Being Jesus

Because of my beard (and a wee bit of drama experience) I've played the role of Jesus a lot. In the past I've played Jesus in passion plays. But my more recent roles playing Jesus have been at the Bible Times Marketplace at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. The picture here is of me playing Jesus this year. And if you would like to see more you can follow this link to the main video from this year's Marketplace. The Marketplace is when we turn the church into a 1st Century town. The children dress in "bible times" costumes and go around to various booths, like carpentry, scribe, pottery, and metal working shops. They shop for food with shekels and live in little Jewish families for the day learning the customs of the time. After the main video you can click on the Walkthrough Video to get a tour of the Marketplace.

I have a few rules when I play Jesus:

Rule #1: Don't wear a white robe with a blue or red sash.

I always go for earth tones, greens and browns. Basically, avoid a holy look. Look more like a peasant.

Rule #2: Don't act like you're high.

Too many people play Jesus as if he is smoking something. He's spacy, overly mellow, and not really connected with the immediate going's on. I think people do this to convey that fact that Jesus is somehow "not of this world" and in constant communion with the "spiritual realm." I go the opposite direction. I play a Jesus rooted in the moment. I play Jesus as very aware, sharp, and energetic.

Rule #3: Don't be overly sweet, sentitmental, gentle, or maudlin.

You don't want your Jesus to be sticky sweet. Avoid the cotton candy Jesus.

Rule #4: Talk normally.

To convey emotion, too many people try to do it with their voice, mostly by making it too airy or whispery. Or, they may try to make their voice bigger. Either way you don't sound normal or natural.

Rule #5: Act like yourself.

Rule #5 is my big secret. The key to playing Jesus isn't to be different. The key is this: Be yourself.

The point is this. You are never closer to being Christ-like than when you are at your best. Think of yourself when you are feeling compassionate or generous or merciful and ACT LIKE THAT. Being the Imago Christi isn't hard. It's just being you.

I once told a adult Sunday School class the following: When you are at your best, not even Jesus could do it better. They looked startled. Why? Because we tend to think Jesus is bringing to the human encounter some special Jesus-Ingredient that we, mere mortals, don't have. But most of the things we are called to do are mundane and straightforward. Do them, do them well, and not even Jesus could perform them better. You don't need to be the Incarnate God to give a thirsty person a cup of cold water. Just give them a cup of cold water. It's not magical. If someone needs a kind word, then speak a kind word. It's not rocket science. If someone needs forgiveness then say "I forgive you." It's not superhuman.

Being Jesus, in my estimation, is easy. So I don't think we do people favors by making being the Imago Christi something only super-spiritual saints are capable of. Sometimes being Jesus is just listening over coffee. The point is, for large parts of the day you ARE being like Jesus. We need to recognize and own those moments so that we can leverage them into the more difficult areas of spiritual formation.

True, there are aspects of being Jesus that are very, very hard. Loving enemies comes to mind. So I am simplifying here. But my point is simply this. If you want to be like Jesus don't try to be different.

Be yourself.

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8 thoughts on “Being Jesus”

  1. What a great post! Listen man, you are right on. I love it. I found something out this year and its just what you are talking about. I have said to many lately, that have said they worried about what I was going through, that suffering gets a bad wrap. It burns pretense out of you and it strips you of control and if you choose, you come out of it like someone who just got visine dropped in their eyes and you are refreshed and humbled and you can see things you couldn't see before. Long story longer.."being Jesus" has always been an ideal for me and a standard to reach and what I have found these last few months is ME and even in my hard times amazed how I could be Jesus by being me. He can work through me when I am most honest with myself.

  2. Richard,

    Years ago, a Baptist friend of my wife invited us to come to their Christmas pageant. The performance went through the entire life of Christ. Two things about it stuck with me.

    (1) The church had put elevated rails close to the ceiling to convey high-flying angels from the back of the auditorium to just above the stage. But someone had forgotten to lubricate the rails and so the angels sang "Gloria in excelsis Deo" while they rolled squeaking toward the stage. (Just like those Baptists to use musical accompaniment.)

    (2) Shortly after "Jesus" was placed on the cross and lifted up, he lost his grip on the handles and fell about six feet to the floor of the stage, whereupon he uttered an audible" "Shit!" Nothing was broken and Roman soldiers put him back on the cross and carried on with His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension--once again to the accompaniment of squeaky angels.

    Needless to say, the theological implications of THAT tale are much different from the Gospel accounts.
    They should have used nails.


    George C.

    P. S. Being yourself with joyous intensity and compassion: that's the ticket.

  3. Great post! It reminds me of a quote...

    "Don't ask the world what it needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs is people who come alive."

    I am going to be teaching a ladies class on the heart of women, because as we discover our heart, we discover the heart of God. I might be kicked out of church after this, but hey, it's okay, because as you say, I need to be ME, not something or someone else, in fact I'm tired of trying to be someone I'm not. I want to be freed from the usual what a woman "should be," and just let myself be...

    Thanks again for that great message!!!

  4. Dr. Beck--thanks for the delightful insights.
    George C--thanks for the fantastic story. The mental image of Jesus falling off the cross and letting 'shit' slip is priceless (only because it's a fake Jesus of course--the real Jesus wouldn't swear... ... ...).


  5. yes it's me again but I came across something that made me think of this blog and I just had to share it with you:

    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

  6. I love this, Richard. And it's true - when you or I are fully alive, we are somehow both ourselves and Christ. You were Jesus when you were with those kids. They knew you "weren't really Jesus," i.e., that you were Brenden and Aiden's dad, but they loved watching you be Jesus. (So did the adults!)

  7. I have devoted my blog to this idea of being yourself as the best of all means in the Christian Life.

    I enjoyed your entry/article.


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