Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Books: Kazantzakis and the carpenter

"The Last Temptation" by Nikos Kazanzakis was a book I read about an year back. It is the story of Jesus Christ retold the way Kazantzakis saw it unfold. I had no previous knowledge of Christianity and apart from certain vague details, or facts perhaps is a better word, Christ himself was a God unknown, stapled to a cross in catholic churches.

It is hardly my place to critique "The Last Temptation", or for that matter comprehend to the fullest possible extent the message the book, specifically, & Christianity, in general, holds for us. Also, I must also document the fact that I was stirred gravely by the story as a whole and therefore, the faculties of fair appraisal were blurred in the process. What I am writing here are just the strongest messages in my own personal experience that the book has for its readership.

One of the most dramatic moments of the book, in my opinion, is a dialogue between Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ. In this book, Jesus asks Judas to betray him so that he may be captured, crucified & finally resurrected in order to save mankind. It is in the blood of Christ that humanity will wash her sins and be salvaged and so Jesus must die. Judas refuses to betray. In an impassioned piece of conversation, Jesus convinces Judas that he, Judas, is chosen to betray him & live with sin of treachery on his soul for he is the stronger man of the two. Christ is weak and therefore has the relatively easy job of being crucified.

The Last Temptation tells us that those of us who are stronger, more capable, must be put to the sword for the rest do not have the heart for it & the sword, or the axe, is a test mankind must pass on the way to salvation. So the strongest live with a tortured conscience, the messiahs plan meticulously for crucifixion. And so each one of us who is blessed must in turn answer her calling for being inflicted. With great power, that of healing, comes greater responsibilities, that of the cross.

Jesus Christ, the son of God, was resurrected. Christ, the son of God, spoke in parables. Christ, the son of God, could heal and nourish. All these are divine powers & we cannot aspire for these. But Jesus, the weak, domonized, vulnerable son of a poor carpenter, took his first faltering steps towards his calling. Jesus, son of Joseph, denied the devils of flesh, soul & the heart one cold, hungry night in the desert. Fear, temptation, love, the warmth of safe domesticity, death & all the nuances that define our choices in this world were confronted and conquered. Jesus Christ, the ordinary human being, chose to be chosen. In the victory of Christ therefore, we win, you & I; we of this earth, are vindicated with him in our struggle against the many fears & pains. Christ of Nazareth was one of us, & he is a modern day superhero who saved the world!

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