John Bressler-11411Listen to John Bressler read his column.
"Today's debate will be between some very respected and recognizable speakers from around the country and a relative unknown from the small province of Galilee. In all fairness, our panel needs no introduction and they have all agreed to let the newcomer speak first out of professional courtesy. So, let's hear from the young man we'll refer to as Jesus who we understand was trained as a carpenter by His deceased father, Joseph. Opening statement?"
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the good news."
"Ooookay. Want to elaborate a bit?"
"Well, I forgave the sins of a paralytic and had a great supper with most of your tax collectors and a bunch of men from Samaria."
"Whoa! I don't know about everyone in the audience, but I sure know that I am offended and if he doesn't apologize to me and my Scribe friends - whom I have worked with in the Temple - the debate is over right here and now! And, by the way, one of the ushers just told me that this young man's family is standing outside and want to take him home. I understand that these debates are to be polite - even though we can poke fun at one another just for the sake of a relaxed atmosphere - but I don't believe this Jesus has the insight, maturity or ability to match our intellect." (Hold the applause please.)
"Now, now gentlemen, as moderator, I appreciate your patience and certainly understand that none of us want these historic debates to turn into a circus, but we all know that the common man has the right to hear from the other side, no matter how odd or peculiar those statements might be, no offense meant. I have just been handed a document that our local reporter, Crispus - who writes for the Jerusalem Herald - worked on, and I am going to table our original list of questions and substitute some others that come directly from the upcoming press release. If there are no objections? ... Here goes.
Are you a certified doctor? Is it true you work on the Sabbath? Have you touched anything or anyone unclean and failed to purify yourself before entering a holy place? (Please hold the noise down until I finish and he can answer the questions) Can you support your understanding and teaching of what is obviously demonic and opposed to every cultural, historical and acceptable religious practice we know to be true? What is your seminary training, if any, and putting aside your country-bumpkin Aramaic, have you ever read the Torah, in Hebrew if you please? Who do you think you are?"
"Gentlemen, I am neither running for the office of High Priest nor living my life as a Pharisee or working as a scribe. I am not here to debate. My calling is to preach. For those of you who, by choice, do not wish to hear my words plainly and simply, will be puzzled and you believe my words to be nothing more than gibberish or blasphemy.
I have spent too much time here. I have a long trip ahead of me and there are many many people I need to see, and teach, and heal. I will see you again. Until that time comes, love God, love yourselves and love your neighbors."
"Well, folks, that was not a debate! Out of courtesy, we did give that Jesus ben Joseph his day in the limelight. Now, let's get to the important business at hand and serious questions to consider. How can we improve the Temple collections? What must we do to be ready for the up and coming Passover crowds to prevent the backup and long lines? We don't need a repeat of last year. Pontius Pilate and his Roman mercenaries will expect the usual up front donations, as he should, you know, but I don't expect any problems, do you? Oh, here is a scribe-out of several more questions. Who wants to field the first one? Okay, Bar Jonah, you're on!"
(aside) These debates are a pain in the neck, but we try to give the customers what they want. Is anyone really listening?