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Who is Jesus?

Elizabeth Brooke-Carr



If Jesus were to ask me directly “Who do you say that I am?” my answer to his challenging question would be quite simple.  And it may be that it is far too simple for some Christians.  I’d say that Jesus is a character that I have created to help me add meaning to my life story.

“So,” these concerned Christians might say, “You have taken on the roles of God the Creator and the Virgin Mary, all in one?”

 And I’d have to say, “Good heavens, no. But writers are creative people.  They’re always thinking about how they can express their thoughts, create interesting characters and make their stories meaningful.  Writers like to dabble in their psyche.”

“Oh,” they might add, “Jesus is just a figment of your imagination then?”

And I’d have to say, “Well, not exactly.  That’s only partly true.  There are lots of other considerations a writer must make when creating a character.  Most writers are keen observers of life, you know.  We study people and their manners and speech and actions; we read what others have written about these things; and we do research to help us understand what a particular character might be like.”  And I’d talk to them about the sources that I’ve used to create the Jesus character in my personal story.

I’d tell them that I first learnt about him in Sunday school, in Hymns and in Christmas Carols. And I’d recite the first prayer that I ever learned:

     Gentle Jesus meek and mild
     Look upon this little child
     Pity my simplicity
     Suffer me to come to Thee

I’d say that Jesus’ birth in the humble environment of a stable, his growing up as a carpenter’s son and living as an ordinary human child, are all wonderful details that have helped me to form a clearer picture of who he is.  And I’d remind them of the Bible stories; the miracles, the cleansing, the healing, the hospitality stories, everything that has added to my understanding of the richness and complexity of my Jesus character.   How sometimes he was meek and mild, sometimes he wept, sometimes he was weary and had to go off and rest, sometimes he was so angry that he flipped over the tables at the Temple.  I’d explain that these raw emotions that flesh and blood people feel are what writers try to capture to make their characters more real.

But perhaps the most stunning discovery for a writer to make about Jesus is found in the opening chapter of St John’s gospel.  Listen to this I’d say:

     In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
     He was in the beginning with God.

Now isn’t that exciting for those of us whose stock-in-trade is words?  To realize that right back at the beginning of time, when something was going on, even before we knew about it, there was the WORD.  It existed as a sort of primal element at the very foundation of our lives.

It is no wonder then, that I see the process of writing – where writers begin with a word, create a sequence of them, in sentences on the page, build paragraphs and even whole stories – that this process, is in essence a spiritual path.  It’s a path that is initiated and practiced through creative energy.  Sometimes I call this creative energy my Muse but I have also come to think of it as God.  And I have been influenced in this by the theologian Mary Daly who once asked the question, “Why indeed must God be a noun?  Why not a verb, the most active and dynamic of all?

So in the beginning we have all this creative God energy, and there, in and with it is THE WORD.  Of course, John was referring to Jesus and we know this because John’s gospel goes on to say that “THE WORD became flesh and dwelt among us.”

In writing terms I would say that THE WORD is taken up and developed with creative energy into a fully-fledged character who not only comes to life on the page but also lives on among us.  And that’s what writers have been doing for centuries.  We need only think of the enduring nature of characters such as Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles; Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Little Nell or David Copperfield; Shakespeare’s King Lear or Lady McBeth or Hamlet; or Austen’s Emma to name only a few.  All of these characters have been formed by writers with the help of creative energy – some might say with the inspiration of a Muse or God – and they have taken their place alongside us in history, their individual lives teaching us, entertaining, encouraging, warning us and generally becoming part of who we are and influencing who we might become.

Now this is not to say that Jesus is quite the same as these fictional characters but it does help to explain the transition from The Word to a flesh and blood being in a way that I as a writer can begin to comprehend.

However, from this distance of two thousand years or so, I personally, cannot be quite sure if the historical Jesus existed and if the various reports of his life and activities are accurate; but it makes little difference to me because I love the Jesus stories and I have learned so much from them.   For me, the mysteries of his conception and resurrection are symbols of wonder and awe.  And as a writer I find all of this inspirational.  I am able to take what I need from these rich sources of information and create my Jesus character who is not only a dude with attitude but he is also one who adds a store of grace and wisdom and a profound spiritual dimension to the narrative of my life story.  If this seems too simple an answer to the question of who Jesus is then I guess I will just have to keep praying:

     Gentle Jesus meek and mild
     Look upon this little child
     Pity my simplicity
     Suffer me to come to Thee.


 © Elizabeth Brooke-Carr. August 21, 2005


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