D R A F T — I never finished this, but I liked the setup, and I think the exercise (modeled after Ignatian contemplation) helped me get a handle on my personal conception of Jesus Christ.

restaurant ginosaur2


(A picnic table is set up in a pavillion shaded by several trees outside a restaurant catering to tourists/pilgrims in a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee. PETE, wearing a plaid shirt and khaki trousers, is seated at the table. As he checks his wristwatch, JESUS CHRIST walks up to the table and sits down. He is about 30 years old, wearing a light windbreaker, a striped polo shirt, dark trousers and sandals. His hair and beard are closely cropped; all in all, he looks remarkably like the hypothetical image of Jesus that forensic anthropologists in 2015 reconstructed from 1st-century skeletal remains. He introduces himself and hands PETE a business card. It says Jesus Christ, God & Associates Inc., with a motto: “Our Work, Your Hands,” and it lists addresses in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and New York.)

JESUS: (With a trace of Brooklyn accent.) I understand you’ve been looking for me.

PETE: (Not knowing where to begin.) Well, I’ve been reading up on Jesuit spirituality … you know, seeking the presence of God, and I’ve been blogging about the Historical Jesus … so, yeah, I guess you could say that.

JESUS: Well then, that must be why Dad sent me up from the home office to talk to you. So … here I am. What you see is what you get.

(PETE is still looking puzzled. JESUS takes it in, smiles, leans forward confidentially.)

JESUS: You were expecting maybe I’d be wearing a seamless garment and sandals?

(PETE looks at him, still unsure what to say.)

JESUS: But we’ve got to keep up with the times, don’t we? After all, this incarnation business isn’t a one-shot deal, boom boom, over and out. Besides, I like to keep coming back to Galilee. It’s where I got my start, you know.

PETE: Well, yes. I’ve read about incarnation … but I wasn’t expecting you to be wandering around a kibbutz handing out business cards, and I didn’t know you had a branch office in New York.

JESUS: Brooklyn, actually. (Chuckles.) I spend a lot of time in the city. You know there’s a theory the Garden of Eden was in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden?

PETE: Yeah, I’ve heard that one, too. But the Garden of Eden’s a myth, isn’t it? In fact … (lengthy pause) … I don’t want to sound critical, and you don’t have to feel like you have to answer this, but aren’t you kind of a myth, too? I mean the New Testament scholars talk about the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith” … and all that mythical stuff about the risen Christ and “the Word was God and the Word was with God” came later, didn’t it?

JESUS: Whoa. You’re talking about two different things here. The first chapter of John where it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God …,” is theology. And it’s poetry. Very good poetry, too, if I might say so myself. But a myth, that’s something different. (Takes out phone, calls up a page on the internet.) Here we go (reads): “A myth expresses and confirms society’s religious values and norms, it provides a pattern of behavior to be imitated, testifies to the efficacy of ritual with its practical ends and establishes the sanctity of cult.” Just for the record, they’re quoting Lauri Olavi Honko there.

So here’s what I like to say — a myth is a story that tells us how to live. At least if we have ears to hear. And you know I like a good story, right? Have you heard the one about the sower who planted seeds on rocky ground?

PETE: Yes! (Leans forward.) One of my favorites! I was an English major, you know … I like stories, too.

JESUS: Yeah, I know. I pulled your file before I left the office in Jerusalem.

PETE: By the way, do you have a cite for that Honko guy?

JESUS: Why, certainly. (Looks at phone again.) He was a professor of comparative religion and folklore studies at the University of Turku in Finland … here it is … he’s quoted in the Wikipedia page on myth. Let’s see what else I can find here. (Studies phone for a few seconds. Reads.) “In colloquial use, the word myth can also be used of a collectively held belief that has no basis in fact, or any false story. This usage, which is often pejorative, arose from labeling the religious myths and beliefs of other cultures as incorrect, but it has spread to cover non-religious beliefs as well. However, as commonly used by folklorists and academics in other relevant fields, such as anthropology, the term myth has no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise.”

So you asked about the Historical Jesus stuff, right? The stories that Mark and Luke and the others told about me. Like I said, they’re stories. Now they might not always be true stories … you remember the one where I said I was a mother hen gathering the people of Jerusalem under my wings? There’s no way I could have done that. I didn’t even have wings!

Besides, none of the disciples could ever figure out what I was trying to say, and when they handed the their stories down by oral tradition, man, if was like playing telephone … but they’re good stories. They tell you how to live, if you have ears to hear, of course.

(While JESUS is talking, several members of a tour group are seen walking into the restaurant’s courtyard. They wear matching red-on-yellow T-shirts emblazoned with “First Community Bible Church of Rolling Prairie, Illinois.” The tour guide catches JESUS’ eye and motions to him. JESUS hands the phone to PETE, removes his yarmulke and gets up.)

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go talk with these folks for a minute. Then we can go in and eat lunch. I recommend the tilapia.

(As JESUS walks over to join the tour group, his polo shirt is transformed into flowing white robes, and he now sports a halo with long, auburn hair and a beard to match. He looks remarkably like the Jesus on a small-town funeral home fan in the days before air-conditioning.)


St. Peter’s Fish. Photo: איתן טל Etan Tal, Creative Commons.


(The dining room is crowded and noisy. JESUS and PETE sit at a small table next to a window overlooking the parking lot. Several tour buses are pulled up outside. In the background toward the kitchen opposite the windows, the tour group from Illinois has taken over two adjoining tables. They talk excitedly and take selfies, while JESUS and PETE continue their conversation.)


Jag tror på en gud — Apostle’s Creed, Swedish

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