First, it involves uncertainty. There are hopes, and possibilities, but also the reality of a historical figure that not everyone finds persuasive and not everyone follows. Whereas many Christians envisage Jesus as one who is either literally or metaphorically ‘irresistable,’ clearly it was possible for not only opponents but even adherents to find the realities of who Jesus was challenging and at times unsettling. He was a figure about whom it was genuinely possible to have doubts.
Second, it involves a greater focus on the teaching of Jesus. A resurrection that may or may not lay in the future and a resurrection that historians cannot access in the past place disciples on both sides of Easter in comparable situations, at least in certain respects.
Third, it seems that the first and second generation of followers – those closest to him – saw the need to reinterpret his life in light of new occurrences and circumstances. When we find ourselves needing to do the same, that can be understood as an act of fidelity to the Christianity of those who encountered the real Jesus, rather than a betrayal.
What similarities and differences do you see between the two situations – between those who encountered Jesus as a real human being long ago, and those who encounter him (and seek to follow him) at least in part by making use of historical tools of study?