When we think of the life of Jesus Christ, our main source is the Bible. This great literary work does an excellent job of portraying Him as God s chosen Messiah. He is very accepting of His job and is open to the suffering He endures throughout His life and during His death. Jesus has always been the pious, chaste man that people have come to know ever since the Bible was written. He always resisted temptation, never feared evil, and never once doubted that God was not His father, nor did He ever sin.
Looking at Jesus life through the viewpoint of the Bible is, in many ways, incorrect. In the Bible, Jesus is God made human, not just human alone. Because of His divinity, He easily avoids all the maladies of the world. Near the end of His life, He only has one moment of self-doubt. This moment comes while He is on the cross. This glimpse of Jesus humanity, though relieving to the reader, does not fully reveal His character to us.
In Nikos Kazantzakis The Last Temptation of Christ, the character of Jesus Christ is revealed to us as not God as human, but human as human. Jesus journey to Golgotha was much more difficult than we thought. Not just that final journey, where He was humiliated and tortured in front of the people He loved so dearly, but the journey of his whole life, from beginning to end. It began from the moment He was born. Kazantzakis brilliantly reveals Jesus to us in a new light by doing something so heretical and controversial. He does something that has never been conceived by any other man on the face of this Earth. This evil deed, this sacrilegious act that he performs is the humanization of Jesus the Christ. He does this by implementing the emotion of fear within Him.
Fear is a characteristic that all humans have. Jesus, according to the Bible, never possessed this characteristic. However, we learn that Jesus did have this quality. It is through the personification of the future Messiah that we learn of Jesus faults. Jesus does not want to be the Chosen One for God; He does not want to fulfill all of the deeds that God wishes. Instead, He questions his motives for even setting out on the missions He does.
Yes, yes, I m afraid You want me to stand up and speak, do you? What can I say, how can I say it? I can t, I tell you! I m illiterate What did you say? The kingdom of heaven I don t care about the kingdom of heaven
He further rejects God in this scene by saying that he wishes God would choose someone other than him. This shows that Jesus was afraid of accepting the mission of God right away. He is emotional in his protestations to God. He is too scared to fulfill his mission.
The overpowering aspect of Jesus fear is that He does not fully realize He is afraid until he is on the road to Capernaum. On the way there, he meets up with Mary Magdalene, who is a whore. When He enters her chamber, she has just had intercourse with several men and is lying in her bed, naked. When He asks her to remember when they were children, she replies by saying:
What kind of a man are you? Still driveling? You ought to be ashamed of yourself! You never had the courage to stand up by yourself like a man and not rely on anyone. If you re not hanging on to your mother s apron strings, you re hanging to mine, or God s. You can t stand by yourself, because you re scared. You don t dare look keep into your own soul or into your body for that matter because you re scared! Scared, scared (91)!
This quote from Mary sums up the feelings that Jesus is currently having. He doesn t have the courage to make the stand God has asked of Him. He doesn t look into his soul or body to realize that he has the potential to fulfill this duty. It takes the berating of a whore for Him to realize that he must continue his journey and fulfill God s request. This is ironic because it is a sin to be in the presence of a whore, much less to receive insult from one.
Later on, Jesus journey becomes more difficult. When it does, He once again doubts himself. He fears what the outcome of His journey will be. When Jacob asks Him who sent Him, Jesus replies by saying that He doesn t know. The amazing thing in this scene is that He hesitates for a second. He starts to think that it was the devil that sent Him, and not God. However, when Jacob starts to mention the centurion, Jesus quickly agrees with that concept in his thoughts.
Afterwards, He continues to question himself, and His fear shows. This happens when He starts asking why he has behaved so cowardly, and why He lacked the courage to travel the road He chose. Later on, when He is in the presence of God, He claims not to be a prophet that will not know what to say. One of the most powerful quotes is, God did not anoint my lips with burning coals, did not cast his thunderbolt in to my bowels to make me burn, rush frenzied into the streets and begin to shout (127-128).
These examples further prove that Jesus was not as willing to accept God s plan for him. He was apprehensive, nervous, and most of all, fearful. What moves us about this fear is the fact that it makes Jesus human. Because of this one emotion, we are able to relate to how Jesus felt at the beginning and end of His life. Kazantzakis succeeded, not only in making us see the whole character of Jesus, but to see the human aspect of Jesus. By doing so we feel even greater compassion not for the Divine turned man, but man alone. Jesus was a human being and He was only doing what was right. He had his doubts, denials, and uncertainties, but in the end He was able to overcome all.
In the end, it is Kazantzakis masterpiece that brings Jesus closer to us than the Bible ever could. By humanizing Jesus, and making him more relatable to us, The Last Temptation of Christ does a better job of revealing the full character of Jesus, and strengthening many persons beliefs about his divinity.