Thoughts on 'Jesus the Son of Man', a book by Kahlil Gilbran

Cover of 'Jesus the Son of Man' by Kahlil Gilbran

Seeing as Christmas is fast approaching, I thought I'd mention this book: Kahil Gilbran's 'Jesus the Son of Man'. The book takes the form of a series of narratives related some years after Jesus' crucifixion - some related by his closest disciples such as Peter, John, Andrew, Mary Magdalene; others by people who encountered Jesus such as Simon the Cyrene, Pontius Pilate, the rich man who asked him what he had to do to get to heaven, a householder who proudly displays the two doors and a table that Jesus made for his house, to passersby who for the rest of their lives felt the impact of a fleeting smile from the Master; others by sworn adversaries such as Annas, Caiaphas or even a mother angry that her son has left his comfortable life to follow him, and still others by Romans and Persians who are discussing his present impact years after his leaving the earth...

What I like about the book is that it does not focus so much on the outer miracles performed during his last three years on earth, but on the greater miracles of love and forgiveness which Jesus embodied in his every speech, smile and gesture, qualities which reverberate in the earth consciousness until this day. This view is also shared by my teacher, Sri Chinmoy , in his many expressions of admiration for the Christ, and in his play, the Son , which he wrote about the Christ's life. Here is a beautiful passage from Gilbran's book, with John as the narrator: In the course of the book, Gilbran supplements the accepted accounts of Christ's life with incidents like these sprung from his heart's identification with that love.

On a day when He and I were alone walking in a field, we were both hungry, and we came to a wild apple tree. There were only two apples hanging on the bough. And He held the trunk of the tree with His arm and shook it, and the two apples fell down. He picked them both up and gave one to me. The other He held in His hand. In my hunger I ate the apple, and I ate it fast. Then I looked at Him and I saw that He still held the other apple in His hand. And He gave it to me saying, 'Eat this also.' And I took the apple, and in my shameless hunger, I ate it. And as we walked on I looked upon His face. But how shall I tell you of what I saw? A night where candles burn in space, A dream beyond our reaching; A noon where all the shepherds are at peace and happy that their flocks are grazing; An eventide, a stillness and a home-coming; Then a sleep and a dream. All these things I saw in His face. He had given me the two apples. And I knew He was hungry even as I was hungry. But I now know that in giving them to me He had been satisfied. He Himself ate of other fruit from another tree. I would tell you more of him, but how shall I? When love becomes vast, love becomes wordless. And when memory is overladen it seeks the silent deep.

I think a good spiritual film could be made out of this book. On my rare visits to the video store, I am struck how little there is by way of films that will leave the viewer spiritually uplifted at the end of it, or at least inspired, and I sometimes wonder at what would be a good thing to make a film about. You could make the film in documentary fashion, sending a camera out to all the first-century places where the different narrators lived to interview them (show the camera too, why not). All the differing accounts might bring home the atmosphere in which the Christ lived and taught, and at the same time, I think, preserve a sense of enigma which coaxes us to search deeper within. One might have to take some licences with the book (one always does); the language used throughout its pages is very poetic and makes for wonderful reading, but it would be nice to intersperse the poetry with "realistic" documentary interviews, all subtitled of course.... Advance preview screenings are available in my head from December 19th.... :)

The entire book is available to read online at kahlil.org ...