The little boy listened carefully as his Sunday school teacher explained how Jesus died and came back to life. He scrunched his nose at the gross thought and raised his hand to ask the question that everyone HAD to be thinking.
“You mean like a zombie?”
The idea of zombie Jesus is one of those things floating around the internet for folks who like to play with beliefs that mean nothing to them yet are sacred to others. If you think religion or Christianity is a joke then what better way to punctuate the criticism than by mocking the one they call Christ? And like a kid throwing rocks at a beehive, the response is predictable.
I mentioned the zombie Jesus Facebook fan page in my book Undead a couple years ago. At that time the page had around 25,000 likes. Now it’s closer to 70,000. The idea is commercial and exists to sell merchandise like “Jesus Was A Zombie” shirts. The transgressive parody cites two biblical passages as canon.
Jesus was a Zombie because:
- He came back from the dead–“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Acts 2:24
- He encourages zombie like behavior–“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53
To the first point, there’s something poetic in the fact that even those intending to mock Jesus do so by affirming eyewitness accounts of his resurrected self. That’s how it’s always been really. The leaders who executed him were the same. They never said his body wasn’t missing but rather acknowledged it was gone. With no reasonable explanation to explain the mystery they concocted a cover up about disciples in sandals making like Jason Bourne to snatch the body out from under the best soldiers in the world.
On the second count, I wonder if anyone has been misinterpreted more throughout history than Jesus of Nazareth. When he spoke figuratively, his words were taken literally. When he was speaking literally about dying and coming back to life, his followers thought he was being metaphorical.
Yes, I’m aware that people trying to sell Zombie Jesus tshirts on the internet aren’t interested in understanding the theological implications of Jesus’ words. It’s still worth taking the time to consider how misunderstood the mission of Jesus continues to be.
Of course, the Jesus resurrection story does sound crazy. It’s okay to be stunned at the idea of a dead guy walking out of a tomb in such a convincing fashion that our calendars, religions, and more were forever changed. Faith, life, and death are confusing topics, even for Christians who believe Jesus to be the author of faith, giver of life, and conqueror of death.
He didn’t come back to life all decayed in a hollow human shell, nor did he seek to devour the flesh and brains of the living.