Jesus -- SNAG Or Macho Maniac


Spirituality and the Land
Author Russell Powell

Special adviser on Men and Christianity Russell Powell compares Jesus to today's male sterotypes and warns against the temptation to put him into a neat box.
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It trivialises the debate about men in the 1990s to say that it swings between machismo (beer, footy and belt the wife around) on the one side, and snags (the sensitive new age caring, emotion-showing, new man) on the other. But then, trivialising debate has become almost a way of life in Australia (have a listen to some of the talk in the immigration row). All the same, many people have tried to paint Jesus as either macho or a snag, to suit their own points of view.

Now, this is not a new thing. The righteous indignation of Jesus at wrong-doing, and the old testament stories of the triumphs of Israel, provided for some a justification of the Crusades, whereas for others, "turn the other cheek" evolved into doormat theology. Where, then does the truth lie? Are they both sides of the one coin, or mutually exclusive? And is it important, anyway?

First, let me say that extrapolating the personality traits, or perceived traits, of Jesus, can be a happy hunting ground for all sorts of extreme views. In fact, I don't think the source documents set out to give us a personality profile, so I'm hesitant to read too much into them. But since this is a Web site which deals with men's issues, it may be helpful to case-study this particular aspect of the historical Jesus. Besides, I'm not sure that it relates so much to Jesus' personality, as to his actions. We might say, for example, that "Fred Bloggs is naturally a sensitive, caring person...a real snag" meaning that's his personality. But you can't pigeon-hole Jesus in that way based on reading accounts of him in the Bible, and let me tell you why.


Case study 1: Real Messiahs don't cry

Let's look at the story of Jesus and Lazarus.The main thing this story is famous for is having the shortest verse in the Bible --"Jesus wept". (Hands up all those who learned that at Sunday School trivia). Is it okay for men to cry, to show their emotions? Well that's a bit of an irrelevance to this story, but it sticks in the minds of many people so, let's follow it a bit further.

 The weeping described is not actually the loud wailing that usually accompanied the grave scene in those times, but a quiet weeping. In fact, there were other times (Luke 8:52) when he railed against excessive shows of emotion (albeit it false emotion from hired mourners).

For me, the important thing is not so much that Jesus cried, but why he cried. Had he not been saying that Lazarus was going to be alright? Did he cry because suddenly he'd got there, and found out that he was dead, and he'd missed his chance to heal him? No -- he goes on to raise Lazarus, even though he was thoroughly dead (Jews of the time waited three days before someone was declared stone dead, because they thought the soul hovered near the body for three days).

So why did he cry? Nothing to do with being a snag, really, He was emotional certainly, and there's no doubt he loved them, but I believe the main reason that he cried, was at the fact Lazarus' family didn't trust him -- they didn't believe he could do what he said he would do. As men, that's often a big problem. We often see ourselves as independent -- the island described in Simon and Garfunkel's "I am a Rock" and we don't like to rely on anyone, we lean on our own resources. The fact that many men don't cry is an example of that. It would show weakness, that we are not in charge of ourselves.

We carry that through to our attitude to Jesus. He's a nice Palestinian carpenter, a good moral teacher -- but does that mean I should put him in charge of my life, as Christian teaching tells me? Why should he be my boss? Well, I believe that by what he did with Lazarus, Jesus proved exactly why he deserves to be in charge. He has the power over life and death -- he is God. Does your independence hamper your spiritual life? Does it prevent you from trusting God? Give us a comment on this page and tell us what you think.


Case Study 2: Fundamentalist on the loose

This story describes the fundamentalism you can see in modern-day Israel, where every so often, ultra-orthodox Jews will rail against what they see as the excesses of the society around them. Sabbath-breaking, nudity and a variety of other things are often the target of protesting Rabbis. Fans of the stained-glass Jesus, with a dinner plate behind his head, meekly holding a lamb, often find this story hard to take. It seems like another incident where Jesus lost his cool -- not crying this time, but in anger.(In fact, the authorities used this exchange to try to prove he was a dangerous man -- they accused him of saying he would destroy the Temple. But read the passage and you'll notice that's not what he said.) By the way, there's a bit of discussion about whether the problem was that the money changers should not have been inside the temple walls, or whether it was just that they were ripping off the people as they did it.

Why are we uncomfortable with this incident? I think it's because the idea of an angry God is about as fashionable as a Barry Manilow songbook. It might have been okay in its day, but we've moved beyond that. Or have we? While I wouldn't condone the parishioners of St Blogg's, Fairview all trooping down to their local market and conducting a book-burning, or bursting into the local service station and overturning the rack of porno magazines, we have to see that Jesus, if he is who he says he is, has a right to show his authority. He's not some macho maniac, prone to fits of rage, but the Son of God, who shows his displeasure at people who rip off each other, and thumb their nose at God at the same time.

There was a Jewish comedian who used to say "Yahweh is his name, GOD is his business." Do we take him seriously as God -- or have we created him in our image? Share your thoughts on this page -- what do you make of this incident in the life of Jesus? If he came back to earth today, would he be overturning tables in your life?

This is the first in a series of thought-provokers for men -- I hope you'll introduce yourself and make a comment, suggest topics for further discussion, tell us about your life, and be involved in this online community



John 11:1-45

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.. 7 Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." 8 But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" 9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." 12 His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." 16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles [a] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, [b] the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

28 And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. 35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days." 40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

Scriptures used from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright c1973,1978,1984,1987 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.


John 2:13-20

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

16 To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

18 Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" 19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body

22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Scriptures used from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright c1973,1978,1984,1987 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

If you would like to ask Russell a question about this article or any other matter relating to Christianity visit his Special Adviser's area by clicking on Special Advisers in the menu bar below.

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