Jesus and The Guitar: A Short Story

The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso

Just the other day I got a phone call from Jesus. I hadn’t heard from him for awhile. He told me he wanted to give me something: an electric guitar. We agreed to meet outside the Gare Montparnasse, one of the busiest train stations in Paris.

Jesus was standing next to his motorcycle when I caught his eye. He had the same long hair and beard, which had gone a bit grey; we embraced warmly. It was good to see an old friend, although I’d been a bit worried about him lately. I knew he was suffering in self-imposed solitude, living in a tiny garret with a shared bathroom. He was almost fifty years old now and still single and none of his relationships with women were working out. “I still believe that there is somebody out there for me”, he said, “But I’m not looking particularly. I have some projects.”

When Jesus showed me the guitar my jaw dropped. It was a beautiful hollow- bodied Ibanez—and it looked like I might actually be able to breath life into it. “Don’t worry”, he said. “It gives me more pleasure to give it to you than to sell it.”

I didn’t know how to thank him—this was the exact guitar I had been looking for. Usually, I play a Martin folk guitar, but I had been waiting to ‘go electric’ for a long time. I guess the time had finally come.

We sat down at plastic counter of a dirty café in the middle of the maddening crowd and began exchanged pleasantries. “I’m doing Ok” I said, with nothing particular to report. “What about you?” He seemed to want to shift the conversation away from himself but then did a U-Turn—things started to get real:

“I have been suffering a lot to tell the truth. I feel the pain and anguish of all the people around me.” He said. “I eat it, I drink it, it burns up though me—I am taking in more pain than I can digest — even though it is not my pain. To tell you the truth, I haven’t been sleeping for more than a couple hours a night. The place where I live is just terrible. I want to get out of the city. I’m making plans.” He looked at me with his bright eyes. He had lost some weight. “It feels good to talk about this. I haven’t talked to anybody for awhile”.

Sensing my pity and concern he changed the tone: “Nobody should feel sorry for me,” he said as the hordes rushed by: “I am more blessed than any of these people here.” As he uttered these words he seemed to grow larger in stature, to lord over me a little. His presumption of specialness grated me. What right had he to put himself above people, to claim to be the closest to God? Was he the same old Jesus I once knew — or had something happened to him. Had he been transfigured by suffering? “I’ve got a project” he went on. “I’m going to start in September. I’m going to build The New Jerusalem.”

I couldn’t listen any longer. His ‘project’ seemed dangerously arrogant to me, and I told him in so many words. “Listen Jesus.” I said “You are a deep person with a good heart. But as a friend I can’t help wishing you more happiness on the human level. You know I love you as a friend, but as the messiah — to be honest, I don’t fully trust you in that role.”

This seemed to upset him: “You think you know, but you don’t know.” he said forcefully—attacking my own inflated belief in my ability to perform miracles. The goodwill between us was shattered. “I’m going to go now,” he said.

I sat there at the plastic counter for awhile, in the middle of the whirling noise and crowd, mute but with all kinds of things I wanted to say. I felt paralysed—like I had been bitten by a scorpion. Apparently his gift had come as a price. Perhaps that would be our friendship, which meant something to me. What kind of a deal had I just made?

I also felt a bit ashamed of myself, somewhat to blame. Who was I to tell Jesus who he was? How much I hate it when people try to play God with me. On the other hand, I was trying to be a friend. But Jesus wasn’t interested in friendship, he wanted to be alone in the desert and make his plans.

The guitar sat there in the corner of the café beside an amp, a few pedals, and some other paraphernalia—the crucifix and the crown of thorns. I considered running after him to give that piece of wood back, but it was too late. He was gone, and I was stuck with the thing. I guess I would have to put my confused feelings into a song. Some distortion and high volume would help tell the tale.

I picked up the guitar and the amp and made my way to the suburb train. The thing was heavy on my shoulder, and as the train left the station I felt the nails being driven in.

Compressed scraps of angel melody, stories, essays, rants against reductionism, commands from the deep.