is jesus too normal?

August 22, 2004 | 3 Comments

I had an intriguing conversation with a friend a few days ago. He was in a conversation with a friend of his who was asking all sorts of questions about who Jesus was. One of his questions was whether or not Mary Magdalene was the girlfriend of Jesus. His reasoning was that it just didn’t seem reasonable that Jesus could remain celibate for 33 years.

Interesting enough, this guy is very interested in buddhism. The Dalai Lama and buddhist monks apparently have no problems pursuing a life of abstinence. Why would someone not question that, but question Jesus’ ability to do it?

I suppose our first reaction would typically be to blame satan for deceiving people. Or perhaps to blame the world for being so blind to who Jesus is/was. Maybe we should blame his followers (including me)? Perhaps our spirituality, at least in western culture, has not shown its mystical edge. And if Jesus’ followers don’t seem mystical, perhaps his don’t as well…

But what does it look like to be a mystical Jesus follower?

  • Oops! I need to proofread these posts! When I first posted this, the second paragraph said “The Dalai Lama and buddhist monks apparently have problems pursuing a life of abstinence.” but it should have said “The Dalai Lama and buddhist monks apparently have no problems pursuing a life of abstinence.” as it does now. Hopefully it all makes a bit more sense now.

  • david

    1 – I’ve always wondered why abstinence is assumed to only be that which gets you to marriage. Rarely is there discussion/teaching about the viability of life of abstinence. Mature singles are accepted but often viewed as failures or oddballs. Biblically and historically speaking this monogamistic hierarchy/ignorance doesn’t seem to me to jive with discipleship or tradition.

    2 – I really wonder about the lack of myth and mysticism in western Jesus following. It is truly all over the lives of those in the Bible and all over the lives of even the church fathers. There is a lot to be careful of in spiritual/feeling matters, but does careful have to be less? There is a lot to be contemptuous of in the realm of ‘christian tradition’ but does that mean that time tested human unity of behavior is generally bad? Is their some mystic spirituality that we can learn and absorb from the historical church? If so what does that look like? From my position of upbringing in suburban american jesus following I have found elswhere some serious fascination in exploring reverence and spirituality in a number of different areas: ecclesio-architecture, incense-buring, chanting scripture, lectio divina meditation/reading, and positional worship. The reverential spirit that comes from these things feels very foreign but satisfying somehow; are they powerful or symbolic? Why does it seem that we fear charisma or negative mysticism more than not balancing our very understanding of the trinity and wholistic worship thereof? Maybe it’s not fear, just that we as a community forgot that spirituality is our our tool, our responsibility, our joy. Do we retard the real power of the Spirit within by our neglegent ignorance and apathy towards Him? Is mystic spirituality to be learned or chosen; built up or experienced?

  • I think this attitude often goes along with a rejection of feelings as being deceptive, an abdonment of the supernatural, and a rejection of all things eastern. It’s assumed that things mystical are not something to be part of the christian experience.
    Monks and nuns pursue this sort of life, with contemplation and lectio divina, and a long history of respect for the supernatural. I think we have much to learn from the monastic tradition on this.