From the Principal
There’s a Bruce Springsteen song called, ‘Jesus was an Only Son’. Springsteen was raised Catholic and themes of faith have been scattered freely through his songs over the fifty or so years he has recorded them. In this song, he muses on the idea of Jesus the man – whose mother walked beside him towards Calvary, who prayed in Gethsemane for ‘the life he’d never live’ and begged that the cup of death be taken away.
I think of it a lot. That four-word phrase in the Apostle’s Creed, ‘and was made man’ is so important to remember at this time of year. Our faith focusses us consistently, as it should, on The Christ, and often rests on His divinity and the stories that support it. Jesus the man deserves just as much attention. He was so compelling and mysterious that even eyewitnesses to his ministry could not fully get a sense of who He was and the purpose of it.
New ‘Messiahs’ were so common in first century Palestine that Roman soldiers joked about them. Contrary to the rather positive press he gets in the Gospel of John, Pontius Pilate so enthusiastically crucified those who sought to challenge Roman rule that upper class Jews in Judea wrote to Rome to have him stopped. In this context, Jesus’s crucifixion would have been just another death in a pretty much endless cycle of violence and poverty.
That we still consider it so important is a reflection of the message that Jesus the man gave. In a time of significant and demeaning poverty he focussed without exception on helping those who had nothing. In a time of hunger he preached sharing and care and people followed his example. In a time of dominance and violence he praised peace and tolerance. He had the courage to speak against the most dominant political force the world had seen when he insisted that we give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s. He spoke with force against a corrupt priesthood and sought instead a simplicity of faith.
In simple but very emphatic ways, Jesus the man challenged every facet of his world. He lived in a time when religion, violence and politics too often interplayed with eachother. Our world today is very much the same. His words were revolutionary in the first century and they still are.