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Pastor's Piece:

Who is Jesus for you? That is an important question of faith for all Christians to answer. One approach to answering that question has been to compile evidence to determine who Jesus was as an historical person. The search for the historical Jesus is not a new activity, but a recent book that I read this summer has continued this quest for a deeper understanding of Jesus as a character in human history. In his book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, author Reza Aslan comes to a conclusion about Jesus that is significantly different from the one that the Christian faith has. Aslan concludes that Jesus was a charismatic leader, determined to be an earthly king with a focus on establishing God's Kingdom on earth, using whatever means possible. According to Aslan, the use of literal swords was a legitimate means to accomplishing these goals for the historic Jesus.

Mr. Aslan's conclusions have caught my attention. If Jesus were just another combatant prepared to use violent means to accomplish his goals, with a drive and focus to better only his own group of people at the expense of all others, I would lose my own personal zeal for following the carpenter from Nazareth. In this sinful, broken world military measures must still at times be reluctantly used. I believe, however, that Jesus acted to establish God's Kingdom through peaceful means in his earthly life. This is also the conclusion of the majority of people who have studied Jesus' movement through the centuries. If a literal sword were truly what Jesus advocated, I would have little reason to hope for the well being of the world and the salvation of humankind. I believe that Jesus was the forerunner of the time when spears would be no more, and swords would be transformed into plowshares. It is true that warriors are as needed today as ever to defend the peace in this sin sick world, but I look to the day when they too can lay down their arms because the perfect peace that Jesus embodied and proclaimed through words and actions of love has dawned. Jesus provides a way to a day without war. It is the promise of that day that truly gives me hope.

Mr. Aslan is a gifted writer who provides some good insights to the historical circumstances of Israel under Roman rule. His book is entertaining and his conclusions are thought provoking, but to accept all of his conclusions as historical facts is dangerous. If I believed Mr. Aslan to be correct, I, like Mr. Aslan, could no longer call myself a Christian. Mr. Aslan has contributed in a meaningful way to the continuing search for the historic Jesus, and for that I am grateful. I conclude, however, that a view that sees Jesus more as a warrior than a peacemaker is unacceptable.

- Pastor John Holliday

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