December 13, 2003
"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
"Mother never told me directly
who I was as a child....She let my father tell me.
"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
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
"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!"