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December 13, 2003
Column #1,163

"Jesus: An Interview Across Time"

     I recently wrote a Foreword to the most important book I've ever read, other than the Bible: "Jesus: An Interview Across Time" by Dr. Andrew Hodges, a practicing psychiatrist in Birmingham, AL, a man accustomed to interviewing people about their lives, motives, hopes, fears and dreams.

     Imagine you could "interview Jesus, the most remarkable human being of all time. What would you ask? What would he say? That is the premise" of this book. It is as if Jesus were sitting on a hill in modern Galilee, chatting leisurely. The answers are hypothetical, of course, an interpretation of what Jesus might have been like as a person.

     What would Mary have told him about the Incarnation?

     "Mother never told me directly who I was as a child....She let my father tell me.

     Joseph?

     "No, my father.

     You mean your father in heaven? How did He tell you?

     "He first disclosed my coming to the prophets who came before me. Then when the time was approaching, he told my mother and her cousin, Elizabeth....He also mentioned us in Scriptures so that everyone could know who we were. In fact, that's how my Father told me who I was. He left me written messages in the Scriptures.'"

     Why didn't God just come out and tell you who you were?

     "That would have changed everything that made my life important. Then I wouldn't have been human like you. I would know nothing about trusting him, about living by faith. How could I teach you about faith if I hadn't experienced it myself?"

     Dr. Hodges worried about how to present Jesus as both human and divine. If he were omniscient, he would not have to learn things. A key verse was that as a boy, "He grew in wisdom and stature in favor of God and man." Thus, Jesus could not be omniscient. "He veiled his omniscience in his unconscious," says the psychiatrist. Jesus' understanding grew over time.

     For example, he was teased as a boy about being illegitimate, and got into fights.

     You told your followers to turn the other cheek. "I did and I meant it....The Scriptures also say, 'Love is not easily angered.' They don't say it is never angered."

     Then he read Psalm 69, 'I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face..." He was to suffer.

     He read that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and thought it a coincidence that he was born there too. "A short time later I came across another prophecy that stated the Messiah would come out of Egypt (Hosea 11.1). That struck me as strange an Israelite to be born in Bethlehem and from Galilee - how could he also be from Egypt?"

     A week later his mother unpacked a trunk and removed a cloth with an Egyptian design.  "Where did we get this?" Jesus asked. Mary told him that Herod had heard the Messiah had been born and was executing all boys under age 2, so they moved to Egypt.

     "Now I knew that, like Abraham, Moses and Joseph, I had been to Egypt." He "really began to study the Scriptures about the Messiah....Next I came across a prophecy in the seventh chapter of Isaiah which said the Messiah would be born of a virgin." Jesus had figured out he was born less than nine months after his parents married. "When I read that Scripture, that was the first time I had the thought that I might be the Messiah.

     "I was almost embarrassed at such a thought."

     The parents of John the Baptist visited and whispered to Mary: "Does he know how he got here yet? And those gifts. Have you shown them to him yet?" Jesus wondered, "What gifts?"

     He read Psalm 72 which said that the son of David who will reign as king will have gifts brought to him by men from far away.

     When Jesus, aged 12, was in the temple, Hodges has him ask about Jeremiah's prophesy of the King's coming being associated with mothers grieving over the loss of their children. A Rabbi spoke of a rumor the Messiah had been born 10-12 years ago, that angels had appeared to shepherds and wise men from the East came bearing gifts to a child in Bethlehem. "Herod became so frightened that he murdered all the young Jewish boys..."

     "At that moment I discovered my unique identity. I knew who I was. I was the Messiah!"

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