The stores will be all Christmasy after Thanksgiving, so this is a good time to shop for a Jesus. Lots of people do this, you know. Let me describe six Jesus’s you may want to buy, and recommend the one that I favor—because I think it is truest to the Bible.
- The first Jesus some people buy is the Designer Jesus. He is custom made, so if you want a Guru Jesus, he’s your Man—or your Atman, if you prefer. Another kind of Designer Jesus is Jesus with an Afro, or as an Asian wise man, kind of a Buddhist Jesus, or perhaps a grinning hippie Jesus whose slogan is, “All you need is love!” I call the Designer Jesus the Son-of-Man-Without-a -Country. You can have just about any kind of Designer Jesus you want. They are all for sale. And people have been buying them and designing them for years!
- The second kind is the Discarnate Jesus. Salvador Dali gave us quite a few of these. A Jesus who floats in mid-air, a symbolic Jesus, not of this world, not of human flesh, an other-worldly Christ. You can get these too. Psychedelically colored if you get your order in early!
- Then there’s the Opposition Jesus. This one is very common. He is the one used in theological banter, you know, the Instead Jesus. Jesus instead of the rabbis, the New Testament instead of the Old Testament, grace instead of law, the church instead of Israel. You can get this Jesus in any neighborhood, wherever you want. Easy to find. And you can get him cheap, although the Jews have historically paid a high price for this Jesus.
- Many people buy the Jewish Jesus, the Cliché Jesus. He grew up in a Jewish home, his mother called him Yeshua, he ate kosher, and kept the Law. He is a good Jew, but not committed to Jewish religious continuity. He's got bigger plans for the Jewish people that don't include all that Torah living and all that stuff, although he's cool if you want to do it, as long as you don't go overboard. This Jesus is very easy to find nowadays, but he should not be confused with our next one.
- The More Jewish Jesus. While this Jesus seems to be a newer model, he actually is strongly founded on the Scriptures, and is the Jesus most people forgot somewhere along the way. This Jesus validates Jewish community structures, Jewish values, and Jewish custom. He is truly a good news Jesus who Jews would recognize as their best friend. He is the Jesus who is the Son of David, and thus, the Executor and ever living guarantee of all of God’s promises to the Jewish people. He’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and he is the one who Peter says God exalted at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31 ESV). In contrast to the Opposition Jesus, this is the Affirmative Jesus, and in contrast to the Jewish Jesus, this Jesus bled, died, and rose again, not only for the sins of all the world, and restoration of the cosmos, but also out of his commitment to the God of Israel and our holy way of life, so that some day we as a people might enter into the fullness that God has prepared for us. He likes Jews to live as Jews, and he likes being our King. But this Jesus must not be confused with . . .
- The Too Jewish Jesus. This is the Jesus who ratifies everything Jewish simply because it is Jewish. People who buy this Jesus forget that Jesus is not only the ultimate King and ultimate High Priest. He is also the ultimate Prophet. And as the ultimate Prophet he calls us to a higher loyalty than we tend to display; he critiques our phoniness, or shallowness, our settling and rationalizations. He won’t always make us comfortable, but he is committed to making us holy. So he doesn’t always ratify our ways, because, frankly, we don’t always ratify his.
So there you have it. What kind of Jesus are you going to buy this year? Here at Interfaithfulness we are committed to the More Jewish Jesus. You won’t find him in every store, but if you look carefully, you’ll find him in the pages of your Bible.
And one of the best benefits of having the More Jewish Jesus is that he opens up an entirely new dialogue between Christians and Jews, and new possibilities for Intermarried couples and their families. As Paul said a long time ago, "He himself is our peace," by which he meant, peace between the Gentile and Jewish worlds. And today, the More Jewish Jesus is himself the basis of new peace and new possibilities for the Christian and jewish worlds, and for Intermarried family constellations. These are the kinds of things we love to explore and explain here at Interfaithfulness.
If you want to talk, get in touch, anytime, right here at www.interfaithfulness.org will connect you.
Meanwhile, while you’re shopping around for a Jesus this year, be careful what you buy.
After all there is a real Jesus.
Accept no substitutes.