Sometimes, our lives are so busy there doesn’t even seem to be time to dream, much less post to our blogs.
This past Sunday, my brain decided it needed a time-out and even though I was ready to get up around 8:30, I suddenly feel asleep again and into a strange dream.
In the dream, I was in the Sahara Desert. The desert of mountainous sand dunes, cresting and plunging like an endless stormy sea. I was in the desert of the Arab Muslims and they were gathering a great army for battle upon a crest of an enormous depression in the sand, like the mouth of a volcano.
The soldiers, jubilantly cheering and calling out to one another as though they were at a pep rally, were under the command of a single man. He was waving his arms and shouting orders; it was as though I could see through his eyes or over his shoulder and felt the waves of joy emanating from the troops. They were divided into units of brigades and each brigade had a banner. As each brigade formed up, the banner bearer called out the brigade’s name.
“The Islamic Brigade of Connecticut!” cried the next banner bearer.
“The Connecticut Brigade?” I repeated incredulously.
“Silence!” the commander said to me. He waved me on. Now I knew who I was; I was a reporter and photographer assigned to interview and photograph the troops before the battle. To a dreamer’s horror, I found myself admiring them.
‘But the Connecticut Brigade?!’ I mused to myself about the unlikely soldiers. What would Connecticut citizens be doing in a desert battle? What was going on here?
Up ahead, a group of shrouded women leaned out from the ranks, in curiosity. I hurried over to them. They would make an unusual story, I thought.
In the front of the ranks was a young girl of about seven or eight. The women, when they saw my camera, all shrank back behind the girl’s mother. I told them now to worry; I wouldn’t take their pictures.
The girl was quite a sweet little child.
“Do you realize that you’re sending your daughter to her death?” I asked the mother. She and the other women looked at one another.
“Oh yes,” she replied, the others nodding in agreement. “It’s a great honor. We’re very proud of her.”
I kneeled down to talk to the girl.
“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” I asked her.
“No,” she said. “I’m very proud to lead the brigade into battle.”
I supposed they knew their business. I silenced the inner voice that said this was all wrong. I was here to cover the battle, not judge it. That’s what we’re supposed to say, isn’t it? Mind our own business? Don’t get involved personally?
“Well, all I can say is, you’re a very courageous little girl,” I told her. She beamed widely.
Then I went off to one side so I wouldn’t be shot myself. I couldn’t see the “enemy”. I didn’t know who they were fighting. The battle commenced and I suddenly discovered that the little girl was by my side. How she got there, I couldn’t tell. But before I knew it, she was fatally wounded. I knelt by her side
Before dying, she said, “You were right, Jesus! God does love us! Now I go to Allah!”
With that, she slid down the dune and vanished, her blood streaking the sand.
‘Allah?’ I wondered, coming from a girl who just proclaimed the name of Jesus. I felt sad and disturbed. Something wasn’t right here.
“That’s just her word for God,” said a voice behind me.
Looking up, I saw what looked like Jesus, the Jesus we remember from pictures and movies like “Jesus of the Nazareth.”
“The girl spoke the truth,” he pronounced. “God does love you.” Some nearby Islamic women looked disconcerted.
I rose and turn around to face Him, my hands in my pockets, sizing this being up skeptically. As I did so, his smile froze on his face, like the smile of a nutcracker. Was this really the Son of God? I didn’t think so.
Our Christian God didn’t accept the blood sacrifice of seven year-old girls. Maybe Allah did; but not the Christian. Secondly, this fellow didn’t fit the Bible’s description of Jesus.
Despite our veneration for the Shroud of Turin, according to some non-English Bibles, Jesus had “black, curly hair, like sheep’s wool.” Nor did the prophecies of Isaiah support a Hollywood-handsome appearance.
The last lines of Isaiah 53 are often quoted:
“3 He was despised and rejected (or forsaken) by men; a man of sorrows (or pains), and acquainted with grief (or sickness); and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes, we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth.
How we are still prejudiced by beauty that no one remembers the first two lines of Isaiah 53. Who would dare to say that the Lord Jesus was not beautiful (handsome)? Yet this is what Isaiah tells us in those first two lines:
- Who has believed what we heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed.
- For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared in many forms and his disciples didn’t recognize Him until He chose to reveal himself. In some version or other of the Bible that I’ve seen, he was described, in one of the four Gospels, that he had black, curly hair like lamb’s wool.
As many historians will tell you, the Bible was extensively revised by the Council of Nicea, called by the Emperor Constantine in Bithynia in A.D. 325 (a region in western Turkey). Many accounts were deemed heretical and thrown out of the canon.
Why would all of Isaiah 53 come to pass except the first two verses? No word is found in the English translations of His physical appearance. Was it to test the faithful and the faithless? Were the descriptions found to be insulting, unkind, and even blasphemous, so that the early Christians edited them out of our Bibles?
Is our understanding so weak that we cannot accept that the Son of God was not, initially, handsome? He was also something of a cranky scold, if you read the Four Gospels through; he’d get so annoyed with His disciples’ questions that they became afraid to ask Him anything. But he could read hearts (minds) and knew what they were thinking anyway. He also tells his disciples that he didn’t volunteer for the mission, that he came to save Man because His Father asked him to do so.
Another thing about Jesus Christ: he never washed his hands. That’s right. When he was eating with the Pharisees, they noticed that he and his disciples didn’t clean their hands before dinner. He didn’t have to because he was as pure as a bar of Ivory soap, although he rebuked a woman who told him he was good.
“I am not good; only God is good [perfect].” That would explain the fig tree that he blew away and that later fable he told, seemingly correcting his prior act. When his astonished disciples asked him why he did it (it wasn’t the season for figs), his answer was, basically, because he could.
Huh? What?! My mother said it was to show that he also human.
So what are we to expect of a Second Coming? He said he would return, as a grown man (rather than a baby) on clouds of glory. No mistaking that. The child of Heaven is for Real had a sketch drawn of a good-looking man he said was Jesus. Okay.
But even in that picture, he doesn’t look like the figure in the Shroud of Turin, upon which most films about Christ are based. The truth is, even if we knew what Jesus looked like during his time on Earth, that doesn’t mean it’s what He looks like now. The Son of God can probably take on whatever appearance He chooses.
We must beware of our own prejudices about beauty, for our eyes and ears can deceive us. Worshipping beauty, any handsome man of that generally-accepted description could come among us, declaring himself to be the Son of God returned to Earth (alas that in our times, “clouds of glory” can be artificially produced), and mislead us into committing great evils.
Jesus told the Pharisees that it was not what we put into our mouths that was evil and unclean but what came out of them: lies, blasphemies, hatred, and profanity.
Strange that in our times we are such slaves to good hygiene, buying endless tubes of toothpaste, bottles of dental rinse and mouthwash, dental floss, chewing gum, and breath sprays that our breath should be sweet and our teeth the purest white, while uttering the worst profanities, lies, blasphemies, insults, and cruelties.