Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I am still thinking about Anne Rice's latest book, Christ the Lord: Road to Cana. Its simple prose belies its power. This book sets you quite firmly in the time of Christ: you can feel the dirt of Israel between your toes just as you can feel the keen political tension of a time when the Roman empire covered the known world, and yet above it all is the overwhelming sense of family and community, for the Jews were a powerfully knit people.
In the midst of all this is Yeshua, a quiet and unassuming man whose family and friends watch closely, knowing about his unusual birth and the Magi who gave him a king's ransom. He acts nothing like what they expect, not even knowing himself what is expected of him.
I think what makes this story so powerful is how human Rice makes Yeshua, even as he becomes aware of the entirety of his being. We emphasize with him when he gives up the love he has for a girl, giving her hand to another (theirs is the wedding at Cana), even as we are in awe as he comes into the fullness of his power after John names him at the river Jordan and baptizes him.

from the book:
"'It begins now at this wedding,' I said. 'And the wine you've drunk is for the whole world. Israel is the vessel, yes. But the wine flows from now on for all. Oh, I wish I could fix this as the final triumph, this lovely morning with its gentle paling sky. I wish I could open the gates for all to come and drink of this wine here and now, and that all pain and suffering and suspense would come to an end.
'But I wasn't born for that. I was born to find the way to do this through Time. yes, it is the time of Pontius Pilate. Yes, it is the time of Joseph Caiaphas. Yes, it is the time of Tiberius Caesar. But those men are nothing to me. I've entered history for the whole of it. And I won't be stopped. And I go now, disappointing you, yes, and to what village and town I head next, I don't know, only that I go proclaiming that the kingdom of God is on us, that the kingdom of God is with us, that all must turn and take heed, and I will declare it where the Father tells me I must, and I will find before me the listeners--and the surprises--He has in store.'" (p. 240)

If Yeshua isn't the most perplexing figure in history, I don't know who is. Thousands of years have been spent arguing over the message He proclaimed, and his followers are split into many branches of faith in spite of the central belief they all share. Who is this man?

Anne Rice's story is a thoughtful response to that question.

The story ends with Yeshua healing a deaf-mute girl from his village, one he has known for a long time. There is no magic word spoken, no special wave of the hand. He engages her, requiring her participation in the act of healing, the seemingly innocuous act of teaching her to repeat the prayer "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one" accomplishing the unthinkable: opening her ears and unstopping her tongue.
Thus does a new age begin.

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