Jesus Christ

Unknown-2

 

(What follows is an excerpt from my soon-to-be-released book Messed-Up!  ©2015 Scott Davis, All Rights Reserved to Author)

Late in the reign of Caesar Augustus, a kid was born in the City of Bethlehem, in the Roman Province of Judea.

Well, so the Gospels of Mathew and Luke say, anyway:  the nativity story specifically mentions a census, which is why Joseph and his pregnant wife were there, instead of back home in Nazareth – but there are no records of that census. No records of a Nova, or Supernova, or Comet, that might correspond to the Star of the Nativity. No records of any Kings, wise men, or itinerant scholars crossing the territory of Herod the Great. No Records of the slaughter of the innocents Herod is said to have ordered … and records of all of these events should exist.

I’m not saying none of it happened – as a matter of fact, I think some of it did, especially the birth of Jesus, because, let’s face it, no one starts a religion over a completely non-existent, fictitious person – um, except the Northmen … also the Celts, Greeks, Gaulish Tribes, Germanic Tribes, the Romans … er, ok, look, lots of people have started lots of religions over fictitious people – but I’ve always thought this one was the real McCoy!

 

My point is, it sure looks like God has gone to enormous effort to see to it that we have to take all this on faith. Go figure.

Judea was kind of a pain in the ass to Rome:  they didn’t really produce much of interest, except fanatic anti-Roman rebels – but the strategic position of the place meant it had to be held:  from Judea you can attack north into Turkey, East into Persia, or Southwest into Egypt. (If you really wanted to, you could attack Southeast into the great Saudi Desert – but, apart from pissing your troops off, you wouldn’t really accomplish much, as there aren’t many people to subjugate, there – which probably forms the biggest reason the Romans never did it).

The trouble was, the people who lived in Judea had been subjugated over and over again by Egypt, Babylon, Alexander, and now Rome – and they were pissed about it. Apart from that, they were, in the words of their own Deity, a “stiff necked people”: they had this bizarre religion with only one God, and these prophesies of a great king coming, and these freaking fanatics who figured they could jump-start the coming revolution, by starting a rebellion now!

Oy!

Back to Jesus. The kid became a man, the man became a wandering preacher, and flocks of people started showing up to hear him speak, or maybe have him perform a miracle or two. ‘Flocks’ is actually putting it mildly – hordes of people is really closer to the truth. Everyone started taking notice of him – especially after John the Baptist told everyone to follow Jesus, because he himself wasn’t worthy to untie the sandals, yada-yada, and besides, he had an appointment with the headsman.

(The story of John the baptist includes one of the very few times an angel – more properly, an Archangel – lost his temper … the story goes that John’s dad, a priest, was doing duty in the Temple, when said Archangel appears and tells him his wife is gonna bear a mighty prophet – and he’s to name him ‘John’.  Zacharias, John’s dad, points out that his wife, Elizabeth, is getting on in years, so how the heck? The Archangel snaps back that he is Gabriel – who stands day and night in the presence of the Lord – and, because he hadn’t believed him, Zacharias will be mute till all that has been told to him comes true.  Elizabeth conceives and eventually bears a son, and when they turn to Zacharias for what to call the boy, he writes – “His name is John” – whereupon his voice is miraculously returned. It should be noted that 5 months after the incident in the Temple, the very same Archangel appeared to Mary, soon-to-be mother of Jesus, and told her she would conceive – and when she asked how that was going to happen, since she was a virgin, Gabriel did NOT get snooty with her, but explained gently and reasonably how it was going to work.  This remains one of the very few times in the Bible, where a woman got off lighter than a man for the same offense.)

Other people, specifically the Sanhedrin, the priestly high council, took a much dimmer view of Jesus and his teachings. Even more specifically, Jesus upset the Pharisees, a sect of … well, the modern equivalent are Baptists:  very strict beliefs and they go out of their way to make sure everyone knows that they are righteous, whether they actually are, or not. I don’t know why the Pharisees had it in for Jesus, but it’s clear they did:  every time Jesus showed up in a city, some Pharisees would appear and try and trip him up with cunning questions and logic traps designed to show him for the blasphemer they were sure that he was … (this is probably why he spent so much time preaching outside the towns – it seems the Pharisees couldn’t be bothered to get out in the country much.) It made them nuts that he refused to be tripped-up. More so that he kept making them look like jerks – which, in all fairness, wasn’t really that hard, since they were.

As for Jesus, the heart of his teachings – the revolutionary doctrine for which he must be put to death – amounted to “love God, and be nice to each other”.

Holy. Shit.

