“i am not the christ,” declares jesus
A collective Messiah?
RACHEL This is Emisoras Latinas, broadcasting from an undisclosed location in a splendid valley of Galilee. We are bringing you the final interviews with Jesus Christ in this, his second coming to earth.
JESUS Shalim, Rachel!
RACHEL Shalim? But you’ve always greeted me with “Shalom”.
JESUS We used to say “Shalim” in my time. It’s the Aramaic. People say “Shalom” now, but that’s Hebrew. It’s the same thing I’m wishing you peace.
RACHEL Well, say it however you wish, because peace is what is most needed in this world. You must know that by now. The three religions that profess belief in the one true God have spawned a history of violence among human beings. I’m referring to Judaism, the religion of your ancestors; to Christianity, the religion you founded; and to Islam, the religion preached by Muhammad centuries after you lived.
JESUS I must insist with you, Rachel I never founded any religion.
RACHEL Well, then they founded it without your permission. Because there it is, and it’s making a lot of noise.
JESUS And by what name do they call on God in that Christian religion?
RACHEL By what name? By your name Jesus Christ. That’s the reason why I’ve been calling you that, Jesus Christ, in all these interviews. Aren’t you the Christ? And isn’t the Christ the messiah, the liberator?
JESUS Listen, Rachel. For a long time my people awaited an anointed one, a messiah, somebody who would be a leader and make things happen in this world. They wanted him to break the yoke of the tyrants and to bring justice for the poor. At first, they imagined him coming on a horse, like a great warrior. Later on they saw him as a suffering servant. And then …
RACHEL And then you arrived.
JESUS No, a lot of others arrived. Before me there were many who were waging the battle. From Moses down to the Maccabees, countless people gave their lives for the liberation of our people. Women too – Miriam, Judith, Esther … There were so many prophets who announced a new world.
RACHEL And then, you arrived.
JESUS What happened then is that some people gradually discovered that the Christ, the messiah so long awaited, was perhaps not one person, but many persons, a great many.
RACHEL A collective messiah?
JESUS Yes, the people themselves – a people who walks in darkness and sees a great light. That light is their own face reflected in the face of God.
RACHEL I have to confess … I don’t understood you.
JESUS The thing is, the messiah didn’t come, as some think; nor will he come, as other hope. The messiah is always present. Wherever the Spirit of God blows, there is the messiah. Where two or three struggle together for justice, there the messiah is struggling.
RACHEL But then you…
JESUS Listen, Rachel, once when I was in Nazareth the rabbi read from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. The prophet felt sad and overwhelmed by the misery in which his people were living. Then God took him to a field full of bones and told him I will blow on these dry bones, and they will have life. And the bones gradually were covered with flesh and blood. They joined together, and God’s spirit entered into them, and they came back to life. It was a very numerous people, a countless multitude, like the grains of sand on a beach, like the stars in the heaven. I always liked that story.
RACHEL And that people was the messiah?
JESUS That’s the way I understood it. The messiah, the Christ – it’s the poor people when they stand up strong, it’s the women when they lift up their heads – they are like a great body that rises up and stands straight.
RACHEL But then, what about you?
JESUS What do you mean, what about me?
RACHEL Are you the messiah, or the Christ, or …?
JESUS Yes, I am, and so are you and all the men and women who struggle.
RACHEL So, Jesus Christ, …
JESUS I prefer to be called just Jesus.
RACHEL Well, that’s what we’ll call you in the next interviews, which will be the last in our series, which is giving special coverage to your second coming. From someplace in Galilee, this is Rachel Perez reporting for all of you who are tuned in to Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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Waiting for the messiah
The word “messiah” is a Hebrew word that means “anointed”. In biblical tradition the king was anointed by a prophet who poured oil on his head, and that anointing made him legitimate before the people. The first anointed king in the history of the people of Israel was Saul, and after him came David and Solomon. Thus the basic meaning of the word “messiah” is a political one.
From around the 6th century before Jesus, after the Babylonian exile, the people of Israel began to nourish great hopes for the arrival of a liberating messiah. In the time of Jesus the expectation of a messiah was a frequent topic of people’s conversations. Christianity recognized the Jewish Jesus as the messiah who had been announced and long awaited, and for that reason he was called Jesus “Christ”, which is the Greek word for the Hebrew “messiah”, that is, “anointed”.
Judaism expected that the messiah would be an individual person, but it also thought in terms of a collective messiah. There was also expectation of a “messianic era”, and people talked about “messianic events.” The prophets, especially Isaiah, often prophesied about the “messianic age.”
The expectation of the messiah’s arrival exercised a constant influence on the history of Judaism. In the darker periods of its history, the people of Israel always found consolation and hope in the promise of an anointed one who would come to free them. Over the centuries, this belief has given rise to the appearance of many false messiahs. One of the most famous was Sabbatai Zevi, who in the 16th century attracted a following of Jews from all over Europe. At the end, he was forced to convert to Islam. In our own time there have been rabbis who viewed the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 as a messianic event.
The messianic proletariat
Edgar Morin is a French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist, who explains the great influence exercised on Jewish culture by the idea of the messiah as liberator, and also by the idea of the collective messiah:
The idea of the chosen people is fundamental for the Jewish religion, just as the idea of a saving messiah is. In the profane thought of the Jewish Marx, the “chosen” or the “anointed” one is the proletariat, and its messianic mission is to save humankind: it is the proletarian class that will save humanity. The notion of the messiah, which is the point of union between the Jewish world and the Christian world, reappears in Marx. The messiah will arrive, but in contrast to the indefinite waiting of the Jews for the messiah, the proletarian class is already active and will realize the messianic labor, which is salvation. Whereas Christian salvation is a post-mortem, otherworldly salvation, Marxist salvation is salvation on earth.
In the tradition of the prophets
Jesus tell Rachel of his confidence in a collective messiah. His words have their basis in the prophetic texts and especially in the account of the “dry bones”, one of the most suggestive passages of the prophet Ezekiel (37,1-14). Paul also takes up the idea of the collective messiah in 1 Corinthians 12,1-31. From the times of the prophet Micah (2,12-13) the idea of the messianic status of the poor began to enter into the Israelite mentality: a “remnant” of the people of Israel, held captive in Babylon, would be the bearer of the messianic promises (Zephaniah 3,11-13). Jesus was faithful to this tradition and never sought to hold a personal monopoly on messianic action. He saw himself as integrated into the humble messianism of the poor, and he rejected the individually personalized and triumphalist type of messianism that many of his fellow Jews were hoping for.
The Christians are Christs and Messiahs
Jesus of Nazareth was a man, and he is also a symbol of humanity and for humanity. Affirming him as a symbol means that he is more than the concrete individual, Jesus of Nazareth, because thousands upon thousands of persons in the course of these two thousand years are included in him.
Since the word “Christian” derives from the word “Christ”, the Greek word for “anointed” or “messiah”, then Christians are people who no longer expect an individual messiah, but are rather themselves messiahs. They are messiahs for one another and with one another, they are liberators of one another, and together they all build a world of human relations inspired in attitudes and activities they learned from Jesus: bread and goods are shared, the sick are cared for, differences are celebrated, strangers are welcomed, women live in equality with men…. They don’t perform miracles or extraordinary works, nor do they expect such things from any “special” person, any individual savior, or any leader or boss. Rather, their attitudes and their actions are decided upon jointly; they are debated and organized in community, a community of messiahs, a messianic community.