Across the planet millions – if not billions – of people believe Jesus or a similar prophet of their choice, will at some point return to kick ass, take names, right all the wrongs and, naturally, fast-track the rest of us toward some kind of heaven on earth.
There are some problems with this scenario, the most obvious being how, on a planet of more than 7,000,000,000 people, anyone will recognize him. Recall that only a tiny handful understood the man when he was alive, when they broke bread with him and listened to him speak.
Further complicating things is the habit of mystics and prophets to use metaphors and parables and other linguistic tools that will stand the test of time.
I mean, if you hear a guy on the corner saying something like this: “When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.” You don’t exactly hear that, snap your fingers and shout, “Well this guy obviously is the Messiah!”
And let’s not forget the noise. In Jesus’s day there was a lot of quiet and patience and solitude and to get from A to B you probably walked or rode a mule.
Contrast that with the modern era and a hyper-connected people racing from A to B, their minds inundated with endless forms of messaging all competing to be heard. A typical interaction with Jesus probably would be someone colliding with the man, eyes locked onto an iPhone and Instagram photos of a friend’s lunch.
We’re also assuming Jesus would be considerate enough to materialize in our own country speaking our own language. Maybe we’d recognize him by the incongruity of sandals and a robe in a Minneapolis winter?
Ok, so let’s assume a few folks actually recognize the man and believe him to be Jesus 2.0. What comes next? An interview on the evening news? Some Facebook posts of a bearded guy on a street corner claiming to be the son of god back for a return engagement. How many are going to believe, trust, listen?
Let’s keep the suspension of disbelief going still further and assume Jesus is able to accumulate a large gathering of followers. How soon, honestly, before his words offend in a world so easily offended? Isn’t it only a matter of time before, say, a ‘real Christian’ or a ‘radical Muslim’ or a guy crushing on Jodie Foster guns him down?
What magical words could a Jesus possibly offer to a human world incapable of getting along or agreeing on virtually anything? Most of us struggle to remain married to our ‘soul mates,’ to communicate with our children or remain on speaking terms with extended family members. This Jesus dude is going to change all that?
I suppose that’s the point. Why would Jesus return? It’s Mission Impossible stuff. Tom Cruise wouldn’t touch that script. Break into the CIA? Sure. Kidnap the President of the U.S.? No problem. Return to earth as Jesus? Are you out of your mind? Do you know how that story ends?
Across time Jesus and similar mystics, gurus, and prophets counseled anyone who would listen that the truth lies within each of us – that external objects (yes, including Jesus) did not matter.
I suspect Jesus would tell us: “You already have all the answers you need. Stop waiting for me and start treating others as you want to be treated. Remember that every stone cast or judgment passed will come back at you.
Anyone who digs a bit and is able to open their minds a crack will recognize Jesus had zero interest in creating a global army of followers who would misinterpret his teachings and cherry-pick only the ones they actually liked. Meaning it’s also unlikely he wanted generation after generation to sit around waiting for his return.
(And don’t get me started on the Muslim fanatics fast-tracking their martyrdom to reach those 72 virgins. Remember your virginity? Is that part of any heaven that you can imagine?)
In this spirit of hostile politics, let’s close with the simplest of expressions from Jesus of Nazareth:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.