The room wasn’t too large, but it was comfortable. Cozy, not too warm. The two Comfy Chairs were not facing directly at each other confrontationally, but not at an awkward 90 degree angle. There was a small table between the chairs, upon which sat a tray with a small tray of appetizers. They were Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare: hummus and pita, dolmas, grapes, dates, figs and olives, salty and sweet cheeses. A nondescript minor angel attended the coffee service. It was Turkish coffee, strong and spiced. He poured two small cups and handed them over to us.
I took my cup and sipped the bitter spiced drink. It was perfect. Jesus took a sip of his and nodded his approval, thanking the angel politely. I suppose it would be out of character for him to be rude or dismissive.
I looked Jesus over briefly. He wasn’t much taller than me, and you couldn’t tell when we were sitting. He wore nice dark slacks and a white silk button up shirt, with the first two buttons undone. Curly dark hair peeked out from a white kippa embroidered with the Star of David. His beard was full yet neatly trimmed. He leaned back into the cushioned chair, a smile in his liquid brown eyes.
“So,” He said, his voice a melodic baritone. “You wanted to talk?”
I fidgeted, not sure of what to say. “I honestly didn’t think you’d have the time.”
He chuckled. “I’m deified. Time doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it does to you.”
I dipped a piece of warm pita in some hummus and tasted it. It was smooth and creamy, perfect flavor, accented nicely by the fresh lemon juice that the attending angel had squeezed over it.
I frowned. “Is hummus and pita even historically accurate for when you lived?”
He shrugged. “But me speaking English doesn’t bother you? It’s close enough. Besides, my cultus is all over. Anything fits. But I like this setting. It reminds people of where I’m from. They like to forget. Have you seen those pictures they paint of me? Blonde hair? Really?” He took another sip of his coffee. “So what’s on your mind?”
I hesitated. “Well, I was raised Catholic ….”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And now I’m pagan.”
I wrinkled my face and glanced at him with my head tilted. Not the response I expected.
“Were do I fit in with you, Jesus? Where do you fit in with me?”
He placed his cup gently on the table and leaned back in his chair. “Ah. I think I see what you’re getting at.”
“How do I reconcile your divinity with the fact that your religion condemns me?”
He folded his hands in his lap and looked down at them. “Yeah, I’ve been getting that a lot over the past few hundred years.”
It was my turn to push. “Well?”
“Have I condemned you?”
I didn’t even pause. “Not as far as I know.”
“But my followers do?”
“Most of them.”
“But I’m not a Christian.”
“No. But Jews haven’t historically viewed pagans favorably either.”
He chuckled. “You’re an historian. You know my story. I wanted my people to be able to stay true to our traditions. We were becoming too Greek, too Roman. No offense …”
He went on. “But we were supposed to be Jewish, and I wanted to maintain that. I suppose you could say I pioneered separation or church and state. Rome could rule us politically, but we needed our own culture and religion. And that kind of thinking was new to that time. We didn’t really conceive of ‘religion’ or ‘culture’ the way you do now.
“And as you know, I was executed as a political dissident. But my teachings were adapted by the Greeks. And so I’m kind of attached to a religion that I didn’t really want or support.”
I leaned forward a bit, sipping my coffee. “So how does that work? The deification thing?”
He smiled. “You know I can’t talk about that. Consider it a trade secret. One that would cause your mind to implode.”
I tried a different angle. “Okay, but gods have areas of influence. Rulerships. So you’ve got the whole redemption and forgiveness thing going on. How does that work?”
“Well, I forgive people. I relieve them of their burdens. I heal them.”
I took a moment to think. Jesus helped himself to some of the dolmas and a few pieces of feta.
I started again. “The other gods are real.”
He nodded, chewing.
“And there doesn’t seem to be any of that hellfire stuff for dealing with and worshiping them.”
He nodded again.
“And most pagan religions don’t have a redemption theology. So where do you fit in?”
He took another sip of coffee and held on to his cup. I took the opportunity to take up the rest of the dolmas and a few kalamata olives.
“You deal with your gods because they called to you. You were questing, they noticed you, and they spoke to you. And you heard their call. Well, mostly.”
