A JESUS MANIFESTO
Of course Jesus never wrote a manifesto, nor a novel, or any book at all.
The Holy Bible was not written by Jesus but is written about Jesus. The Bible contains words Jesus taught and reports of what he did and what had happened to him. If we were to ascertain a “Jesus Manifesto” I believe we would need to use only Scripture (solo scriptura) and not any of the Ecumenical Councils, Creeds, debate of doctrine or the development of theology. No “tradition” of humans. After all we want to know what Jesus would have said (or did say) concerning his views, policies and presuppositions concerning life and reality.
With this is mind we would need to do what many have attempted to do with our historical “quests” of Jesus. This would include a nod to those who made up the so-called “Jesus Seminar.” The conclusions they had arrived at are an outgrowth of a different aim altogether. They were not beginning with the Biblical Witness as their bottom line. They believed they were looking at the question of discerning what words of the Bible were truly original Jesus sayings and which words attributed to Him were a part of the already then tradition of the Church. I do not follow their premise.
Here the premise is that the Bible is the foundation and basis of all we know about what Jesus taught and did that He would instruct His Apostles and Disciples to teach. This is our starting point. What we want to weed out is all and everything that has been added, developed, created, modified, changed or in any form or fashion is different from, contrary to or diverts away from the actual teachings of Jesus Christ as we have received them in the texts of our Holy Scripture.
Can this be done at face value? I assert that yes it can be done and it can be done without the bias, prejudice or adaptations history has provided. If we are to take the Bible and rediscover only what it is a witness to and begin with the assumption that it is trustworthy and true in its recordings of the Words and deeds of Jesus than what will remain is what is worthy, whole and necessary for a person who is called to follow the once lived, now living again Messiah/Christ.
If we were to feed a copy of the Bible into a computer that could fully analyze it for its content alone and report back to us what exactly it says we are to believe Jesus said, taught and lived, what would we get? I believe we would get the Manifesto of Jesus.
In order to take this quest for the Jesus Manifesto we must begin with the acknowledgment of the reality of both conscious and subconscious biases. In order to be able to make sure we are able to see, in spite of, our clouded lenses of personal, ethnic, social, historical, sexual, psychological biases we must acknowledge their existence. We must embrace the historic values of culture, language, world view, mindset, and history. The “demographics” help us unwind and unravel our layers and layers of “stuff” that we and others along the way have placed upon, added or detracted from, and changed of the Biblical Witness itself. This is not difficult but it will take courage.
In order to better understand ourselves we need to pay attention to the amount and kind of resistance we have when we consider the following as true, historical record. Read each one slowly and with kavanah (sincere desired intention).
1. Jesus never ever would have heard his name spoken as “Jesus.”
2. Jesus never heard nor spoke the English language.
3. Jesus was a Semite of middle eastern lineage.
4. Jesus was born a Jew.
5. Jesus, by choice, remained a Torah-Observant Jew his entire life.
6. Jesus died a Jew while claiming to be the King of the Jews.
7. Jesus was never a Christian.
8. Jesus was never an American.
9. Jesus was never a Republican nor a Democrat.
10. Jesus never joined anything.
11. Jesus embraced nonviolence as God’s will for all of us.
12. Jesus embraced mutual resource sharing.
13. Jesus placed all and everyone else, especially the stranger and foreigner, as his top
priority and that of those who would follow him.
14. Jesus taught and believed that wealth was a stumbling block to avoid.
15. Jesus had no side gigs, no interests other than, no hobbies, no life outside of the practice of his faith.
How did you do? Which of the 15 above statements gave you some hesitation? Did you notice yourself having any kind of resistance flare up? Did you want to argue with any of the statements? Do you think any of the statements are not true? Here are the places of your greatest learning (at least for now). Your resistance is a good indicator of issues you must be aware of as you allow Jesus’ teachings to find you.
I hold firm to the belief that all 15 of the above statements concerning Jesus of Nazareth are historically documented and the mutually accepted reality of the First Fellowship of Believers who would put their own lives on the line to confess, proclaim and teach. If you can embrace these 15 statements in some kind of affirmative manner then we may move forward.