Worse, he wasn’t just saying these things, he was actually living his life like he believed them!!!

“Look,” the pharisees explained, “You can’t just tell people to be nice – there’s all these laws they have to obey, and that’s what’s important to God!”

Jesus replied that he wasn’t telling people not to follow the laws – they could follow all those laws and still be nice – it wouldn’t hurt them a bit.

And so it went. Eventually, after 3 years of being dogged by the Pharisees, and constantly picked at by them, Jesus began to be a little … critical … of them. He is known to have lost his temper only twice in his entire ministry: once at the money-changers infesting the Temple, and once at the Pharisees. Don’t take my word for it, look it up:  Luke 11 – the really good stuff starts at verse 13 … pretty much the same speeches appear in Mathew, chapter 28:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites! You shut up the kingdom of Heaven – you neither go in yourselves, nor suffer others to do so!”

He goes on for quite some time, the major point being that the Pharisees were hypocritical holier-than-thou jerks, who would almost assuredly need air conditioning in the afterlife if they didn’t get their stuff together. It’s actually a masterpiece of invective – he never engages in foul language, while still calling the Pharisees some very nasty things, making his point with awesome eloquence!

“Ye are whited sepulchers” he raged,  “all clean and fair without, but, within, full of dead men’s bones and all corruption!”

That one’s my favorite. Anyway, my point is: regardless of who started it, he had now publicly decried the Pharisees – and they were out for blood. (Nota Bene, if it’s your intention to start a society-changing, grass-roots movement toward either spiritual or political purity, it will almost certainly not work out for you if you tell powerful hypocritical ass-holes that they are hypocritical ass-holes.  Trust me on this one.)

The problem, from their point of view, was that they couldn’t just try him and execute him themselves: Rome’s rules allowed them considerable freedom in enforcing their religion’s laws – but they weren’t allowed to put anyone to death, without the permission of the Roman governor … and the governor probably wasn’t going to let them execute a man for calling them hypocrites and saying everyone ought to be nice to each other.

On the other hand, people were calling him the messiah – and the common folk had welcomed him to Jerusalem with palm branches and cries of Hosanna, just as they would have welcomed a King! That was something they could take to the Romans – who took a very dim view of anyone they hadn’t appointed to the job calling himself a king. Still, however much it might upset the Romans, it wasn’t actually against Jewish law for a man to claim to be a king, and it was deeply important to the Pharisees to find something they could charge him with under Jewish Law: Jesus had, after all, called them hypocrites, and it wasn’t enough to just punish him, they needed to destroy his religious credibility … what they needed was a Jewish capital offense that they could execute him for – and whatever else might be said about Jewish law, there just weren’t that many Capital Offenses left …

“Wait a second,” one of them probably commented, at about this point, “Hasn’t he been implying he’s God’s son? I mean, that would be blasphemy, right?”

“Well, sure – unless it’s true,” another probably replied, “and how likely is that?”

Blasphemy wasn’t just a capital offense, it was the capital offense! The big one: any wandering preacher convicted of blasphemy, was finished (even before being dead, which would almost certainly be next.)

So now they had the charge to trump up, and the pretext to offer the Romans – all they needed was proof! This, however, proved problematic, as Jesus never actually used those words … they were able to dig up plenty of witnesses who’d heard him call himself “Son of Man”, but that wasn’t blasphemous, since everyone else who mattered was a son of man (women didn’t count) … they found some others who’d heard his disciples call him “Son of God”, but they couldn’t execute one guy, because someone else said he was divine!

Since they couldn’t actually find proof, they opted to buy some, instead. They rounded up some guys who’d say what they were told to say, for some coin.  There was, however, one final problem: it was Passover, and the city of Jerusalem was simply packed with Jews … no one knew where he could be found, and, if the Temple guards just wandered around looking for him, he’d get wind of it and vanish. Fortunately, they did know where to find one of his disciples – and the guy was starting to have doubts. They offered him 30 silver talents (possibly shekels, or maybe denarii) to lead them to Jesus …

“Don’t worry,” they explained, “we just want to talk to him!” and the poor schmuck bought it.

They arrested him, and tried him before the Sanhedrin – where their purchased witnesses proved to be less credible than they’d hoped. Finally, Caiphas, the High Priest, demanded of Jesus whether he was the messiah – something that wasn’t at all illegal to call himself.

So he affirmed that he was.

