Waiting for Jesus is Timothy Thomas’ latest book, exploring a scenario in which Jesus Christ appears to unsuspecting residents of an urban city. The epic poem features every character you would expect to find in a great crime/suspense novel: A prostitute, pimp, thief, homeless man, drug-addicted married couple, and police officer. But what sets the book apart from the typical inner city vice drama (other than Satan cast as the antagonist), is the dialogue which accomplishes the very arduous task of presenting the central figure of Jesus Christ in a present day situation.
Poverty takes center stage as the ravenous swallower of hopes and dreams when Old Lazarus reveals how he became a homeless man. “‘If you be Jesus, then you know already’, Lazarus replied, ‘how I been to the very top, had money, power, all the things that this ignorant pimp would show, but my whole world came to a stop when my wife and my children died…'” It was not long ago that I was at a gas station filling up my tank when a man, looking half crazed and unkempt, pulled his vehicle along side mine to let the horses under his hood also drink. As he pumped gas into his car, he was talking to himself in a cryptic manner, searching for a clarity that seemed elusive and unattainable. He turned to me and began to talk about IBM and the stock market. He asked me questions that I couldn’t answer. I smiled politely. Most of us are one paycheck away from becoming homeless ourselves, and this man looked as if he could have been on the streets. But as Thomas’ poem reminds us, homeless people aren’t just bums, they’re people with stories.
And Messiahs aren’t just holy men; they’re divine beings ready to listen to our stories. They even have a sense of humor and appreciation for festivities, as is the case when Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding in the Bible. But present day Jesus miraculously fills Old Lazarus’ beer bottle with the ‘finest ale’ in this story. The ale is passed around the cast of characters as they try to work through their grievances and solve the neighborhood’s ills, much like the Beer Summit that was held at the White House at President Barack Obama’s behest to iron out differences between police sergeant James Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. What’s better than listening to the savior of humanity preach on love and peace with a frosty mug in your hand? Lord turn my hatred into forgiveness…and I’ll have a Great Lakes Eliot Ness draught please!
The narrative takes a turn for the prophetic when Old Lazarus expresses his gratification for the miracle he’s just witnessed; “‘Why, this is finer than the best of ales I have tasted before…I think that I will share the rest, to let these others bridge that fiord, finding their way to your true door…'” Jesus’ benevolence leads in turn to Old Lazarus’ generosity in sharing his drink with his neighbors. Check out the word that Lazarus uses to describe the gap that exists between humanity and divinity; fiord. The word fiord is Norwegian in origin. It is a timely metaphor considering what happened in Norway just last month in July, when a gunman horrifically massacred scores of young people. Can we not make a bridge out of compassion to extend over the waters of separation to arrive at what Lazarus calls the “true door” of Christ? And what more is that true door than love?
Nikos Kazantzakis’ examination of the duel nature of Jesus was brought to the silver screen in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (Titled after Kazantzakis’ novel). Though controversial, the film allowed us to see what it would have been like for Jesus to experience humanity in all it’s complexity; from lust to longing, from fear to betrayal. Timothy Thomas’ Waiting for Jesus similarly is calling out for a director, perhaps a short film director, to give this cast of characters a third dimension in which to arrive at resolution. His Jesus is just as tormented by the suffering of humanity, and just as driven to show us the way. And for this reason, Waiting for Jesus is more than worth the short time it takes to download.