Legend has it that a Jewish man taunted Jesus as he carried the cross to Golgotha for his eventual crucifixion. The deed invited heaven’s wrath, and he was cursed to wander the Earth until the second coming of the Christ.
Several versions of the story are told across the world, some describing its antagonist as a tradesman and others claiming that he was under the employ of a high-ranking Roman official. But all have the same moral: There is a high price for mocking the Son of God.
So, is there any truth behind the Wandering Jew? He finds no mention in the book, and the closest a Biblical character comes to the hateful character is Shemei, a descendant of Saul who cursed and threw stones at King David while he was on the run from Absalom (2 Samuel 16). But Shemei was eventually forgiven while the Wandering Jew wasn’t, which does seem uncharacteristic of one as compassionate as Jesus.
Still, ignoring the legend of the Wandering Jew would be unwise, especially when it holds a mirror so reflective on all of humanity. He personifies us, and how we insult Christ in word and deed every day of our life by taking refuge in hypocrisy, pride and worldly comforts that most assuredly won’t accompany us to the grave.
After the founding of Christianity, the church grew taller than the One it was supposed to deify, and words meant to be understood were watered down into chants that meant little to man or God.
Jesus came not to establish a religion, gain a following, or free Israel from the Roman yoke as many at the time expected the Messiah to do. His objective, instead, was to cultivate a spirit that encourages loving one’s neighbour, helping the needy and — probably the most crucial of all — wearing the dusty sandals of humility.
Try to preserve an idea long enough, it begins to rot. After the religion was founded, the church grew taller than the one it was supposed to deify, and words meant to be understood and absorbed were watered down into chants that meant little to man or God. From what was once seen as a dreaded object of torture, the cross found itself becoming an ornament of meaningless symbolism. Today, it is not uncommon to see political endorsements and throaty calls for donations accompanying sermons from the pulpit, and the breaking of the bread — an act once performed by Jesus to indicate his coming sacrifice — has become just another ritual to be observed every Sunday.
And what about the sheep themselves? When not looking down with derision upon the pagans and heretics, they indulge in pitched battles amongst themselves like these folks here. Not to mention the numerous denominations of Christianity out there, each professing to show the ultimate path to salvation.
So then, have we arrived as Christians? Have we grown to become everything Jesus expected of us? Are we obedient followers, and do we forgive those who trespass against us like we hope to be forgiven for our trespasses one day? Are we pure of heart, and which one of us can truly be assured of a pass through the metaphorical Pearly Gates if we are to be called away the next moment?
There are all rhetorical questions, by the way. I am sure we can all agree that we haven’t arrived anywhere at all.
So are we, especially those among us who are neither theologists nor certified experts in religious law, authorised to analyse the Bible? Well, our inspiration is the son of a carpenter who was none of these things, and that should be good enough for us.
Understanding the Bible better is important because religion can be a many-edged sword. It can unify, it can divide, it can be used by false prophets to further their own cause.
Understanding the Bible better is important because religion, like almost everything else in this world, can be a many-edged sword. It can bring people together, it can divide, it can even give false prophets the ammunition they need to further their own cause.
I personally recognise that I am but just another Wandering Christian who struggles against temptation every single moment, faltering more than occasionally but hoping still to never completely succumb to it. I realise that the Bible is as filled with mysteries as the Truth, and only with scrutinising eyes can I see what it really expects from me. I refuse to let the words in the Book become something I parrot in church on Sunday, without truly understanding what it means.
But when I am as great a sinner as the next person, possibly even more so, doesn’t that make even the writing of these words a hypocritical effort? That would be a very valid argument indeed, but I take refuge in the fact that God has made even the most undeserving of humans — be it Samson the Mighty or Absalom the Usurper — fulfill His vision for the world.
In the end, it is only together, through discussion and a meeting of minds, that we can understand the road that Christ truly wanted us to walk. We do have a great map in the Bible, but it is important to read it right.
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