Who was the God of Jesus?
Let us first find out who Jesus is.
A few facts:
He lived around 2000 years ago, in the Middle East, in Palestine.
He was Jewish, during a period when Jews were under Roman occupation.
He came from a humble background; he was not a member of the elite, either religious, intellectual, or aristocratic.
As an adult, he joined a spiritual renewal movement, and participated in a ritual of conversion: he was ‘baptized’ by having his head plunged underwater.
He then set out on the roads of Palestine, proclaiming to everyone that God would soon intervene in history to establish a ‘Kingdom’.
He accomplished amazing feats, especially healings, which intrigued and attracted great crowds.
A core of people, the Apostles, followed him, and shared his life.
After a few years of preaching, he started attracting unwanted attention from the authorities: religious (the Jewish Sanhedrin) and civil (the Roman governorship).
The opposition organized itself to the point that he was arrested, and then found guilty of sedition.
The Romans nailed him to a cross, where he died a few hours later.
A few days after that, his friends claimed that he was alive; that he was ‘risen from the dead’.
It’s that last sentence that creates problems. Because if it is true that Jesus died and then became alive again, then everything is changed. Especially since his friends said that his new life was overwhelming, without limitations, and deeply mysterious. What they proclaimed was so improbable, why should we listen to them? Here are three reasons.
The first reason to listen to them is the improbable transformation they themselves went through between the moment of his death and the moment they started announcing his resurrection. Within a few days, they went from profound disappointment, radical discouragement, sadness and fear, withdrawal and loneliness… to joy, unbridled confidence, energy, communion, and a powerful sense of mission. How did they explain this transformation? They said that Jesus had risen from the dead. If this is true, then their sudden change is understandable.
Second reason to listen to them: their total commitment to sharing this extraordinary news. Indeed, from that moment on, these Apostles would stop at nothing to convince others that Jesus had risen from the dead. They had no special technique, no money, no weapons, no system, and no influence. They would leave their country; they would be criticized, arrested, tortured, and killed… And yet, they never gave up. This constancy over decades, through all kinds of trials, invites us to consider the truth of their convictions.
Third reason to listen to them: the raising up of so many communities that laid claim to this Good News, who retold the stories about Jesus, who started to write down his teachings, and who changed their lives to follow his example. All that, despite the lack of recognition, status, or consideration. Instead, the members of these communities would be mocked and persecuted in a campaign aimed at destroying them. That in such circumstances the Good News managed to spread throughout the world gives us pause and suggests that God might be involved in all of this.
For these reasons, it is worth listening to what the Apostles said about Jesus. So, what did they say about him?
That his teachings came from God, and that we must change our lives in order to put them into action.
That his miracles are signs that God comes into our lives in order to bring healing, justice, and joy.
That in his death and resurrection, God accomplished a unique event in the history of the world; indeed, this event changed the relationship the world had with God.
That Jesus himself came from God; he is God’s prophet, God’s Word, God’s only-begotten Son.
That Jesus still today sends his Spirit into the world and into our lives, to unite us to him and to share his life with us.
But what is this Spirit that Jesus sends into the world?