot stay unless he is taught to bless and not curse. Basically, get your kid in line or you’re out of here. People were use to losing heir children early. But usually from war or disease. Not the petulant whims of a godlike child. So Joseph pulls Jesus aside and admonishes him. Jesus replies to his father thusly, “I know that these thy words are not thine: nevertheless for thy sake I will hold my peace: but they shall bear their punishment.” He then struck his accusers blind. Joseph grabbed Jesus by the ear and wrung it. This did not sit well with him either, “It sufficeth thee them to seek and not to find, and verily thou hast done unwisely: knowest thou not that I am thine? vex me not. ” He basically told his dad to back up off him and let him handle his business.
Viewing all this insanity was a teacher named Zacchaeus. He approached Joseph and explained that he had a wise child but he was unfocused and unfamiliar with the world. He wanted to become Jesus’ teacher and show him the ropes. It lasted about a day. Every teaching Zacchaeus had, Jesus had an answer that simply confounded him. He caused Zacchaeus to question his own beliefs and he sent Jesus away. Unable to accept that he was brought so low by a mere child. As the other Jews comforted Zacchaeus, Jesus saw them and began laughing. He said, “Now let those bear fruit that were barren (Gr. that are thine) and let them see that were blind in heart. I am come from above that I may curse them, and call them to the things that are above, even as he commanded which hath sent me for your sakes.” At that point everyone Jesus had cursed became whole again. The boys were alive, the blind were given their sight. And no one else dared mess with him again.
Sometime later we find Jesus playing on a roof with some other children. At some point, one of the children fell and the others scattered. The boy had died and when the people saw they accused Jesus of casting him down. Jesus denied it but they did not believe him. He came down from the roof and approached the boy, named Zeno. “Zeno!”, he cried with a loud voice, “arise adn tell me, did I cast you down?” Immediately the boy arose and said, “No, Lord. You have not cast me down but raised me up.” Everyone was amazed at this and took ti as a sign from GOD. They immediately began to worship Jesus. Jesus was pleased. He spent much of the rest of his childhood performing miracles in Nazareth, eventually accepting a teacher around the age of twelve who helped him form his future ministry. A ministry with far fewer dead children.
That still gives us some missing time. From 13 to 30. 18 whole years. This period in Jesus’ life also has some backstory developed by outside sources. Most notably the Hindu Bhavishya Purana. A sacred holy text. Most interesting is this passage:
- “One day, Shalivahana, the chief of the Shakas, came to a snowy mountain (assumed to be in the Indian Himalayas). There, in the Land of the Hun, the powerful king saw a handsome man sitting on a mountain, who seemed to promise auspiciousness. His skin was like copper and he wore white garments. The king asked the holy man who he was. The other replied: ‘I am called Isaputra (son of God), born of a virgin, minister of the non-believers, relentlessly in search of the truth.’
O king, lend your ear to the religion that I brought unto the non-believers … Through justice, truth, meditation, and unity of spirit, man will find his way to Isa (God, in Sanskrit) who dwells in the centre of Light, who remains as constant as the sun, and who dissolves all transient things forever. The blissful image of Isa, the giver of happiness, was revealed in the heart; and I was called Isa-Masih (Jesus the Messiah).'”
Many scholars believe Jesus spent time in Eastern Asia. Much of the teaching she brought to Jerusalum seem framed by Hindu and even Buddhist teachings. It is believed he spent these years traveling and absorbing every religious and philosophical idea he could find. In a writing attributed to the prophet Muhammad, he says that Jesus died in Kashmir at the age of 120 years. There are stories of Jesus shacking up with a traveling merchant and his son as they traveled around India. Jesus sitting high on a mountain in meditation with other Buddhist monks. However he spent this time, we don’t meet the adult Jesus in Christianity until he is 30.
