IVP - Strangely Dim - Playing Jesus

December 3, 2004

Playing Jesus

By David A. Zimmerman

Playing Jesus pushes all my buttons.

Our church has a drama team that occasionally supplements the service with little sketches. A recent one had me, as Jesus, sitting around whooping it up with four disciples, when a harlot friend of mine crashes our party. Jesus and his disciples didn’t have any lines; the stars of the drama were the harlot and a singer hiding out in the choir loft, singing the Ce Ce Winans song “My Alabaster Box.” The rest of us weren’t to act; we were to “react,” as they say. I didn’t get to say cool Jesus stuff like “Let the dead bury the dead!” or “You brood of vipers!” or “Get thee behind me, Satan!” I just had to sit there, take everything in and think about how Jesus would react.

All of my issues came bubbling up to the surface. I jealously guard my personal space, and yet up came my harlot friend, rubbing her hands and her hair all over my bare feet. I worried about foot sweat; I worried about foot stink. Most of all, I worried about my personal space.

And then there was the problem that my friend was washing my feet. It’s not like my friend usually does my personal grooming for me, like she used to be my babysitter; I’m old enough to have been her babysitter, actually—except I’ve known her for only about eight months.

Oh—did I mention she’s eight months’ pregnant? Here’s this very pregnant woman struggling to get her face close enough to the stinky, sweaty feet of some old guy she barely knows, all so her hair can wipe away all the stink and sweat. And I’m just supposed to sit there and take it as an offer of kindness—no, of worship! Should I even be letting a woman who’s not my wife near my feet? What’s my church thinking? What was I thinking?

And then I realized that I wasn’t playing Jesus any longer, I was playing a Pharisee.

Pharisees, in case you didn’t know, were a politically powerful religious subculture within the community of faith in Jesus’ day. They did whatever they could to avoid personal pollution, whether from unclean human contact (like dirty feet, for instance) or sinful behavior (like, say, harlotry). They kept aloof from other people, avoiding unnecessary touch and uncomfortable situations. They were my kind of people, I’m afraid.

I don’t know how Jesus made it through a day of everyone wanting to touch him, everyone trying to catch him doing something naughty or saying something stupid, everyone feeling the need to treat him as almost unapproachable and yet approaching him anyway. I don’t know how he managed to survive when he was always on display. And yet, here I was facing my congregation, called on to be Jesus the Serene Son of God.

I couldn’t tap into Jesus’ emotions for the sketch because they were so far removed from my own, visceral reaction to the scene. But I do know from the scene that Jesus knew a gift when he saw it coming, and he was gracious enough to receive it as such. In that respect Jesus showed that he wasn’t just a good God, he was a good man. And even if I struggle to be a good man, I might be able to pull it off if I pretend I’m Jesus.


My book's out. If you've read it, do me a favor and write a review at Amazon--unless you hate it.

If you're anywhere near Chicago, come to my book release party at Borders Bookstore in Wheaton Tuesday, December 7, at 7:30pm. We'll have costumes, games, prizes, all that sort of stuff. Tell all your friends.

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. Have a great Advent!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at December 3, 2004 9:43 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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