“So what was that last thing you heard Jesus say?” demanded Albertus. “I wish you’d stick with Greek, you know; or have you noticed? You’re the only Jew here.”
John frowned. “Yeah, I’ve noticed.” He paused. It means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Lydia’s eyes brightened. “Oh, I’ve heard that before; why would he have said such a thing?”
“I heard someone tell me it signified that when God put all the sins of the world on Jesus, that God turned his back on him, that for the first time ever, Jesus was separated from his Father…” began Eusebius.
John laughed, a bitter, derisive sort of laugh. “What a load of B.S,” he commented, then frowned, when he noticed the shocked look that Lydia gave him. As if she had never heard such language before. Of course, she wasn’t a fisherman, was she?
“Excuse me…” she began.
“He’d been betrayed by one of his closest friends, and all the rest of them had run away. He had been beaten nearly to death with a whip, he’d had a crown made out of thorns pushed onto his scalp, he’d been kicked, he’d had his beard and hair plucked out by the roots, he’d been spit on and mocked and then finally nailed naked to a cross and left to die a slow and miserable death. What the hell would you have expected him to say, huh? ‘Oh praise you God, for this great and marvelous blessing?!’”
“Well, he is God’s Son, you know…” began Lydia.
“He was a man!” shouted John, loudly. “Don’t you freaking get it? Jesus was a human being, just like you, just like your husband, just like me.” He could feel his nostrils flaring, his heart was thumping; he wanted to get control of himself again, but the words just kept coming. “How did you respond when you were beaten? You were ready to sacrifice to the great god Domitian, weren’t you?”
“But he was God…” began Lydia.
“Tell me Eusebius, did you think that Domitian was divine?”
He shook his head.
“Did you have any doubt about who Jesus was? Had you begun to question the rightness of your cause, the certainty of eternal life?”
Eusebius shook his head.
“But you were still going to pour wine on Caesar’s altar.”
He nodded, bowed his head, started to shake.
“But he was God!” insisted Lydia.
“He was a man; and he died like men die when they’re on a cross, when they’ve been beaten: he was in agony, he was worn out, and he was alone. Everyone had abandoned him, and now he was just dying there, and nothing was happening, and life was going on without him, and tomorrow he was going to be dead, but everyone else would still be there. The sky was dark, no dove descended from the sky, no words shook the earth announcing that “this is my Son, in whom I’m well pleased.” He was stuck on that Roman cross, and three women and one friend stood there helplessly and watched him die and there wasn’t a thing any of us could do to help him, to make him feel better, to make the pain go away.” John sobbed. “And so he just died, alone, abandoned, and hopelessly.”
“But he was God.”
“He died by himself, killed by the enemies of God. What the hell else was he going to say, huh?”
“But how could Jesus feel despair?” asked Lydia.
“How could he not?” asked John. “He was a human being; he had the same feelings, the same hopes, the same needs that all the rest of us have. Sure he was God, is God—since he lives again—but he was human, and that meant all the things it means for us to be human. He never screwed up like the rest of us, but otherwise, he felt what we feel: he was sad, he was happy, he was angry, he was scared, he felt lonely and he felt despair.” John shook his head. “Why are you Greeks so loathe to admit that there’s nothing wrong with being made of flesh?” He picked up his cup, looked at it, rubbed his fingers on the smooth sides of the ceramic bowl. “God created us to be like we are: to sweat, to get tired, to make love, to touch and feel, to laugh and cry. This cup contains wine, and the wine makes me feel good; I like the taste, I savor the experience, I wallow in it; I live my life fully, and rejoice in what I feel, what I taste, what I see, what I touch. The world around us is full of pleasures, of satisfactions, of enjoyment, and it is there to be enjoyed.”
“How Epicurean…” commented Lydia.
John ignored her, went on. “There is no virtue in denying your senses, in pretending that you don’t feel; no virtue attaches to you from seeking discomfort instead of pleasure. You are not any closer to God, you are not any more spiritual when you refrain from anything that might be fun. Why is the sun warm, the air filled with the smell of sweet flowers, the grass green, the water wet? Why is there wine, and bread and fruit? Do you cringe from pain? Why does the noxious, the painful, the ugly and the uncomfortable make you flinch away? Why are you attracted to the pleasant, the sweet, the warm, the loving, the happy? Jesus was human like that. He loved life; he felt life. He experienced the full range of emotions.” John paused. “And you know what? We human beings were created in God’s image; we’re just like him, the lot of us. So feeling, being alive—these were not new experiences to Jesus; God knew those feelings; God has those feelings. Feelings—they’re not an evil thing. They simply are, like the blue in the sky, or the wet in water. You seem bothered by Jesus’ cry of despair when he died.” John paused, shrugged his shoulders. “I’d be bothered only if he hadn’t.”