He appears out of the mountains with no explanation of where he was or why he is there. There he meets his herald, John the Baptist. John is linked to Jesus as a cousin in one gospel account and has been preaching for years in the wilderness outside Jerusalem. He says he is making way the path for one whose shoes he is not fit to lash. He is in a river baptizing people when he sees Jesus. Jesus asks John to please baptize him. John is taken aback at first and declares that it is Jesus who should be baptizing him. Jesus said it must be done and John baptized Jesus. John was later beheaded for pissing off some chic Herod liked, but that’s another story. At this point, Jesus was ready to begin his ministry and the historical Jesus probably did just that. But the Biblical Jesus took a little detour first. A date with the Devil.
In the Gospels we are told that Jesus left the baptism and proceeded directly to the wilderness and the desert beyond. It was during this time that he was tempted by the Devil. The Devil’s role in the Bible is at it’s strongest in the New Testament but that is, again, another story(one I will get into in the future). Here he is tempting the Son of GOD to step off the righteous path and take the easy way out. Jesus has none of it and rebukes him at every turn. The Devil leaves and stays out of the way for pretty much the rest of the trip. Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.
After hearing about John the Baptists’ imprisonment, Jesus withdrew into Galilee and returned to the town of Nazareth. From there he began to move North preaching his message, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” That was Jesus’ thing. What a lot of people overlook. Or not in some cases but everyone has their own interpretation. I side with the people who point out that Jesus was a “doomsayer”. An end times preacher. The first Evangelical. Anyways, Jesus settled in Capernaum, an old city in Palestine on the sea of Galilee. There, while walking the shores one day, he came across a few fishermen. Simon, who we come to know as Peter, and his brother Andrew. He said, “come and I will make you fishers of men.” Of course the conversation was probably much longer but he eventually convinced them to follow him. That same day he met another set of brothers fishing, James and John. They too left their nets and followed him. A pretty good start. It was a fishing community and there had to have been dozens of fishermen out on that coast. These are the men he chose.
From there, Jesus began to travel around Galilee performing miracles and preaching in synagogues. He was credited with casting out demons, healing lepers and the blind, and even turning water into wine. He would emphasize to people not to go around telling everyone what just happened and the people re-payed him by going around and telling everyone what just happened. It’s not that Jesus didn’t want his message getting out, he was just very humble. But his ministry was really picking up steam. Hundreds were coming from all around Galilee to see this carpenter from Bethlehem preach with such authority in their temples. Eventually Jesus noticed that he had so many people coming to his sermons that he decided to gather them all around on a small hillside and began to preach to them. The areas believed to be where the” Sermon on the Mount” took place all provide a natural amphitheater environment so it would not have been difficult to elevate yourself above a crowd and speak to them all. In this speech,many of Christianity’s best known sayings and principles were laid out. Including the Golden Rule. At some point in his travels Jesus is said to have fed this large multitude with a small amount of food. A trick every parent has learned at some point.
During this time Jesus was also drawing attention of a different kind. The religious leadership in Palestine was beginning to take notice of this young prophet from Galilee. Religious and political concerns in ancient Palestine were basically dominated by two groups, The Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Democrats and Republicans of their day. The Sadducees were the rich aristocrats and moneyed elite of the Temple while the Pharisees tended to play more to the common man and the poor. They differe4d on almost every major issue. The Pharisees believed in some form of life after death. Much like Jesus preached. The Sadducees did not. Sadducees felt the Temple was the foundation of the religion and Pharisees felt the Word was mean tot be taught everywhere. And on and on. Most o fit petty little things that could have been solved with a quick, “Really, fellas?” In the Bible though they both seem to preach a strict adherence of Mosaic law and they have been told Jesus is healing people on the Sabbath, associating with tax collectors and prostitutes, casting out demons, and , worst of all, claiming to forgive sins.