It was my turn to nod.
“If you do something wrong, make a mistake, you make atonement to them. And you work to correct your error. Or at least you try to.”
I nodded again.
“Because you are a priest to your gods, in a sense. You can connect with them.”
I swallowed the olive I was eating. “I suppose so.”
“What if you couldn’t?”
I pondered a moment. I had been in such a position on my path, and I’m sure he knew that.
“Well, I felt kind of lost. Cast about for something to give me direction.”
He sat up. “I’m getting at something more than that. What if you were actually not able to handle that connection? If you were not equipped to contact them, or not aware enough to recognize the need to? Only aware that you had done wrong and not sure what to do? That you had caused others pain or were in pain yourself, and not capable of mentally and spiritually doing what needed to be done to remedy it? What do you do?”
I was at a loss. “I don’t know.”
“You come to me. And through me, you find peace.”
It started to make sense. He continued.
“I was a sacrifice. An atonement sacrifice. For those left behind. Those too poor to pay for their own sacrifices. Those too lost to know who to sacrifice to. Those to arrogant or proud to admit they needed to atone. Those who could not hear the call, or who were not singled out, but felt the need for someone anyway. I am the herald of the Piscean Age. I took everyone that was left out. And I forgave them when they needed forgiveness. I took their burdens from them. I gave them new hope and a clean slate. And they could start anew. I healed them. And I still do.”
I let that soak in a bit while sipping the last of my coffee. The angel was preparing more.
“So where does that leave me?”
“Weren’t you listening?” He leaned over and took a few dates. “You’ve got someone. You’ve made the choice to take responsibility to your gods for your own actions. If you get to the point where you can’t hack it anymore, I’ll be here to catch you.”
“And that whole Christianity thing and all those rules I don’t follow?”
He raised his hands. “Hey, I didn’t make those rules. Look at Paul. He meant well, and most of them worked pretty good for a time. But any institution is susceptible to corruption and inflexibility. And perspectives change, too. I can assure you that I would have condemned any act of homosexuality back when I was alive. Obviously now I see things differently. Being in the forgiveness business does that.”
“So it’s okay of I’m not Christian?”
“I’m not. Why should you be? You seem to be getting along fine with your gods. Do that. My followers have set up there own rules, and those rules give most of them comfort and don’t cause problems. Some of them do, and I do my best to share some compassion. There are some crazy things that go on in my name. But I forgive those who do them, because that’s what I am.
“Remember that since you have received that call, and you are capable, you have that responsibility. You must live up to that — that is a burden your gods place upon you, and you have chosen to accept it. I accept the people that can’t or won’t accept that burden. And if you need some extra help, I’ll step in, too.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a friend of mine with a bit of a drinking problem…”
“And she’s been doing a lot better lately, hasn’t she?”
“I suppose she has.”
The angel had cleared the table while we talked, and now returned with a tray of baklava. I took one of the sticky wedges and sampled it. The flavors melded perfectly, the crust light and flaky.
“This guy is pretty awesome, you know.”
“You should see the kitchen.” Jesus shrugged. “You set up the initial setting in your dreamwork. I just figured this would help set the mood.”
“I’d say it worked well.”
He nodded his agreement.
“So,” Jesus asked, “Does this help?”
“It does. I don’t think all my questions are answered, but I know better to expect that with divine beings. But I’ve got a good enough point to work from, and I think I’ve got an idea where you fit it.”
“Good. Just remember that there are many who need me, and they won’t see things the same way. They have their institutions and their rules, or even their notions that I was a Buddhist. Leave them be to believe what they will. Be gentle with them, because they’re hurting, too.”
The angel brought a small bowl or water for me to wash my fingers in. Jesus did the same.
“I think you’re set to wake up soon. You’d best head back. Visit me or call me as you need me, but I think you’re pretty well covered.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said, opening the stargate to head back to my temple. “Thanks for the chat. And the coffee.”
“You’re quite welcome. It’s nice to get guests that aren’t begging me for something. Salve, Citizen.”
He gave me a Roman salute as I stepped into the event horizon. And he pronounced it like they did in ancient times.