I used to think that the Undertaker from WWE was the coolest person ever. Seriously. He was gigantic, fearsome, powerful, and seemingly always in control. He rarely lost bouts (because he was the best, not because professional wrestling is fake) and his chokeslam was the greatest finishing move in the history of the “sport”. My fifth grade self idolized him.
I look back on those days in disbelief. How could I like the things that I did back then? Why did I find the Undertaker so fascinating at age 11? It makes me think about what I find interesting now-a-days. Will I enjoy the things I gravitate towards at age 25 when I reach age 35? 45? 65? The basic question I ask myself is, “Will what I find cool still be cool years from now?”, which begs the even greater question, “What is cool?”
More Than Just Temperature
With 5 minutes and a little magical help from Google, you can see that the world is divided over what coolness is and how to put it into words. Some say it’s being ahead of the times in terms of fashion. Others say its not caring what society deems appropriate appearance and behaviors. A few even say that they themselves are what it means to be cool (proving without a shadow of a doubt that they are not). Cool is a tricky topic to define.
Growing up, the cool crowd was easily identifiable. They were the crew that was excluded from the rest of us less blessed individuals. They were more athletic, smarter, prettier, or just generally more popular than the rest of us “normies”.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no animosity against anyone who found themselves in the popular clique anywhere in life. I know many others have been hurt by these so-called “popular kids” and I’m in no way excusing hurtful behavior. I will say, however, that coolness can be present (and often is!) without the desire to attack anything or anyone who doesn’t have the trait.
With all that being said, for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll say that coolness is an undefinable trait that makes a person or group more attractive to those around. Which means that uncool must mean a trait that makes one or a group unattractive to those around.
If you’ve read any of my other posts on this site (or had the misfortune of having a conversation with this author) you’ll know that I’m fascinated by the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a very curious life. He claimed to be God in the flesh and performed countless miracles alongside his radical teaching. For 2,000 years people have encountered the Jesus of the Bible and walked away with tremendously differing views of the man ranging from lunatic to Lord of the universe (full disclosure: I fall into the ‘Lord’ portion of the spectrum).
When I look at the life of Jesus found in the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament of the Bible) I see someone who doesn’t fit into the category of cool or uncool, or, instead, fits into both.
The King Is In the Building
Jesus constantly had thousands of people flocking to him. His miracles and healings led many to come to his for relief from their burdens. His teachings frequently left the crowds “astonished” (Matthew 7:28 ESV), and “marveling” (Luke 20:26 ESV). When he entered into Jerusalem for a special festival, people flocked outside the city to welcome him in as if he were a conquering king (Mark 11:1-10).
To add on to that, Jesus had his own entourage. He hand picked twelve men to follow him around everywhere he went and learn to do and teach the things Jesus did. And not long into his career, he became a celebrity in his land attracting even the attention of the political leaders of the time (Luke 9:7).
Jesus was cool.
Only, he also wasn’t.
Can I Have the Turkey Instead?
It seems like every time Jesus attracted a large following he would do or say something to make those around him leave. He would talk about how those who follow him will have no place to stay (Luke 9:58). To others he would say that they would have to give up all of their possessions and wealth to follow him (Luke 18:18-30). He would even say that one had to have such a devotion to him that their commitment to others would look like hate in comparison to their love for Jesus (Luke 14:25-33).
One particular occasion sticks out more than the rest. Early in Jesus’ ministry there was a great crowd that was following him because Jesus had multiplied a few loaves of bread to feed 5,000+. Instead of using his super God-powers to keep the following growing, he started talking about having to eat his flesh and drink his blood to be able to connect with God. Unsurprisingly, everyone left except his posse of twelve (John 6:22-69).
Cannibalism isn’t cool.
Jesus wasn’t cool.
And this story explains why.
Why the Undertaker is Cool (at Least One of the Reasons)
Those who might have a background in Christianity might recognize that Jesus is talking about something symbolic in this passage. He’s talking about the ritual practice of The Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist for my Catholic friends). The practice involves taking bread and wine (or grape juice depending on your theological viewpoint) to symbolize (literally become for Catholics) Jesus’ physical body and blood. It’s a practice to direct Christians to the death of Jesus and his work of connecting us with God.*
And this is why Jesus is both cool and uncool.
The cool people in my life growing up had one thing in common, I never had a true relationship with any of them. They were all far off, away from me. I was either excluded from their group or only I got selective glimpses of them through television or media.
Their positive, attractive attributes were fully on display (like awesome chokeslams) without any need or desire for relationship with me. They were cool, at least in part, because I was excluded from them.
The Uncool Coolness of Christ
Jesus will forever be uncool because he desires, more than anything else in the world, for relationship with us. The people in John 6 wanted Jesus to be their genie, their magical butler to clean up all the messiness in their lives. They wanted food and deemed that the most important need in their lives. Jesus knew that this was not their greatest need and acted accordingly.
The reason Jesus told the crowd to eat his body and drink his blood is to point them to their greatest need. The Lord’s Supper demonstrates to those who partake that God Himself had to endure the worst suffering possible in order to fix the broken relationship between every individual and God. Jesus is saying in this passage, “your greatest need isn’t the thing that will keep your bodies alive but relationship with me!”
As we have all experienced, relationships are messy. They can be painful at times, especially when they reveal the darker parts of our lives that we prefer to keep hidden. Relationship with Jesus is infinitely more painful than any other relationship in life because he’s the only one who sees all of the evil in us and is able to root it out. He offers a relationship with a God who will correct you, hurt you, and change who you are to the very core of your being. To many, this is not an attractive proposal. Yet that is exactly what Jesus is presenting us with.
Jesus is very uncool.
However, for those who can look past this unattractive, painful concept of a God who wants to change them, they will also see a God who went to hell and back for them. They will find someone more attractive than anyone or anything in this world. They will find a love that never fails them, a friend that never leaves them, a parent that never abandons them, a lover that never turns away from them. They will find everything they’ve ever hoped for, ever dreamed of, ever longed for, and far more.
Jesus is very cool.
*I recognize this is a very specific Protestant view of Communion and I mean not to offend others who hold differing views on the Sacrament. I apologize if, in my ignorance, I make any wrong assumptions or statements concerning other theological views of the Sacrament.