And now for this Sunday’s meditation, we turn to Brother Bob Newland:
My Facebook feed has, for several days, been vastly overpopulated with bright red squares filled with big white block letters designed by the posting parties to impress upon the celestial mob boss that (s)he is the object of the posting party’s abject devotion.
This came across my Facebook feed today. “If you believe Jesus is coming back, respond with ‘Amen.'”
I’m like, “Where’s he been? I didn’t even know he was gone.”
I know the legend of Jesus. He was from Nazareth, was born near Bethlehem. He grew up to be an evangelist, although a rather pleasant representative thereof, compared to, say, Joel Osteen or Jimmy Swaggart. People started quoting him and challenging authority, which, even if only involves speaking the truth, is still to this day a dangerous profession.
When he was about 33, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the adulation of a crowd. About a week later he was dead, more or less. There is nothing unusual in history about such an event, except for the ‘or less’ part.
Somebody started a rumor that Jesus was the product of a sexual (well, make that “spiritual”, if you must) union of some sort between God and his 13-year-old mother. The Son of God, conceived “immaculately”? It held a certain cache. I feel the need to mention here that Jesus is, in a rough translation to English, “Josh” or “Joe”.
During the next 20 centuries, there grew a multi-national populist movement holding Jesus up as martyr (I agree with the characterization) to a system that both attempts (feebly) to provide equity in quality-of-life and to “provide incentives to the resourceful.” This worked well on an astonishingly-broad demographic. “Work hard, be good, love Jesus, spend eternity in….”
Well, as a marketing tool, eternal bliss appears to be the Swiss Army Knife—it has a blade for everything—of advertising gold. An advancement toward Eternal Bliss (EB) is worth what it’s worth, and various people sell it at widely-variant prices. A crafty, or simply cyber-educated, salesman of EB can shower us with teasers at no expense except his time.
Seriously, though, where has Jesus been, and what will have to happen to make His reappearance timely? It probably wouldn’t work any better for Him to ride a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in 2024 than it did in 0033. Will He come back? What’s the hold-up? I mean, things are bad, man.
Maybe He’s been here for a while. He probably would have adopted an alias, or several. If He wanted to travel, I am sure the Son of God, part of the ecclesiastical triumvirate, could manage getting a passport. Maybe he’s trying to change the system from the inside? He could have been here for quite a while, like forever, if He wanted.
So, why is it so tough, even if you’re Jesus, to make life tolerable for about half of those alive now? Who runs things around here? Creating a dominus has always been a tricky deal. If they’re presented as being indomitable, their subjects want to know why they can?t make the crook down the street stop collecting protection money from them. So, gods are generally presented as having their own problems. It helps them fit in with the rest of us.
But if you have the same problems as the rest of us, then are you really a god? The god of Abraham claims several times, in one of the most popular editions of “His” word, that he created the Universe, and that he knows everything and knows how everything is going to turn out. That leaves those of us who would like to believe that we have something to look forward to after our kidneys quit working with a bit of mental balancing between what we know from experience and what we’d like to believe. The King James Edition says God is jealous of other gods. If one accepts that, one realizes that the god being depicted is, indeed, created in one’s own image.
Jesus may show up someday in a burst of rapture and fear (Can I get an “Amen”?). I have a different theory. Jesus may have been among us for a few years, maybe 2000 or so. This is assuming he actually walked out of the tomb three days after Good Friday, 0033. He learned, in the early days, that becoming known as a “Messiah” is a dangerous process. Crucifixion is an unhappy experience, even if you do live through it. His life may or may not be lonely. He hangs out and tries to get folks to adopt his practice of charity. Joel Osteen seems to have grasped that part of the message fairly well.
Maybe it’s Mike Johnson (Michael of Shreveport), current Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who said the Bible was his directive for legislation. While the prospect of wiping out whole national populations seems extreme as you read this, popular opinion changes over time and slaughter. If Mike is Jesus, he has my attention.
By the way, John Prine has placed Jesus in Italy and England in “Jesus, the Missing Years.”