According to The Boston Globe, we have a new Jesus, and His name is Iron Jesus. Forgive me, but I can’t help thinking of that episode of Hogan’s Heroes when Hogan, eager to buck up Colonel Klink’s momentary loss of self-confidence so this man’s easily-suggestible, blind egotism can go on serving the Allied cause, informs the kommandant that the men in the barracks refer to him as the “iron colonel.” Klink really dug the sound of that. The name thrilled him.
Of course, “iron” in that sense denotes strength, courage, indomitable will, unwavering purpose and all that good stuff; it’s just possible Jesus might have approved of that. However, as you can see in the photograph, this is not that kind of Iron Jesus. It’s more like Black & Decker Steam Iron Jesus, set to join the endless pantheon of other Jesuses, such as Potato Chip Jesus, Window Jesus, Cloud Formation Jesus, Grilled Cheese Sandwich Jesus, Shroud of Turin Jesus, Rock Jesus, Tea Leaves Jesus, and so on, a limitless string of accidental or naturally-occurring Jesuses who have plenty of similarly-made Virgin Marys to keep them company.
This begs the question: what did Jesus really look like? And then this: how was He “off camera,” so to speak? We’ll never know, of course, as no contemporary ever described or drew a portrait of Him, and the person we read about in the bible hardly seems human in the usual sense (which might be the whole idea I suppose). The Jesus in the bible is idealized, deified, only speaks in aphorisms. He’s practically a marble statue. What about Jesus the man? What about Man Jesus?
This is what I would like to see: someone should write a fanciful short story about a modern-day time traveler who learns ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, studies the customs of Galileans and so on, and sets off on a plan to infiltrate the apostles to kill Judas, just to see how things would turn out if the traitor of all traitors was out of the way. Our time traveler knows half the point of Jesus’s life was His grand denouement. The whole story would seem to fall apart if he wasn’t martyred, so what would happen then? Intriguing, wouldn’t you say? So this guy, the time traveler, conquers the space/time continuum — a small hurdle, but he knows some people over at NASA who are secretly working on the problem — and manages to insinuate himself into the apostles. Initially, he’s disappointed to see how short and unattractive Jesus really is, how He has such a big, hooked nose, and is put off by the Savior’s shrill, piping voice and lack of manners. Apparently, Jesus thought nothing of interrupting people. He was often petty and querulous, and made horrible sounds while eating. It also turns out Mary Magdalene was a fat, coarse, unintelligent woman, not a nice girl at all — our time traveler has no idea what Jesus could have possibly seen in her, for despite being put off by Jesus’s disdain of social niceties, it soon becomes obvious that He is a brilliant and well-spoken man and certainly could do better than this bimbo. Not to mention it didn’t look good with her hanging around.
To continue: the time traveler, who names himself Fredo by the way, and has decided to pose as a Corinthian to explain his bad accent and imperfect speech, uses his charm and makes himself useful while plotting to do away with Judas. As Jesus and His posse travel from town to town, Fredo’s the one who goes ahead to make all the arrangements, finding cheap places to stay and sometimes employs underhanded practices to keep everyone fed with a little spending money besides. Fredo, it seems, can procure everything. Jesus asks no questions and the disciples are delighted with his services. Plenty of food, plenty of wine, Fredo is all right. He even came through with barrels of fish and baskets of bread that time when supplies dwindled low during some big meeting on a mount. And that wedding they were invited to when the wine ran out? Fredo saved the day then, too. How did we ever get along without him? they all ask.
Now a twist: Judas turns out to be a great guy. Keen sense of humor, fun to be with, he’s the one who warms up the crowd before Jesus speaks. Judas even saves Fredo’s life when Fredo cheats a Pharisee out of a few pieces of silver in a sort of three card monty scam. The Pharisee is all for retribution but Judas smoothes the whole thing over. Seems he knows the Pharisee, they’ve had some dealings together.
So Fredo can’t kill Judas. Judas isn’t a reprehensible human being at all, he’s history’s greatest drinking buddy. He knows a million jokes. He was the one who came up with “pull my finger.” How can you kill the guy who’s the life of the party?
So Fredo talks Judas into becoming the world’s first Christian missionary. It takes a long time, but he finally convinces Judas to travel to Rome to spread Jesus’s teachings. It was a very hard sell, but Jesus had lately been telling the boys to be more proactive, so Fredo uses that to win Judas over to the idea. When Judas finally relents, Fredo gets him a donkey and a map and sends Judas on his way.
On we go. Palm Sunday. The Last Supper. Fredo can barely keep a straight face when Jesus predicts one of them will betray Him. Garden of Gethsemane. Expecting something, Jesus? Fredo thinks with a wry smile. It’s gonna be a long night. And then...
Judas shows up! What the—? He strolls over and kisses Jesus. Then the soldiers move in. Peter draws a sword and hacks off one of the soldiers’ ears. Jesus tells Peter to cool it and turns to heal the soldier’s ear — heals it, no tricks. Then the soldiers lead Jesus roughly out of there. As He passes Fredo, Jesus looks him square in the eye and says in perfect English, with a good American accent, “Nice try.”
Our time traveler goes: “Whoa.”
Something like that.