Messiah on a Couch


I generally am not a fan of contemporary authors putting Jesus in a scenario and imagining Him having a conversation with someone. Generally.

But I read a book recently called A Scandalous Beauty by Thomas Schmidt that has this very kind of thing in it. It communicates some quite profound things, though you have to be careful not to push all the details too far. The scenario has Jesus speaking to a modern psychologist.

Here’s an excerpt from pp. 55-57:

P: That’s great, Jesus, but I need to challenge you on this because I’m sensing some denial issues here. Let’s keep talking about your relationship with your Father. It looks like God forced you, or at least persuaded you, to suffer for the good of others. Isn’t this a form of child abuse and a terrible example? After all, haven’t many of your followers hurt others in your name, and then used your example to maintain that suffering is good for them?

J: I told my followers they would suffer. I also told them it would be unfair. The truth that suffering can be good for a person does not justify the one who causes that suffering. Love offers to suffer, it does not require suffering from others. Abuse of one’s wife or child or enemy is terrible enough, but to do it or defend it in my name is doubly abusive.

P: Precisely my point! Isn’t that what God did in persuading or forcing you to die? And doesn’t that make you the original battered child, covering for an abusive parent?

J: May I ask you a question or two?

P: Well, I guess, as long as it doesn’t get us off track — but it is a little unorthodox.

J: Good. In my line of work, I don’t get much opportunity to be “a little unorthodox.” But you raise a very serious issue. When you do the will of another, is it because you obey, or because you agree?

P: It might be either. It depends.

J: And do you ever do the will of another without being asked by that person? For example, when you give a holiday surprise to one you love well, how do you know what that person wants?

P: The more time I spend with someone, the more I care about what makes them happy, and the more likely I am to come up with the perfect gift. There is always a little guesswork, though, because the two of us don’t know each other perfectly — but that is part of what makes a holiday surprise so much fun.

J: Precisely my point. My Father and I were so close that there was no guesswork. I offered the holiday surprise of my death, not as obedience or agreement, but as the outflow of a perfect understanding between me and my Father. The gift is for everyone, and it’s a food gift, so you don’t have to worry about it being the right size or needing batteries. It requires nothing more, and nothing less, than to eat me.

P: That sounds like cannibalism. Aren’t you concerned about offending people?

J: I regret that I do not offend more people. Too many eat cute little wafers from silver dishes and forget what the ceremony represents. Too many more make me a relic of history and turn their faces from my living eyes. But there you are with blood on your hands, and here I am in your office, sitting on your couch. What will you do with me?

P: Yes, there you are on my couch, so to speak. But I must say that I am a little uncomfortable with the personal direction this is heading. It feels at times like you are turning my questions back towards me.

J: I see. If it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that I am the Messiah, you could pass me off as having a real Messiah complex. It always has gotten me in trouble, this habit of reversing expectations — of “confronting avoidance,” as you might say. How does it feel to be exposed?

P: (Long pause) . . . I think we need to get back to my questions. After all, it is your time, not mine.

J: (Short pause) . . . As you wish.

P: Was that a “Princess Bride” allusion?

J: With me, everything is an allusion, not an illusion.

P: I’ll have to think about that one.

J: Yes, you will.


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