Last week I had to answer several queries from the copy editor working on MAGDALENE. Not really a big deal, it’s just part of the process, and she made several important points.

She queried a passage my editors hadn’t even blinked at–and, after a bit of thought, I passed the passage and the query on to some writer friends for their response. The topic? I had Jesus/Yeshua doing something that people in fiction and films usually don’t do–attend to physical human needs. Yes, I had Jesus step away for a moment to relieve himself.

Most of the friends I queried said it didn’t bother them; in fact, wrote Athol D., the passage showed the depths to which God was willing to sink to redeem us! The passage did bother a couple of folks, but I wonder if that isn’t a good thing. Doesn’t it say that we don’t really think of Jesus as human? Yet he was as fully human as he was fully divine. In fact, his followers didn’t expect a divine Messiah–they expected a descendant of David who would be the “son of God” in the same way that all children of Abraham were “sons of God” because Israel was considered God’s “firstborn.” It wasn’t until AFTER the resurrection that most of the disciples realized that Jesus was truly divine, and the concept of the Trinity (though illustrated throughout the Bible) wasn’t clearly defined until the second century.

But–back to the passage–here it is:

At a word from the disciple who’d stopped Atticus, Yeshua turned toward a thick stand of brush behind the rocks, seeking privacy.
Atticus looked away as understanding dawned. The rabbi had been standing before these people for hours without a break-no wonder he needed a moment.
“Auuuuuuuuu.” Quinn pulled on the neckline of Atticus’s tunic. “Auuuuuuuuu.”
Atticus jiggled the baby. Soon the boy would be hungry and he had no food on hand. This prophet had better hurry.
The shrubs rustled and the rabbi reappeared. His mouth curved in a slow smile when he caught Atticus’s eye. “I’m sorry you had to wait.”

You see? Nothing explicit about it at all; it shows Jesus as an ordinary man. Which he was, and which he had to be in order to suffer as we suffer. But he was also fully God.

And (LOL) my good friend Deb Raney pointed out something in an earlier draft–I’d had Atticus “flush” when he realized why Yeshua stepped away. Deb pointed out not only the awful pun, but that Atticus’s discomfort might serve to heighten my reader’s discomfort, when in a rural society, such things were probably no big deal. So–I did let Atticus “look away” if only as a sign of respect.

What do you think? Does it bother you to think about Jesus having to attend to ordinary human needs? Can you imagine him sneezing? Stubbing his toe? What does our reticence say about him . . . and about us?



  1. Betsy

    It doesn’t bother me. He is God but he also got to experience mortality in all its splendour and all its mundane.

  2. Anonymous

    Doesn’t bother me. You handled it in a discreet way.

  3. Kristine

    It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I occasionally have to wonder why authors don’t include some more of the everyday things. I don’t need to know every time a character has to relieve themselves (!) but sometimes I think that the act of doing everyday things adds to the character. Although it does need to be written well and not take away from the story by just being fluff. What do others think about this?

  4. C.J. Darlington

    It makes Jesus seem more like us, which he was. It helps me to realize he went through everything that I go through, and overcame. I don’t have a problem with the way you handled this scene at all. I’d keep it.

  5. Carrie

    This reminds me of a point Randy Alcorn makes in his book, Heaven. Many people assume that the passages of Scripture that refer to us eating in Heaven have to be figurative, because they can’t imagine having actual physical bodies that go through the digestion process. Of course, we can’t be certain exactly how that will work – God could make our new bodies able to eat without needing to eliminate if He wanted to – but the point is that He created our bodies the way they are and called them good! Jesus had the same kind of body and He was without sin. There is nothing sinful about needing to use the bathroom. I think you should keep the scene.

  6. Angela

    Good mention of the Alcorn book. My hubby and I were actually talking at dinner about whether or not there’d be toilets in heaven. (Bizarre dinner conversation!) We thought that our supernatural bodies might be more efficient, digesting food completely, but then again, maybe not. As Carrie said, the Lord made our bodies and pronounced them good . . . and Jesus ate in his resurrection body. So who knows? Interesting question.


  7. Anonymous

    Hmmm, this is an interesting question – personally I don’t enjoy reading about a person having to relieve themselves, even if it was Jesus. The reason why is because I’m very visual and I actually picture it in my head! 🙂 So unlike your other commenters I don’t really like the scene for that reason.

    However, when I see a television show and the characters mention having to use the bathroom I dont’ mind that because they usually leave the scene.

    Nice blog, 🙂

    Stacy L. Harp
    Mind & Media

  8. bret

    It brings that human element to our Saviour. Doesn’t offend me at all. We often forget–as you mentioned–that he was a human being on earth, with all of the things our bodies experience: sweating, pimples, b.o…etc.

  9. Cindy

    Jesus was God, but He was also a real person with human physical needs. You handled it very well, Angela.

  10. lisa

    I think it’s great, Ange. We’re so tempted to take Christ’s humanity and clean it up nowadays, which makes it easy for us to think we can’t really live incarnational lives so why try.

    I love it.


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