Who Is Jesus?
"I wanted to show Jesus as a real guy," said Roger Young, the director of the TV mini-series Jesus. "What's always missing from the films of Jesus is that he was a human being." Actor Jeremy Sisto, who played Jesus in the mini-series, agreed: "I tried to see him not as an icon," he said, "but as someone who was more human."
And so the mini-series showed Jesus in his carpentry shop talking with his family, on the Sea of Galilee speaking face to face with Peter, laughing with his friends, and so on. But in trying to make his point, the director overdid it. One critic described Young's attempt "to convey a down-to-earth casual Jesus" as "a bit over the top."
In one key scene, the critic says, "Jesus selects his apostles … [like] a schoolboy picking teammates for dodge ball." Another critic adds, "Sisto's Jesus is just one of the boys—a New Age, sensitive guy."
That's the problem with any one portrayal of Jesus, no matter how well it's done. A TV series simply cannot do justice to the Jesus of the Gospels, the Jesus we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. John, in fact, said that all the books in the world could not contain the life and teachings of Jesus. If he were writing today, he might have added, "And neither can any film."
And it's not just films that tend to present a narrow Jesus. Even some Christians do it. As author and speaker Tony Campolo put it, "Our society has taken Jesus and recreated him in our own cultural image."
Campolo goes on to criticize what often is our American conception of Jesus—a white guy with a politically conservative agenda. As one popular philosopher put it, "Jesus was no conservative." True. But neither was he a liberal. He was much more interesting than either. That's why nearly 2,000 years after he walked the Earth, people are still fascinated with him. He re mains the most intriguing figure in history.
Tough or Forgiving?
You just can't pin Jesus down. When you think you've got him figured out, he goes off and surprises you.
This is the guy, for example, who handed out the toughest demands ever:
"You must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect."
"If a man looks at a woman with lust, he commits adultery."
"Take up your cross and follow me."
And so on. He's the most uncompromising and stern religious teacher the world has ever known, right?
And yet he's also the guy who did this:
He was walking along, minding his own business when a bunch of religious leaders brought out a frightened woman and threw her down in front of him.
"She's committed adultery," they said. "She should be killed—stoned to death!"
But Jesus just went down on one knee, started drawing in the dirt, and didn't say a thing.
"Well, what do you say? Should we kill her?" they asked.