In the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, we find Jesus encountering demons seemingly on a regular basis. In the synagogue in Capernaum he silences and heals a demon possessed man. Later, after healing Simon Peter’s mother-in law, among those who come seeking his help are those possessed by demons. And whenever the evil spirits cry out to identify Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus quickly tells them to be quiet. He is always silencing them because they threaten to destroy his mission. Scripture scholars call this the “Messianic Secret of Mark.”
Why keep his identity a secret? Why not come right out and tell the truth? The common understanding of the Messiah was someone who was to be a powerful militaristic leader who, by force of arms, would liberate Israel from Roman rule. Violence and bloodshed would bring freedom. This was not the kind of messiah Jesus was to be. He saw himself as the Suffering Servant that the prophet Isaiah wrote of, who brought freedom and salvation through what he suffered, not through suffering he would inflict. If the demons had been allowed to proclaim Jesus as the messiah as he was commonly understood, it would have been a false understanding of Messiahship that would play upon the ignorance and frustrations of the people.
Jesus wanted to be known on his own terms and accepted for who he really was, not by some identity that was forced upon him by others. Gay and lesbian folk should be able to tap into this with little or no problem. We can understand what Jesus must have felt every time we hear some self-righteous know-it-all, speaking in God’s name, telling us that we should not identify ourselves as “gay” or “lesbian” and then proceed to give their definitions of us and dictate to us how we should identify our own reality.
We still have this tendency to make Jesus over in our image rather than accepting him on his terms:
- For some, Jesus is little more than the inoffensive Pillsbury Doughboy. All you have to do is spiritually poke him in his tummy and he’ll giggle and OK whatever we do, right or wrong because he is love, right?
- For others, Jesus is the “Bully of Heaven,” the “Celestial Policeman” who just can’t wait for us to sin so as to pounce and punish.
- Others have a vision of Jesus as simply a disinterested, removed individual, locked in a long ago historical moment, uninvolved with our needs and struggles today.
Jesus either becomes someone who demands too much from us or someone who demands absolutely nothing at all. The power of the Rock of Ages is thus reduced to the nothingness of bubbles from a child’s bubble pipe.
So who is the real Jesus?
- He is LORD and KING, whose power in manifested in his command over demons and disease, his mercy and great patience.
- He is SAVIOR and REDEEMER, redeeming us from the nothingness of sin and saving us from a life of loneliness and falsehood.
- He is RABBI, who teaches his students, not only through his spoken words but also through the language of his actions, of healing touches, comforting words, multiplied food stuffs, washed feet and nail-pierced hands.
- He is MASTER, who calls us to his wounded side where we will find rest for our burdened souls and weary minds. But not only that. Jesus is also,
- Our FRIEND, who desires to share our pilgrim journey with us.
- He is our BROTHER who defends and supports his sisters and brothers while at the same time challenging them to grow and shine like the stars.
- And he is our BELOVED, whose love cannot diminish or be measured, a lover whose love brought us into existence and whose heart continues to beat with a life-giving passion and desire for each of us that we do not deserve, yet can claim as our own nonetheless.
Let us cast off the false images of Jesus that may burden us and, like Simon’s mother-in-law, take Jesus by his hand and rise up so as to minister to him by bringing the real, authentic Jesus to those who need him — particularly to those beaten down and wounded in his name. May the real Jesus shine forth through his gay and lesbian lovers — the Jesus who was and always will be the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Tom Yeshua is the pen name of Thomas E.L. Cloutier OFS, a transitional deacon who taught theology for 30 years at Nashua (N.H.) Catholic Regional Junior High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., and a master’s in divinity and theology from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.