The historical Jesus the Christ is a phenomenon which will continue to excite studies and generate controversy for all time because it has dozens of perspectives including Jesus as the quintessence of realism. In philosophy, realism implies the existence of an objective world independent of the mind, a world of the practical and material as against a world in which things exist solely in the mind.
In this brief, we look at the life and times of Jesus the Christ before His advent, ministry, and exit using the ordinary meaning of the word realism which the 2017 edition of Encarta dictionary defines as “a practical understanding and acceptance of the actual nature of the world rather than an idealized or romantic nature of it.” For instance, anyone who expects a transgression-free church must be an idealist. A realist accepts the existence of several shades of misdeeds in every church. We commence this discourse with a tiny review of the pre-advent Jesus based on legend.
Permit us to introduce a bit of ‘romantic nature’ here. According to legend, at a point in time in the Family of Heaven, God the Father convened a meeting. The main item on the agenda had to do with the slide of the human race into chaos and self-destruction. Sodom and Gomorrah detailed in Genesis 18 and 19 personified the decadence to which the human race had placed itself. After intense discussions (please avoid the question whether I participated in the crucial meeting) God the Father as Chairman posed the question, “Who will go and save earth?” The question can be interpreted to mean a consensus on the impossibility of humans to reverse the slide which commenced in the days of Cain. Legend insists utter silence reigned at the venue of the meeting because of the dangers of living among human beings as known by members of the Family of Heaven (see Luke 20 verses 9-12 for an analogy of how husbandmen or caretakers of God’s earth treated God’s messengers, the prophets). Legend submits Jesus accepted the challenge and agreed to make the journey to earth.
Realism can be extracted in the legend of pre-advent Jesus. God created the earth and has dominion over it but as the dwellers of the earth drifted and maligned the earth and its Creator, God appeared to have had two options: destroy human dwellings the way it happened twice (Noah’s community, regarded as the Bosporus region in modern day Turkey and Sodom/Gomorrah traced by archeologists to Jordan and Israel).
But realism implied another approach to management of depraved human communities other than by fire or water. The ideal would have been to continue to form new earth dwellings each time the inhabitants of existing ones got out of hand. A better option – and a more realistic one – pointed to long term salvage operations through moral suasion. Jesus, regarded as a moral philosopher visited and lived among Isrealites to institute a model or sample to be applied by all of earth’s human communities. The unfortunate fallout turned out to be the case of mistaken identity. The sample or archetype mistook the promise of a Messiah to be a political freedom fighter as against a moral savior. A freedom fighter the people expected, should generate socio-political and economic freedom. But Heaven’s conception of direct intervention rested in moral revolution as the catalyst for socio-economic emancipation and development. We continue today to make mistakes about God’s promises or interpret it our idealistic way.
Jesus came to earth as a child of realism to avoid continuous destruction of earth by God the Father. His mission aimed at salvation of mankind from itself.
Throughout the three-year ministry of Jesus activities concentrated on moral change as a precursor for survival and sustainable development of earth.
Realism further manifested in the channel through which Jesus entered the world. If He had dropped from the sky and entered without a defined parentage and extended family the mystery and wonder would have rubbed off in negative form. Who would want to work with a ghost or mystery man?
The immediate post-advent period of the Jesus tenure would also have had a different texture in a framework of a political revolutionary if Jesus had been born into a family in the upper-upper income bracket. For instance although Moses entered Egypt through a Jewish family he grew up in an imperial/aristocratic family because of his destiny as a political revolutionary. His location without doubt provided him with inside information on the workings of the leadership of Egypt which ensured his success in his divine mission. The path for Jesus had to follow a different line for it to reach its goal.
Realism manifested in the way Jesus arrived as well as the family He came through. Jesus revolution required mass participation and royal upbringing would have been counterproductive. He would have been regarded as ‘their king’ or another act by the oppressors for the good of the oppressors. The arrival of Jesus in the family of a carpenter with a manger as labor room and maternity ward must have made ordinary folks see Him as one of them.
