Thanks to the Bible, historical records and stories passed through the generations, there’s a lot we know about Jesus. But there’s also a lot we don’t know. How did Jesus feel about his mission? Did Jesus have a sense of humor? Was he left- or right-handed? We can only speculate, but we’ve compiled a list of interesting questions about Jesus, and took a shot at answering them based on the insights of the Divine Principle.
Nativity scenes set up on front lawns, the plays performed in churches during the holidays—they are all a reminder of what the season is about, the birth of Jesus Christ. But what those scenes often gloss over is the harsh reality of what that first Christmas really was.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are nine months pregnant, bumping along on a donkey, labor pains increasing with every step. You stop at an inn, hoping for a place to rest and to deliver your baby safely, only to be turned away again. Finally you are able to stop and take refuge, but not in the house, but rather in a barn.
We look at the manger scene now with hushed reverence: cute animals surrounding a smiling little family. But if you have ever been in even a modern barn, you know the smell, the unsanitary conditions, the only slight cover from the elements. Now imagine it’s a barn 2,000 years ago. The songs and stories of today show Jesus’s birth surrounded with singing angels, glowing stars and visitors from afar. But if we put ourselves in that scene, we might see a completely different picture.
Was Mary afraid to give birth all alone? Did Joseph worry about being able to keep his family safe? Were they cold that first night, sleeping in the hay? We take it for granted now, but back then Jesus’s birth was difficult, scary and certainly did not look like that of a king.
Soon after Jesus’s birth, the family was forced to flee to Egypt for fear of violence. The nativity scene that we all know depicts the struggle of a family who is forced to give birth to its baby in a barn after having to leave its home and being turned away at every other place. From the very beginning of his life and up until the end, Jesus would remain an outsider, a rebel, a refugee.
In Luke 9:58, Jesus explains to his disciples, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Even when he was among his own family and people, Jesus often was not understood or accepted. When he traveled to different lands, he was an outsider, but he was a stranger even in his own land because of the radical nature of his ministry. In this context, Jesus gave almost a warning to his disciples: To follow him meant to become an outcast too.
How lonely must it have been? Jesus often preached about kindness to strangers, saying in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
Jesus showed affinity to the outcasts of society—the lepers, the prostitutes, the poor—much to the dismay of holy men and polite society at the time. Jesus’s message was one of love for God and compassion for his fellow humans. Perhaps this compassion came not just from knowing the love of God but from the very real experience of being an outcast himself. Jesus must have known the pain of the refugee, the humiliation and shame of the lowest of society. He understood their struggle and that they longed for love and peace just like everyone else. He understood their value as children of God, because he was the same as them: a stranger with no place to lay his head here on earth.
If Jesus were to come back, which church would he join? Would he sit in the pew of the Baptists? Would he take communion with Catholics? Would he prefer a front-row seat with the Lutherans?
The prophecies of Christ before Jesus’s birth were that he would be a king and a savior for the Jewish people. However, his actual ministry challenged the old standard. The new message that he brought was not just for Jews, but inclusive of all those who believed in him.
Just as the Jewish people waited for their Messiah, Christians are waiting for the second coming of Jesus. But would Jesus really come back only for Christians? If his first ministry is any indication, his second coming probably will shake up and surprise the very people who have been anticipating him.
The chosen people are those who pave the way, but the first Christ came for all. So perhaps Jesus would meditate with the Buddhists, or go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Perhaps Jesus’s ministry would go even beyond religion. Would he talk science with the atheist and break bread with the agnostic? If all this sounds crazy, remember who Jesus was. He was the person who preached love above all else. He was the one who communed with fishermen and prostitutes, with the poor and lowly, with Jews and gentiles alike. Jesus came to shake up the world. What makes us think it would be any different the second time around?
It’s easy to forget how revolutionary Jesus’s ministry was. Now his teachings seem intuitive, but when put into the historical context of the time, they were extraordinarily progressive and, ultimately, dangerous. As Dr. Young Oon Kim writes in Unification Theology, Jesus came to establish the Kingdom, but in order to do that, he had to break down all the barriers of religion, politics and culture. She writes: “To counteract the bitter religious animosity between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus taught the parable of the good Samaritan. To remove the antagonism between Jews and Romans, Jesus praised a Roman centurion for having greater faith than anyone in Israel. In opposition to the rigid social caste system, Jesus openly ate with publicans. And at a time when women were considered inferior to men, Jesus welcomed them into his intimate circle.”
Jesus’s ministry was full of inclusiveness. He preached not just about bringing people closer to God, but also about bringing people closer to each other. In teaching the golden rule, in the story of Matthew 5:23-24, he instructed:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
How do we reconcile this understanding of Jesus with the modern-day divisiveness of not just the many world religions but also the various splits within Christianity itself? What barriers would Jesus try to break if he were here today?
Jesus stated, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11). This and other verses seem to suggest that Jesus was God, or at least that they were part of the same essence, or the trinity.
Though this is the commonly accepted consensus among modern Christians, it was not always the case. Before … there were several sects of Christianity that believed Jesus was a man, one inspired by God with a unique position. Gnostics, an early Christian sect, affirm that a spark of the divine dwells within each person. So Jesus’s divinity was not unique, but a manifestation of what each of us is capable of.
Islam looks at Jesus not as God in the flesh, but as a prophet, a messenger of God and a great teacher. Historians have long debated and searched for evidence of this kind of historical Jesus.
According to the Divine Principle, Jesus was the first person in history to fulfill God’s original ideal, the kind of person God hoped Adam and Eve would become before they fell away from Him. In this sense, Jesus was the first true son of God, and also God’s reflection and representative on earth. In Chapter 7, Christology, it states, “Jesus, as a man having fulfilled the purpose of creation, is one body with God. So, in light of his deity, he may well be called God. Nevertheless, he can by no means be God Himself. The relationship between God and Jesus can be compared to that between the mind and body.”
What does that mean, then, if Jesus is not God? Does his divinity, or lack thereof, change his important role?
Jesus is special, as the first to accomplish God’s ideal; whether or not he is divine, he is still the savior. We will not all be saviors, but this idea means that we do all have the potential to be the complete reflection of our Heavenly Parent. We have the potential to be the “living word,” in the same way that Jesus not only taught but also practiced the word in his every action.