Recent press coverage has claimed the historic Jesus wasn’t, well, historic. Both academic research and skeptical interpretation of the Scriptures have concluded the Saviour never lived. And a natural outcome of a Jesus who never lived would be that he’s never coming back. It’s impossible to return if you’ve never been in the first place!
So what’s our reaction if we are Christians confronted by this suggestion there was no historical figure called Jesus? Do we react in anger? Do we sorrowfully lose faith?
Or can we point to present proof that Christ was, is and always will be present?
The late, great Gil Scott-Heron poetically pointed out that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”.
It might be more accurate to say the revolution was not televised.
Why the past tense? Because the revolution to end all revolutions arguably took place some 2000 years ago, when a carpenter’s son fomented a spiritual revolt against materialistic limitation. A revolt that continues today!
But what if the man who started the revolution never existed?
That’s the gauntlet thrown down by a recent article in the Daily Mail called “Jesus NEVER existed”.
It explains how the writer found no mention of Jesus in 126 historical texts and insisted he was a ‘mythical character’.
If this position is accurate, would that mean there never was a spiritual revolution?
It certainly didn’t mean that to one particular Christian thinker.
Mary Baker Eddy firmly believed in Jesus’ virgin birth and his resurrection. She also accepted the historicity of the many Bible healings attributed to him.
Nevertheless, the founder of Christian Science was unperturbed when confronted with the suggestion Jesus might never have lived.
When teaching students the Christian healing she had discovered, Eddy was assailed one day by the skepticism of a Unitarian minister invited to join the class as a silent observer.
As she challenged the idea of agnosticism, he could no longer keep quiet.
“How do you know that there ever was such a man as Christ Jesus?” the Reverend James Henry Wiggin blurted out.
Eddy had reached her conclusions through studying the biblical record of Jesus. She not only wholeheartedly believed that record but put what she learned into practice through healing. But she wasn’t asking Wiggin or anyone else to accept her conclusions based solely on faith in an historical figure. If her understanding and articulation of the healing method Jesus taught and practised was right then it was presently demonstrable by everyone, including Wiggin.
On that basis, she boldly informed him that she didn’t find her authority for these ideas in history, “but in revelation”.
“If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me. I should still know that God’s spiritual ideal is the only real man in His image and likeness,” she added, pointing to a golden thread she found woven throughout the Scriptures.
Her words evidently had an impact on her guest who, as she also recalled, later wrote “a kind little pamphlet” defending her teachings. (The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, p.318)
Yet it was precisely because she had seen healings which echoed those attributed to Jesus that she had such a deep conviction of the actual existence of “the Galilean Prophet” as “the great Exemplar”. That is, through applying what she had learned from his example of the power of prayerfully understanding “God’s spiritual ideal” as the only real identity of one and all, Eddy also saw minds and bodies being made better.
In Christian Science, this understanding of our spiritual identity, made in God’s image and likeness, is understood to be the Christ. This Christ-spirit is most clearly evidenced in the remarkable spiritual practice of Jesus but it is ultimately always available to us all.
Which begs the question: “Does Christ need to come again?”
“Is there more than one Christ, and hath Christ a second appearing?” Eddy asked in a talk she gave at the turn of the nineteenth century.
“There is but one Christ. And from everlasting to everlasting this Christ is never absent,” she answered. (Message to The Mother Church Boston, Massachusetts June, 1900)
Having this understanding of the ever-present Christ which Jesus demonstrated with such unique clarity and power means there’s no need for the personal return of Jesus. The ever-presence of Christ only needs to be understood anew and progressively proved once again in present-day healing.
And therein lies the revolution that can never be televised, for one simple reason. The consciousness of the healing Christ occurs where cameras cannot go – inside the hearts of the humble.
For that reason, too, it’s a revolution that will never go away.
Humanity needs the Christ too much for humble hearts to give up on God and sacrifice the hope of genuine, Christian healing.