The next stage relates to His short but eventful ministry. The ecclesiastical and lay life of Jesus were filled with words and actions which confirmed application of the tenets of realism of which few analogies are presented here.
i) As early as twelve years of age Jesus stayed back at the Temple and got involved in scriptural and philosophical disputations with highly learned religious leaders, some of them doctors of religious law. It would have been easy for Jesus the child to have told the parents, “I thought you people know my mission; please I will come after I am done with my Father’s work.” Rather, Jesus left the exercise ‘forthwith’ to join His earthly parents for the journey back home. Verse 49 of Luke 2 says, “Then He went to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them (see Luke 2 verses 41-52 for the full story). Would some people have seen a decision to stay back in the temple as stubbornness and refused to sign up with the new movement?
ii) The first miracle recorded for Jesus in John 2 verses 1-12 involved turning water to wine in a secular ceremony. Jesus disliked Mary’s directive more so several people were already soaked in wine but realism compelled obedience to avert humiliation on a proud mother.
iii) In Matthew 17 verses 24-27, some Jews enquired of the disciples whether Jesus believes in taxation. Jesus asked Peter whether indigenes or foreigners pay temple tax. The Jews knew the right answer but wanted to lay a trap for Jesus. In verse 27 Jesus displayed realism in a simple reaction, “We don’t want to cause trouble.” He directed Peter to go a-fishing to raise money for the tax. Today’s powerful priests in Nigeria would dare the tax collectors, boast about the several Senior Advocates of Nigeria in their churches, and drive away in their SUVs with mobile policemen in attendance. And imagine evangelical Christians in the United States of America who were the strongest backers of Mr. Donald Trump a tax dodger.
iv) An adulterous woman faced capital punishment by way of stoning (John 8 verses 1-11). Jesus requested any sinless person to be the first to cast a stone against her. Jesus knew the woman had committed the offence by the statement, “Go sin no more” which can be interpreted, “You are guilty as charged but I hereby set you free (for some reasons not stated). Go, and refrain from the same sin.”
v) Jesus’ position in Mark 2 verse 27 should be seen as the summary or the quintessence of realism and we quote, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The disciples of Jesus were accused by the Jews of harvesting which implied ‘working’ on Sabbath day in contravention of the Torah and in particular, the 4th Commandment. Although Jesus knew plucking of corn and removing the husk between two fingers had approval in the Talmud, realism played a role in the act of the disciples which Jesus endorsed. Why should the disciples be weakened by hunger or lose their lives because of an unrealistic tradition when King David (great, great, great grandfather if Jesus) once ate food meant for priests (see 1 Samuel 21 verses 1-6).
The third phase of the life and times continued to witness acts of realism. Towards the end of His tenure some acts of realism are mentioned below.
a) On being confronted with the certainty of high torture and cessation of the physical body Jesus had to choose between use of magical powers to survive or yield to the colonial police (see Matthew 26, verses 53-54). But neutralization of the police would have truncated the entire redemption process and made biblical prophecy about the Messiah a lie. He stood and faced the executioners and today Jesus has a name above all names, more invoked than the Father’s name.
b) Despite Jesus’s status as someone on a universal mission a personal action emanated from the cross. “Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother” (John 19 verses 26-27) granted care of Mary to John the disciple. How many of us today forget our mothers and fathers because we hold ‘big’ positions which require focus on many? Some of us prefer to wait for them to expire before we organize expensive and ‘befitting’ ceremonies to herald them out of the world. But as my mother Madam Jenny has said several times, parents require ‘befitting living.’
There are several other aspects of realism in the life and times of Jesus the Christ. Life is objective reality where ideals are good but realities are what obtain. In our secular lives we need realism to live the good life. Realism can be applied in our daily operations in several ways. Why for instance should someone hand much of his/her salary to automobile mechanics to the exclusion of nutrition and children education when public means of transportation are available although uncomfortable? Why should anyone start a house he/she cannot complete in a decade? Why would someone continue with the orientation that children are free gifts from God and work to have enough children to make up a football team when the person’s means of livelihood can accommodate two children? Why must mothers insist on schools far beyond the financial capacities of her husband and herself? How many Nigerian rulers today went beyond village secondary schools? Should ‘aso ebi’ or uniform for every party be in the budget of someone in the low income group? Why should any rational person sell all he or she has to invest in campaigns for a political office when a fall back cannot be ascertained? Why should a church insist on building a mega-structure to compete with others when the membership can afford just a modest building? Why should a General Overseer own private jets and harass parish pastors who are unable to generate targeted amounts of money from longsuffering members? Jesus rode on a donkey just once. The rest of the time He trekked or used dugouts for His successful ministry.
Why must any level of government stretch beyond limit to execute projects beyond its financial capacity? Why should anyone, including me, be involved in over trading? (Investing beyond available resources). In general, why do we live beyond our means?
In the current election cycle, why should we continue to support those we know have fleeced this country at one level or the other or deceived the people in one way or another? Does realism not imply we queue behind new faces although they may continue the rape of our economy? What tastes good on the tongue of one person can also taste good on the tongue of another person.
These and more are questions for everyone in an era of severe economic and social difficulties. Legitimate ambition must be encouraged but because vaulting ambition can be counterproductive and dangerous it should be discouraged.
Join Jesus today, be a realist and enjoy normal blood pressure.
I rest my case.