Some years ago I was visiting Cadiz, in Spain, and I came across this painting of Jesus by Gabriel Benitez. The gaze stopped me dead in my tracks and at first, I didn’t even notice the cigarette in his hand.
I saw the peering eyes of the calloused handed Messiah with a cigarette through the window of a sculptor’s storefront studio. I immediately knew I had to have that painting, for it presented Jesus as a real character in the post-modern world.
Unlike the gloomy crucified Christ found in many old dark churches in Spain, this Christ was a man of the world. This was the Christ I imagined at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee, where he turned water into the best wine so that the celebration could continue.
This was not a Christ I had ever seen in a church.
How could I? This Christ was too real, too mundane; too scruffy to be the delicate pious passive/aggressive Savior who demanded fearful guilt infused allegiance to dogma and creed.
During that trip, I got in touch with the chilling effect I experienced going into old dark churches with bloodied Christ figures on crucifixes, and the need to get out of those places. It was as if I could literally feel the weight of the Inquisition on my shoulders.
I do not advocate a position on reincarnation, but I don’t dismiss it either, and the chill I experienced made me wonder if I at some point in a past life had been a victim of the Inquisition, and their hideous relentless persecution of truth and beauty? The Inquisition committed innumerable atrocities for the sake of upholding their version of intransigent dark religion — parading as light.
This Jesus whom I fondly call: “Jesus of the Fellowship” (because he reminds me of someone hanging around an AA meeting during a break) seems like the real deal to me. His gaze is not one of judgment and condemnation, nor is it a gaze eliciting pity. It is bold and robust, earthly and grounded. It is Jesus in full human form!
When you look over his left shoulder you see another face barely perceptible. That face with only one eye visible is staring into Eternity as if to remind us that even in earthly form, there is a Divine presence behind this carpenter turned Rabbi.
That Divine presence is within all of us. It is something we can reclaim and take back from those forces working within religion itself that have stolen it, twisted it, and hidden it from view. It is time to reclaim.
I remain a priest in the Church of God in part because I believe in the beauty of inclusive guilt free holiness as Jesus lived it. It is a tragic shame that this historical messianic figure has been twisted and misrepresented by organized religion so that he is barely recognizable any more.
So many have run for cover from the Church, seeking spirituality but not religion, missing an opportunity to discover who this Teacher truly was. I invite you to rediscover him without the baggage.
I encourage you to share a smoke with him, and enjoy a cigarette that miraculously contains none of the toxicity of organized religion.
13 comments on “Share a Smoke with Jesus”
Do you have a light?
The flame always burns eternal.
I wouldn’t mind sharing a smoke with this Jesus. He looks so different from the one I saw when I raised Catholic and taught to be fearful and to feel guilty. I was only exposed to the the twisted version of him, which made me run from the church.
This Jesus looks real and human and approachable.
Thanks for sharing this. Nice to see another side of things–one I didn’t realize existed.
I hear you Lisa! Jesus remains a hidden gem to many people like you who have been turned off by the church. I sincerely hope this blog presents a spirituality of religion that is light hearted and appeals to your innate spirituality. Stay tuned.
It is unfortunate that your church experience promoted fear and guilt. That is clearly what I call the dark and shadow side of religion. If it is not liberating, and moving you towards a deeper spiritual growth, then it is not authentic religion. I hope that identifying the humanness of Jesus will help to move you more profoundly into your deepest self. You just might find a kinship there you didn’t know existed. 😉
Thanks for inviting me in, Wilfredo. We miss you. Stunning painting and evocative theological reflection.
You are most welcome!
Padre, you have touched on the very thing my group has been discussing in a class called Holy Conversation. Telling the story in ways that are relatable is so important. May I share it with my group when we meet next week?
Please do share, and please let me know how it goes? If this blog can make a contribution, then my response to that is Hallelujah!
I am so glad you are doing this, you have so much to teach , you have walked this world with a open mind and eyes that see!
Thank you Penny. It is my task to create a space within the church structure where this happens with no strings attached and no preconditions.
Well first of all I want say that I wish we all see Jesus just the way the painter painted him,the World as we see it today would be a better place,I come from a country (Nigeria) were religion is the norm of the day both Islam & christianity,am christian by birth but lately I have come 2 realise that the church which is suppose to give hope to hopeless by teaching the gosple of Jesus christ,is busy chasing people away by their own dogmatic teachings. When I saw the painting I was kinda trailed because I have never seen any picture or painting of Jesus in normal human sense. Thank for this painting & I would love to have a smoke with him .
Invite him into your private world where you are protected from the forces of intolerant and inflexible religious dogma. The source of all creation is pregnant with freedom. The message of Jesus in the gospels is one of liberation and inclusiveness. I sense that you get this at an intuitive level. Trust the Spirit within.