Blasphemy is a curious crime: if you work at it, you can make even the most innocent statements seem blasphemous – including statements like “I am the Anointed One”, which was the literal meaning of Messiah – the truth or falsehood of which could not be known by the Priests, but would only be revealed by God, in his own good time. Sadly, it is the central attribute of holier-than-thou types that they believe that they, alone, know what’s on God’s mind, and anyone else who makes such a claim is a blasphemer. In this case, the Sanhedrin decided that “messiah” and “son of God” were identical, so Jesus’ admission was good enough for them. Now they just had to get the Romans to Rubber-stamp his execution order.

The Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, heard the charges somewhat incredulously.

“Isn’t this the guy who’s been saying everyone should be nice to each other?” he demanded, and the Pharisees had to admit that he was.

“I don’t see anything wrong with that.” He shrugged.

“But he claims to be a king!” the Pharisees whined.

Pilate frowned at Jesus. “Do you claim to be a king?” he asked.

Jesus replied that his kingdom was not of this world.

That sounded pretty freaking nuts to Pilate – and being nuts wasn’t a capital offense in Rome, as several Caesars would later make clear (google Tiberias, Caligula, and Nero, if you want to know just how extremely nuts Romans could get). Pilate didn’t want to piss off the Priests – not with the city so full of potential rioters – but he also didn’t want to kill Jesus just for being a little bit nuts. About then, someone mentioned to him that Jesus was from up north in Galilee – out of Pilate’s jurisdiction.

Pilate exclaimed, “Take this guy to Herod!”

Herod Antipater was a younger, more weasily, version of the King who was supposed to have killed all the kids. He’d had John the Baptist arrested for calling him an adulterer – because, damn it, he was an adulterer, and we can’t have people yelling ugly truths to anyone who’ll listen! His Wife/Sister-in-law, and her daughter, eventually connived to have the Baptist executed, and that fact haunted Herod a bit – not enough to make him stop boinking her, but it did give him a bit of pause when they dragged yet another holy man in front of him. He tried to get him to do a miracle, just for entertainment’s sake, but Jesus was silent throughout the interview. Herod decided it would be enough to make fun of him – and then ordered him taken back to Pilate, since whatever the hell Jesus had done, had been done in Jerusalem, and was, therefore, Pilate’s problem.

“Look,” Pilate said to the Priests, “I don’t see that he’s done any wrong – so how about I have him scourged and you guys call it a day?”

Without waiting for a reply, Pilate ordered Jesus scourged – which is horrifically worse than whipping, as it was done with a cat-of-nine-tails:  12 lashes is guaranteed to make hamburger out of a man’s back, and there’s reason to think it was actually 24 lashes. While they were at it, the guards dressed him up in a horse blanket, and gave him a reed scepter and a crown of thorns, so when they dragged him back before Pilate, he was not only horribly bloody, but made a ridiculous caricature of a king.

“Behold the Man!” Pilate snapped at the Pharisees – but they didn’t back down, and continued demanding his execution, and it began to be clear to Pilate that they’d whip the crowd into a freaking frenzy if they didn’t get what they wanted. He was already in trouble with Caesar for harshness in his treatment of the Jews, and if there was a riot it would have to be put down with Roman steel – and it was sort of doubtful that there was enough Roman steel to handle the immense crowd of Jews in town from all over the country. A riot just wasn’t gonna be good for anyone. At all. Except maybe the priests. And the Anti-Roman fanatics.

Pilate had one final card to play:  it was customary at passover to free a condemned prisoner – he’d let the crowd decide whether it would be Jesus, or the only other prisoner they had, Barabbas, a murderer.  This plan might have worked, had the crowd been made up of the ordinary people of Jerusalem. Sadly, a lot of the people in the crowd had been bought off. It is a known fact that fanatics and the men they’d bought off yell far louder than ordinary types who withhold judgement.

Jesus was executed by the typically gruesome Roman method of Crucifixion.

Shortly after he died, it became dark as night, though it was still mid-afternoon, there was a huge thunderstorm, tons of hail, and an earthquake. The curtain of the Holy of Holies – the chamber deep within the temple where priests were supposed to commune with their God – was rent from top to bottom, effectively proclaiming to the world that Elvis had left the building!

The Pharisees began to be a little nervous.

Three days later, despite guards posted to prevent anyone from swiping the body – his body disappeared from his tomb, and people began to claim he was walking around and talking, and he wasn’t a ghost, as he demonstrated by eating a fish, and reportedly was later taken up into heaven. The important thing was, whether he was dead, or translated, his message was very much alive, and his followers were reinvigorated, and soon split up to make their way to every part of the Roman Empire, preaching love of God, Christ resurrected, and, of course, that people should be nice to each other.

Advertisements

~ by dourscot on February 29, 2016.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: