"The Gospel Jesus is intimate, emotional, physically expressive, and even sensual in many ways. The Jesus of the moralizing preacher, in contrast, is inhumanely pure and uncompassionately asexual. A hint of Epicureanism in the Gospel Jesus appears when he assures, through a miracle, that a wedding celebration has enough good wine. On another occasion, he gives people bread and fish, again through a miracle, not feeding starving people in severe need, but simply taking care of an audience who needs lunch. Like Epicurus, he has prostitutes in his company, and he saves from a certain death a woman condemned for adultery. His heart aches at the death of his friend Lazarus, and this loving feeling is the motive for the miracle of Lazarus's return from the dead. His touch is healing and his presence is full of magic. This is an image of a man who is not afraid of eros, who lives from his heart and from his body.

"In the Gospels Jesus is contrasted with the moralists and legalists of his time as a man of infinite compassion. Paradoxically, the churches that profess to carry on his teaching are not known for their compassion as much as for their legalism. The Epicurean Jesus is nowhere to be seen, and eros often appears to be the chief enemy, not the chief characteristic, of his followers. The sexuality of Jesus evaporates in these rigid attitudes, replaced by anxious and obsessive suppression of eros.

"The Jesus I see in the canonical Gospels is a sexual celibate or a celibate lover. He would be a scandal in our time, as he was in his own, because he tolerates so much humanity. At first glance it may seem a contradiction to be chaste and morally tolerant, but Jesus' celibacy never seems anxious or repressive. It allows him to love in an embracing way and is so comfortably part of his philosophy and style that he doesn't have to judge others for their sexual ways. Moralistic judgments always betray confusion and struggle in the one making the judgments, but in Jesus there is no sign of this neurosis that sometimes plagues his followers. . . .

"The sexuality of Jesus consists in his openness to strangers and friends, the physicality of his healing, the sacramentality in his approach to food, the tolerance he displays in the face of sexual transgression, and his espousal of a philosophy based on love. Only a worldview mired in materialism could fail to see the sexuality in this expansive and inclusive erotic philosophy. The sexual teachings of Jesus, told best through his example, present a soul-centered eroticism in which friendship and a compassionate heart are not only included but placed at the center.

"We have a strong tendency to think of sex as emanating from the sex organs or from the purely physical body, but Jesus demonstrates a quite different notion — sexuality rooted in compassion and in the capacity for friendship. It is a more broadly defined but no less sensuous sexuality, in which love and pleasure are joined integrally. There is no need to import affection to what is thought to be a plain physical expression or to justify sex with love. In the sexuality of Jesus physical life and compassion are two sides of a coin. In him we find that the heart is the organ of sex, as surely and effectively as any other private part."