Jesus is real. That’s what the big sign on the side of the interstate proclaimed. Homemade sign, about the size of a commercial billboard. Black background. White letters. No church affiliation. No website. Simply, “Jesus is real.” Don’t know who to credit for this revelation. It is in a relatively well trafficked area, which will receive more traffic once the roadway is completed. I also am not entirely sure what the message means.
Aside from the radical “hunt for the historical Jesus” folks, I pretty much considered that the reality of Jesus was not in dispute. And I am not so sure that it is in dispute for the Historical Jesus people, but it gives them something to do. Everyone needs a worthwhile hobby, and that can be a particularly difficult acquisition for nerdy academic types. But discounting that group, I was going with Jesus is real, and thinking that most folks accepted that, even the ones that didn’t accept Jesus. My Jewish friends accept Jesus is real, just not the Messiah. My Islamic friends accept that Jesus was a prophet, but nothing more than that. My Buddhist friends think that Jesus was a great teacher. My atheist, agnostic friends don’t question the reality of Jesus. So the entire intent of this massive painted sign seems like perhaps a craft project out of control.
And then I started thinking. I do that. Often in quiet times when left to my own devices. Clearly some folks put up big signs, I think. What if there was a question about the reality of Jesus? What if the Gospel message is an amalgam of those things that radical Jews were doing 1) to annoy the Romans 2) to annoy the Jewish leaders and 3) to faithfully follow the commands that God had given to them? That all those difficult teachings about “love thy neighbor” were not proclaimed by a person identified as the “son of God,” but were simply what a radical group of Jews were doing. And some person or persons began collecting their stories and to simplify matters created a persona, called him Jesus, and ultimately changed the world. This was making my head hurt.
I do believe Jesus is real. Pretty much have staked my life on it. But more importantly, the reality of Jesus is that we can’t stop being those radical people that live that way. I am not so interested in being the person that can erect a huge sign, that causes me to think, but I do want to live in such a way that others can believe the sign.
And that will be a thin place.