ChurchAds.Net have produced another catchy campaign for Easter this year, continuing their tradition of provocative adverts such as the Che Guevara-esque revolutionary poster of Jesus (Meek, Mild, As if), and ‘Surprise! Sais Jesus to his friends 3 days after they buried him…’ This year’s effort can be seen at www.wheredoyoustand.co.uk. It has a film noir vibe to it with a couple exploring a room lit only by their torches with all sorts of hints about who Jesus may be in the images that they see. The closing line ‘we should look into this’ leads the viewers to consider where they stand on Jesus – is he Man, Myth or Messiah? – before casting their vote.
This is a vital question to ask. I’m writing this on Wednesday with the precise nature of the events in Brussels this week still emerging and being clarified. These horrific acts of terrorism provide a stark backdrop to this question, and how we answer the question may affect how we respond to such events and tragedies.
Man? Was Jesus just a human revolutionary who set out to kick the Romans out of Israel so that his people could reclaim their homeland? Perhaps this is how Judas saw him, and why he betrayed him when he failed to live up to that promise, possibly in an attempt to provoke him into action. The suggestion that might or military action can bring peace like this is called the ‘myth of redemptive violence’. History suggests it doesn’t work; you could look at Western efforts in the Gulf and Afghanistan to demonstrate this. It could also be argued that Jesus was a different, not taking up arms but celebrating love in some sort of 60s hippy kind of way. Again, history suggests that love on its own doesn’t last; 60s love was trampled on by 70s punk and 80s materialism.
Myth? Is Jesus just a story – either an inspirational example at best or a cynical deception at worst? You know me, I love a great story. I believe that stories can change us and can change the world for the better. A story, however, cannot fix the brokenness of humanity, the part of us that is self-centred and has a tendency to damage relationships. Could a story bring an end to the violence of the so-called Islamic State, the greed and materialism of the West or our own brokenness?
Messiah? Could it be that Jesus is more than just a good story, more than just a human? This is the claim of Christianity and the heart of the Easter story. The Easter story is that of a human revolutionary being put to death for unsettling the powers that be with his call to servant leadership and humble selfless love. But this is where the story departs from other stories, for Jesus we are told was not merely human, but also without sin. And here’s where things get really relevant, on Easter Sunday morning, God the Father validated everything he said and did by intervening and raising him from the grave to new life. Where Man and Myth both start with hope but die out, Messiah ends with hope, hope that Jesus’ way will finally one day bring an end to our strife and suffering.