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Saturday, March 06, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Religion / The Rev. Dale Turner
When we see such a movie, we can understand the answer Julius Caesar had when asked what kind of a death he wanted. "A sudden one," he said. One of the tragic things that may be said about the history of the Western world is that we are sometimes led to believe that it was the Jews who killed Jesus, when it is more intelligent and more fair to remember the Jews as those who produced Jesus.
I may go to see the movie, but I believe the Book is better. By the Book, I mean the Bible the essence of which is to reveal not mainly how Jesus died but how he lived. The story of his life is one of the most amazing stories in history.
The heaviest cross that Jesus carried was not the one he bore up to Calvary. That cross weighed only on his body. The heaviest cross was the one he carried in his heart for the lonely, the poor and those who were dispossessed. This cross he maintained throughout his lifetime.
Many scholars believe his ministry lasted only a little more than one year. It was certainly no more than three.
Despite its brevity, his life has the decisiveness of a supreme ideal. This is why the history of the world divides with the advent of his life. The story of history is his story.
The nature of his birth is often debated. It is difficult to separate fiction from fact, poetry and legend from actual history. But his divinity is traceable not to the nature of his birth but to the quality of his life a life that was totally godlike in love and goodness.
Although more portraits of Jesus have been painted than of anyone who has ever lived, we still have no idea what he looked like. The Gospel writers left no description of his physical being. His character was so luminous that physical characteristics were cast into the shade.
The first pictures of Jesus were painted more than 100 years after he lived by those who had never seen him. A docent in an art gallery was showing a painting of Jesus to a group of grade-school children. "It's really not a picture of Jesus," he said. "It's just an artist's conception of him." One incredulous little girl responded, "Well, it sure looks like him."
More books have been written about him than about any other man in history. His words are more widely quoted than the words of the more than 65 billion other people who have lived on Earth since the dawn of history. Yet, as far as we know, Jesus never wrote anything. He never gathered his sayings into a book, nor made any ordered form for the propagation of his teachings. Yet his thoughts have been recorded in more than 1,000 languages.
Religion to Jesus was no formal pattern. It was a living, dynamic force. He demanded that life be more than ritual observance. He did not lay down a series of minute precepts. What Jesus taught was not a code of rules, but a loving spirit; not truths, but a spirit of truth; not views, but a view.
Jesus did not drive people toward goodness. He lured them by the attractiveness of his own personality. His was joyous religion. He was a welcome guest at parties and wedding receptions. Little children came to him eagerly: "Be of good cheer," was his common greeting. His was a kindly and caring spirit. He wrapped the blanket of compassion around the poor and dispossessed. He loved the sinner. People came to him with their burdens and left with new and vital faith in themselves and in God.
When Tintoretto, the great artist, was old in years, he asked to be taken to a towering cliff that he might look once more upon the sea. As he beheld the great and mysterious ocean, he exclaimed: "The sea always grows greater!"
The French author Ernest Renan was right: "Whatever the surprises of history, Jesus will never be surpassed."
Like all truly great personalities, Jesus did not want his name idolized. He wanted his call to love to be supported. He asked no one to praise his name, but to practice his way. He never said worship me, but follow me.
When I survey the wondrous cross
A 64-page booklet, "The Lessons of Life," includes 31 of The Rev. Turner's best columns published in The Seattle Times. Copies are $4.30 if picked up at The Seattle Times, 1120 Fairview Ave. N. To order by mail, send a check for $6.05 to The Seattle Times, The Lessons of Life, P.O. Box 1735, Seattle, WA 98111. To order with a credit card, call 206-464-3113 during regular business hours.
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