In my office there hangs on the wall two framed icons of Jesus and a Christus Victor Cross. The two icons pictured feature a fairly stoic and clean Jesus. On the Cross hangs a Jesus with an emotionless face wearing a crown as well as a chasuble and stole. The Jesus of these pieces of art as well as the Jesus of so many pieces of art from paintings to stained class windows doesn’t seem all too human. If anything he appears to be more divine than human. If anything his divinity outweighs his humanity. Is this the Jesus of the Gospels or is this the Jesus of our own projections and perceptions?
In the Gospels Jesus refers to himself as “the Son of Man” or more succinctly put “the Human One” or “the Human Being”. And appropriately so. When we pay very close attention to the Gospel accounts Jesus does not simply come across as some other-worldly being but rather as a human being. He gets angry (Mark 1:43-44, 3:5; John 2:13:22), frustrated (Mark 9:19) and saddened (John 11:33-35). He is rude (Luke 19:1-5), harsh (Mark 8:33) and provocative (Mark 3:1-6; John 5:1-17). And he almost has an anxiety attack (Mark 14:33-36;Luke 22:44). He’s not always humble, meek and mild. He is the Son of Man. He is the Human Being. In fact, he is quite human.
On Friday night I walked down the Bowery for the first time in years. It has changed a lot since I was a teenager. It has changed a lot since before I was even born. It is now prime Manhattan real estate. Weird. Gone are the empty storefronts, gone are the homeless derelicts, gone are the punks and hardcore kids, gone are the graffiti tags, gone is CBGB’s, gone is the sense of nothingness and the nihilism that permeated the air in that part of Manhattan.
What has come? Refurbished apartments buildings, brand new condos, restaurants and bars one after another charging an exorbitant amount for a beer so that they can pay the exorbitant rent bill, fashion boutiques that sell vintage Guns n’ Roses t-shirts for $259 and lots of people walking around. Hipsters and tourists now line the Bowery having replaced the seedy characters who were the reason why the former persons didn’t step foot in this part of Manhattan just 15 years ago (and for good reason!).
Witnessing such a change made me feel uncomfortable. Not in a nostalgic longing for the good ole’ days kind of way but in how quickly and drastically something can change because it has been deemed valuable monetarily. The idea never crossed my mind as a 17 year old that the place that I was staging diving in would later become a fashion boutique. It’s an odd feeling to realize that you were a part of something that is now considered special and historic, that now gives a place that is safe and secure some level of ‘street cred’. It’s an odd feeling when a hipster in the East Village of Manhattan asks you, “So, is this your first time visiting Manhattan?” But that’s how quickly things change. Things come and go.