One of Jesus’ apostles, Matthew, was a tax collector. A despised man. But Jesus saw that eh was just a guy doing what he had to do to feed himself. And he saw a nation of sinners casting figurative stones at him. He brought Matthew aboard. Peter and John were not pleased about it at all but Jesus was great a t working with people and soon they were the best of friends. A Pharisee asked Jesus, “Why do you lower the word of GOD by giving it to these unclean people.” And Jesus said it was because they needed it the most. He wasn’t here to “preach to the choir”. They were intrigued by his answer but moved on. Then Judas, Thomas and the whole gang shoes up. Really. They just kinda get shoehorned in. Anyways, at this point Jesus w2as tired of schooling scribes and condemning the many cities that had kicked him out so he packed up his ass and headed toward Jerusalam.
It didn’t take long after entering the city for Jesus to find something to be pissed about. Specifically the money changers in the Temple. He overturned their tables and ran them all out of this “den of thieves”. He stood on the steps of the Temple and gave a solid rebuke to the Jewish leadership. He made their shit-list. While in Jerusalam, Jesus tried to heal as many as possible and to speak as often as possible. His ideas were not always excepted and more than once he had to dodge a stoning. But he was persistent.
I shall strike down the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered
Jesus was always pushing the limit with his preaching. It’s fine to debate scripture and challenge beliefs but one thing that will not be tolerated is blasphemy. Especially claiming to be the Son of GOD. Without directly saying as much, Jesus had made clear to his apostles that he was more than just some man. And the multitudes following him had told others. Word got around to the Jewish religious leadership and they were not pleased. They planned to put Jesus on trial for blasphemy. An offense punishable by death. Now, exactly how Jesus was turned over is of debate in the scholarly world. Especially after the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. Judas was possibly disillusioned with Jesus when he realized he wasn’t going to lead an overthrow of Roman occupation in Judea. And his perceived weakness for money made him an easy buy. Some parts of the Gospels suggest he was possessed by Satan and made to turn on Jesus. Another version is that Jesus knew this would happen and allowed or even encouraged it. It is believed by some that Judas thought Jesus would simply be arrested and eventually released. Not killed. And this drove him to hang himself. Either way, at the”Last Supper”, Jesus sent Judas off to fulfill his role in all this.
The moment of doubt. I love the moment of doubt. It’s so human. While in the garden waiting for his arrest, Jesus turns to GOD and wonders for a moment if this is all really necessary. Why not send a legion of angels to wipe out his enemies. But it was only a moment. He knew better. Biblical and historic Jesus had come this far and I doubt either held any long term doubts. The apostles didn’t appear too worried either since they fell asleep on Jesus. He awoke them wondering if it was too much to ask to have them stay awake on their last night together. Then the guard showed up. The apostles rose to defend Jesus but he stopped them. One account has Peter chopping off a guard’s ear but Jesus reattaches it. Jesus is led away to the Jewish court to be tried.
It was a pretty stacked trial that hinged on only one question, was Jesus the Son of God. They asked him over and over again always getting a shifty answer. The High Priest asked, “Are you the Son of GOD?” Jesus replied, “You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” That was really all they needed. Jesus was convicted of blasphemy and the Jewish leadership petitioned to have him executed by the Roman governor.
And you know the rest of that story. It’s very graphic and I don’t wanna really get into it. He was beaten half to death and then crucified to finish the j0b. And that was the beginning of the most powerful religion in the history of the world. 3 days later Jesus was said to have risen from the grave and appeared to Mary Magdalene. The resurrection is the cornerstone of Christian faith. A nice belief. But I doubt it. Funny side story. What was Jesus doing during those three days? Apparently he was in Hell releasing the saints and taking the keys of Hell with him, rendering Satan impotent. Good for him! But if Satan has no impact on the world, many Christian sects are out of business. Especially Catholics.
So that’s that. Hope you enjoyed the story. Maybe learned something you didn’t know. I find the stories that didn’t make the Bible to be far more fascinating than those that did. Jesus’ childhood being a prime example. I suggest you seek those out if you really want to understand early Christians. Happy reading and peace be with you.