Most Christians are stubbornly fixed on being like Jesus. He is the gold standard for what it means to be fully human, in full union with the Divine. They tell me what it costs to love unconditionally, to forgive 70-times-seven, to show compassion for the poor—all essential hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry. What I hear less about is what it costs to oppose the traditions of the elders, to upset pious expectations of what a child of God should say or do, to subvert religious certainty, and to make people responsible for their own lives. Yet all of these are present in his example too.
The stone box that possibly held the skeletal remains of James the brother of Jesus has continued to come under critical scrutiny. Should the church and scholars take seriously this item of unknown origin sold to an antiquities collector? Did one hand or two scratch the Aramaic inscription on the limestone ossuary?
Last fall on a weekend trip to Manhattan, I noticed an unusual addition to the art galleries listed in the Times. The gallery was in the apse of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the art was a collection of religious treasures from Spain, including handwritten letters from Teresa of Ávila and her mentor John of the Cross.
When Andy turned six, an extraordinary thing happened. At the crown of his head there suddenly appeared that mystic sign by which all spirited six-year-old boys are instantly recognized: the cowlick. It looks exactly like Calvin’s cowlick in Calvin and Hobbes.
Once again, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for a critical encounter. This time he meets not Satan, but a most unlikely angel. In the heat of the day, a messenger of God joins him for a life-giving exchange.