This is the continuation of my reading of the Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantsakis. I had to drive early this morning to Cabanatuan City, so this post is late. I read only one chapter yesterday, although it is equivalent to two chapters if I count the number of pages.
Chapter Four is about the crucifixion of Zealot, a Christ-type character revered by the Jews but detested by the Romans. Kazantsakis puts all the characters of the eventual crucifixion of Jesus Christ in this chapter, perhaps to mirror the main crucifixion of Jesus Christ that would occur later on in the story. But in the Zealot’s crucifixion, Christ is cast as the cross-maker, and every one curses him for being a traitor to the Jews. Mother Mary is also there, and she expresses sympathy to the mother of the Zealot who died that day on the cross. Mary Magdalene appears, and she is shown to have spent the night with the Zealot on the eve of his crucifixion in order to give him the “ultimate joy”, but the Zealot has mastered his sexual appetite, and spurns her instead. The scene ends with the mother of the Zealot cursing Jesus and Mary, “My curse upon you, Son of the Carpenter. As you crucified another, may you be crucified yourself!... And you, Mary may you feel the pain that I have felt!”
Kazantsakis provides an insight into the life of Jesus with this chapter regarding Jesus Christ before he started his ministry. The Gospels do not discuss the life of Christ before he started his ministry, and all we know about him is his birth, his brief appearance at the temple as a child, his life when he began his ministry, and the circumstances of his death. Kazantsakis posits that Christ, being a son of a carpenter, is most likely a carpenter himself, and is even one who makes crosses for the violent ritual of crucifixion in those days of the Roman occupation of Israel. Many will find this revolting, but then again this is not being passed as gospel truth. If, indeed, Jesus was born to Mary who was married to Joseph, the carpenter, it is most likely that Jesus was himself a carpenter. And if he was a carpenter, he might have made crosses for those public executions.
What is the relevance of Christ being a cross-maker in his life before he started the ministry? Again, I see this from the Kazantsakis’s developmental approach. If Christ was flesh and blood, he had a life before he started his public life. Christ’s eventual shift from a “cross-maker” to a “cross-bearer” is the point of his conversion. This point of conversion is the conversion that would later save mankind. For if Christ chose to stick with his role as “cross-maker”, the entire paschal mystery of life, death, and resurrection would not have happened. But then again, there are 29 chapters to go. So I must read on.