And try to keep up they did. What else could they do?
What else can any of us do?
Of course, those first Christians had Jesus right there in the (luminous, I would guess) flesh—walking on water, healing the lame, turning dead people into people who woke up like they’d only been napping. I mean, you know. Talk about reasons to believe.
Setting aside for a moment the Holy Spirit, what have we today to help us believe in and understand Jesus? A book. A book! And one that’s not exactly a snappy read. It’s not even a book so much as a bunch of books, written in ancient languages by maybe fifty different authors beginning from the time of Moses (around 1450 BC) to not long after Jesus died (about AD 100). And about half the part of the book that’s all about Jesus was written by a guy who (inspired genius though he certainly was) never even met Jesus.
That’s a long, long way from being right there when, say, Jesus, turned five loaves of bread and a couple of fish into a meal for five thousand people.
So here’s my question: Why didn’t Jesus write a book in which he captured his timeless message for all mankind? Why leave it up to regular people to after the fact nail down the things he did, said and meant during his time on earth? Jesus knew how to write. He understood the value of books. He knew the power of the written word. Why wouldn’t he personally use that power to at least try to communicate the depth and breadth of his knowledge and wisdom?
Why leave us to write the books about him? Has he ever read any book randomly pulled from the Christian Living shelf of a bookstore? If so, did he then resist striking himself blind so he’d never have to do that again?
Why, why, why didn’t Jesus write his own book?
I think it’s because he was always first and foremost aware of something that it’s entirely too easy for us to forget about him: He was God.
God! The alpha and omega of all that ever was, is, or could be. The creative force that birthed, formed, and sustains the universe. The origin and absolute master of all time, space, and dimension.
The original Mister Humongous.
I think human language was to Jesus what this is to the tens of millions of colors detectable to the human eye:
Jesus trying to write down who he was, what he thought, how he saw us, or what he wanted for us would be like me trying to belch all of Shakespeare. Not possible. Doesn’t make sense. Seriously wrong tool for the right job.
Not that Jesus didn’t try his best to … say stuff. But as anyone attempting to plumb the depths of Jesus’ mind by reading his words in the New Testament knows, it’s pretty much impossible to ever know what Jesus is actually saying in the New Testament. His words read like … I dunno: Yoda as translated by Buddha by way of Hal the Computer who’s gotten stoned. Or maybe like a bunch of words are just missing, or something. I dunno. All I know is that anyone who claims to grasp more than 25% of what Jesus is purported to have said should do themselves a favor and stop talking.
And why is it so hard for us to understand the words of Jesus? Because unlike Jesus we think linearly. We want words to have specific meanings that correspond to specific concepts in our heads. And we want those concepts to be really familiar to us; we want them to entirely correspond with our own personal reality and experience. And we don’t just want that. We need that if we’re at all going to understand whatever words we’re reading or hearing.
Meanwhile, Jesus was down here walking around talking to people while simultaneously being fully cognizant of everything that ever was, is, or will happen in the universe. He knows the whole life history, and every emotion ever experienced—he feels every emotion ever experienced—by every person he ever meets—and everyone who wasn’t lucky enough to actually bump into him. Before you talk to Jesus he knows exactly what you’re going to say, and everything that went into your saying it, going back countless generations of your forebearers.
All the elements are his playthings. The stars are the jewels in a ring on his finger. He holds the seas in his cup. He clears his throat and it’s thunder; he taps his foot and it’s an earthquake.
And there he was, all squeezed down into one little human form, operating within a window of physical space and time that to him is infinitesimally small.
But he did it, and he did it for a reason, and he was (yayeth!) real clear about that reason—and then he was gone.
And then there we were, and here we are, trying to fathom the totality of Jesus with the feeble tools available to us.
Which, for us, expression-wise, boils down to words. To a book.
So this is my point: I love the Bible; I’m not discounting it. But if you really want to know God, and to know Jesus, and to be at the place where your soul and spirit meet the very essence of all that Jesus is and was, then you must turn inward to the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus left us. That is what Jesus came to give. That is where all the action is.
The Bible is a signpost. And it’s not pointing to anything out there. It’s not trying to get you to appreciate anything out there. Out there is finite, mercurial, strictly relative, always changing, nothing but limited. Out there belongs to the world. And the world can have it, to turn to ashes as it will.
Out there isn’t really your place. It’s not where you really belong. It’s not where you really are.
Where you really are is inside.
Where you really are is at the locus of the Holy Spirit within you.
You go there—you close your eyes and really go there—and shaka-laka-boom: there it is. There’s God. There’s all that God wants you to know. There’s all you can know.
There’s all you ever desired to know.
There’s the language—the only language—that you and God share.