Yeah, I love Sting and I especially loved The Police, so I’m listening to “Synchronicity” right now. Maybe I’ll follow with a totally different artist and get the other half of the title covered with “Personal Jesus.”
Anyhoo here’s what this is all about: Has anyone (believers that is) like me considered how oddly perfect the arrival of Jesus was in terms of timing? How many ways that things just add up to say “Hmmmmm maybe there’s something to this Jesus guy?” while also leaving room for serious doubters or people who look just at the surface to say “It’s all made up!”
What do I mean?
Well firstly God operates from that whole faith thang. This has been the situation since he really started things going with Abraham even though it really goes back to Adam and Eve and telling them, “Just trust me.” But with Abe it was when he started making it clear that what he wants is our trust in him. Later this would evolve to having faith in God’s existence in the absence of him always having to pop up and do something dramatic. God doesn’t seem to want to do that and when he has to it usually meant all sorts of problems for the Isrealites, ya know? If God had to step in there tended to be ripples that weren’t always pleasant.
So secondly we have Jesus pop up at a time when historians are just really starting to become a force. Its a legit profession and all and people look to them to tell the story of what’s going on. So there are historians who mention Jesus’ existence. Even one who noted some of the strange environmental things that supposedly happened when Jesus gave up the ghost. It tend to be awfully dishonest intellectually speaking to say Jesus didn’t exist even if you deny his divinity.
This is important. As Deke has noted before several times we take at face value the fact that old documents of historical nature are accurate and good sources even though diligent historians were not as much in supply or in vogue as in Roman times. How many raggedy old historical documents do we hang on to know about the lives and accomplishments of ancient people. People who were around longer back than Jesus. Historical records that aren’t as numerous as the various copies and pieces of the gospel.
And what about that? No printing presses folks and yet so many copies in so many languages of the gospel. Why did people care enough to spread that word?
So thirdly the fact that people close to the time the gospels were written believed and yet no one in the power structure said “Jesus was a fake.” Blasphemer yeah. Sorcerer yeah. But no one said “He didn’t do those things he said he did and we the Jewish leaders of the time tell you he was a charlatan.” There were ample opportunities for people in power to debunk Jesus and no incentive for people to carry on his work and his message. I mean really the apostles? If my main man died when he told me he was the son of God I would run like hell and disavow him. There is no incentive to cash in and no reasons to keep following him. Almost all of them would ahve done what I would: curse the fraudulent bastards name and distance themselves for their survival.
Jesus’ message and legacy carried on because people had to have some sign that he was real. Coming back from the dead would be a good way. So either he did it (came back from dead) or he pulled off the biggest Elvis-style hoax around and vanished into the desert alive and well. Consdiering how good the Romans were at crucifixion and how much of a rabble rouser Jesus was the the Jewish religious leaders and local politicians, I don’t think he snuck off the cross folks.
And so we’re left with a guy who have an indelible mark on the world, his message spreading against all odds in an age without high speed communication or printing presses. And yet at the same time, enough loose ends and ambiguous stuff that naysayers can make a good case too that its all a fairy tale.
To me this speaks of God moving definitively and giving us signs but also staying out of sight enough that we still have free will. We still have choice. And we still have to look around for the truth. Not everyone finds the truth of Jesus. But I believe it is there to see even if we look critically and think deeply.