Jesus, the ReBoot

TMNTThey done it again. They’re rebooting a classic movie. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is being remade, rebooted by Michael Bay and will be coming to theaters soon. As a fan of the comics and of the 90’s Jim Henson creature shop version of the Ninja Turtles, I’m a bit skeptical of it. But rebooting a movie or TV show isn’t something new to the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre. Recently we’ve had a reboot of Judge Dredd, a remake of the awful 90’s Sylvester Stallone movie made into something awesome. Of course, then there’s the reboot of Robocop which just didn’t look good at all. They rebooted Spider-Man not even a decade after the last of the movies came out. They rebooted The Incredible Hulk in 2008 after the 2003’s debacle. They rebooted the Superman movies a couple of times. And even Batman as well. Then there’s Transformers which has been rebooted a number of times over the last 30 plus years. Back in 2004 they did a reboot of the classic 1970’s TV show Battlestar Galatica as a gritty in your face look at humanity. And in 2005 they did a reboot of the classic Dr. Who TV series. Reboots happen a lot.

What is a reboot though? A reboot is where they take a TV show or a movie and retool it. They reexamine it and try to look at it from a different perspective. They try to update it or make it look different in a way that changes some aspects of the original. It is a new imagining of the concept. And it is done a lot in Sci-Fi and Fantasy shows and movies.

But why? Why do a reboot? Why change or tarnish or re-imagine a classic? Don’t get me started on what George Lucas did to the classic Star Wars movies Episodes 4-6. That was just wrong. But people do reboots to re-imagine or add to or change from a different perspective the narrative of the story and idea behind the story.

This is nothing new. What I find interesting is that one of the most well known people in history has been rebooted and retooled over the past millennia–Jesus. Jesus has been rebooted and retooled. His narrative, his story, his image has changed in so many different ways over the centuries that it is very interesting to look at. The basic premise of Jesus’ story is the same. Much like with Batman always having his parents die or Superman always coming from Krypton, the origin story of Jesus remains the same for the most part (Marcus Borg, I’m looking at you about changing a few things but we’ll get to that in another post sometime). Jesus is born to parents, a young mother named Mary and a carpenter named Joseph (who in some interpretations due to archeological evidence might have also been a tradesman or mason) from Nazareth. It is agreed upon that Jesus went to Egypt for a while and then came back to Nazareth when he was older. It is agreed upon that he grew up to be a carpenter like Joseph. It is agreed upon that around his 30’s he started teaching and preaching around Galilee and all around the area from the north to Jerusalem.

And then things change. Jesus begins to be seen different in different ways. His teachings are interpreted differently. His character is interpreted differently. The thrust of his message is interpreted differently. Over the years, he’s been rebooted. Over the years, his image has changed.

I would love to just point to the Gospels, the book of Acts, and Paul’s letters to show you who Jesus really is. But the problem is, is that have many people over the centuries and have come up with different results.

To the early Christians who were called followers of the Way, Jesus was the teacher, the Jewish Messiah, the one to come and reconcile them to God. His return was emanate and they lived that way.

jesus icon 4Then over time, he was seen as a conqueror, as a mighty warrior. In fact, the Roman Emperor Constantine I saw the image of Jesus’ symbol in a vision, and then painted that onto the shields of his soldiers. After he won the battle, he made Christianity a legal religion and then soon made it the official religion. Jesus was the conqueror and so people went off to conquer other lands in the name of Jesus to bring people to Jesus.

Then, over time, Jesus was seen as the ultimate king who ruled over all. And so, during the early to mid and late medieval period, he was seen as ruler of all and that followers of Jesus were rulers of all. Jesus said that all authority in heaven and earth he gives his followers. So yes, he is the one who makes them kings and rulers over all the earth.

During the Reformation, Jesus was seen as judge. He was the one who would come and judge the living and the dead. And so for people to best understand this judge, they needed to learn the Bible and what Jesus taught. Those in the Protestant Reformation lived as judges.

After many religious wars, philosophers began a new paradigm shift called the Enlightenment. Here Jesus became a moral teacher that we should follow. His morality was seen as the epitome of goodness. He was Jesus, meek and mild. And this idea reigned for centuries.

Then things began to splinter and became interesting. Jesus was seen as a hippie in the 60’s. Then there was the revival of dispensationalism where Jesus was a free ticket out of hell. Then there was in the 90’s the whole Jesus is my Homeboy movement where you had the buddy Christ as your wingman. And people treated Jesus accordingly to how they saw him.

Budy JesusRecently, Ive been seeing something new pop up–Jesus the political activist. Jesus fought against the hypocrisy of the rich and the religious elite. Jesus spoke on behalf of the poor. Jesus pushed for equality of all people. Jesus showed love and respect to all people. He spoke on behalf of the oppressed and disenfranchised. Jesus gallantly died as a political rebel. And people who adhere to this follow this leading and say that all Christians should do so as well.

How you see Jesus is how you’re going to treat him. How you see Jesus is how you’re going to follow him. Many people as of late have really latched on to Jesus as the political activist. Christians and non-Christians alike have really liked that image of him as of late. This Jesus is for social justice, this Jesus is for raising up the poor and tearing down the rich. This Jesus is for equality despite social-economical standing, race, gender, or sexual orientation. This is the Jesus people seem to be liking as of late. And they demand that other Christians act this way as well. That if they don’t see Jesus in this light, then they are doing something wrong and aren’t real Christians.

Jesus is judge, Jesus is king, Jesus is a conqueror and mighty warrior, and Jesus did stand up for those who were downtrodden and on the fringes. All this is true. And he has been rebooted over the years to be one of these aspects. But to latch on to just one and say that we as followers of Jesus need to act this way or our faith is suspect, then we have a problem.

jesus icon 2Jesus wasn’t a political activist. Jesus didn’t adhere to one political ideology and not another. Even Pharisees like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were followers of Jesus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who was very rich followed Jesus. Matthew who was a tax collector and very rich followed Jesus. Jesus ate with Pharisees and “sinners” alike. Jesus’ inner group of 12 disciples had a tax collector, a rebel fighter, fishermen, and more. And followers of Jesus throughout the book of Acts and into Paul’s letters ranged from lowly slaves to high powered influential dignitaries and rich people.

All shared what they had to help each other according to their need. Jesus said that we would always have the poor. Jesus said that we needed to give up all we had to follow him. Jesus said that we needed to not allow the least of these to go astray. He called us to help others in need, he called us to love the ones on the fringes. But he also called us to love the Pharisees, for he came for them as well. He called us to obey authority not to rebel against it. Not once did he denounce the Roman Empire, in fact he said “Give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). Even though he was found innocent by a Roman governor in a Roman court he was sentenced to the cross not as a political rebel, but to appease the masses.

How you see Jesus leads to how you follow him and how you think others should as well.

They are rebooting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and there’s nothing I can do about it. Some reboots have been great and sometimes even better than the originals. Other reboots fail epically. Reboots come and  go. Some are seen as classics and others are just signs of disgrace for Sci-Fi fans (Phantom Menace I’m looking at you). Jesus has been rebooted repeatedly over the years. This is nothing new.

Don’t just assume that because you’re view of Jesus is the one that all should have and is the right one. The basics are true–He was born of the virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit, he lived, taught, and was crucified, buried, and on the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the father almighty. Those are indisputable facts we need to stick with. The rest, well, feel free to reboot him as much as you want to as long as you stick to the basics of who he is.

Just remember, how you see him is how you follow him. Don’t put down other Christians because they aren’t following him exactly how you are. Stick to the basics, and see what Jesus will do through you.


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