Today Phil Wilson asks:
What if James Cameron produced the bodies of Jesus, Mary, and Mary
Magdalene? Would faith change? If it were conclusively proven that
Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, what would change about life?
I have lots of thoughts. The first one is that I wonder when it became the rage to marry Jesus off to Mary Magdalene. When my dad was in seminary, the speculation was that he might have been married to Mary or Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, and the speculation that Martha and Lazarus’s Mary was also Mary Magdalene had been put to bed*.
The second is that it seems likely that Jesus would have been married and he knew a lot of women named Mary, so possibly to one of them. And, if he was married, he had certain duties to his wife, so it’s likely that they had children.
I’m saying that it doesn’t seem like it would be the end of the world or even of Christianity as we know it if Jesus had a wife and kid. In fact, I think it might be kind of cool. I haven’t heard many men talk about this, except my dad’s friend, Father Ted, but it seems like the idea of trying to model yourself after Jesus, when you think of Jesus as some perfect virgin sacrifice, and navigating being a man and a father might be difficult.
But what if Jesus were a dad, too? What if you knew he knew what you were going through when you felt like you couldn’t protect your wife from the things that hurt her? What if you knew, really knew, that he knew what it meant to miss a kid’s birthday because you had to work? What if you knew that Jesus also held a little life in his hands and felt that he was something to that child no one else would ever be?
I just don’t see how that could be a bad thing. Seriously, if finding out for certain that Jesus had a wife and a son is enough to destroy Christianity? Well, good riddance.
What if that really is Jesus, the Christ, there in that box?
Again, I’m not sure if it matters. It doesn’t prove that he wasn’t resurrected. It just proves that he didn’t corporeally ascend into Heaven after the resurrection.
Listen, here’s the trouble I have with literal Bible believers and it’s the trouble folks are going to run into with this story. At some point, you have to open your heart up to mystery. Even if Jesus of Nazareth was the bastard son of a teenage girl and whoever, who then went on to be an itinerate preacher, and got married and had a kid or two, and then was executed and his body was stuck in a tomb for 2,000 years only to be discovered by James Cameron, that still would not negate the power of your god.
If you believe that your god works in the world in mysterious ways, Jesus being some dude with a sketchy background, and I mean fully just some dude with DNA from an earthly mom and an earthly dad, is hardly enough to get in the way of your god doing great things with him.
Again, either you’re open to mystery or you’re not. And it seems to me that the way it works is about teaching us the necessity of being open to ways we’re uncomfortable with. For most of us, we want an explanation and we want facts and we want understanding. So, if the Bible says that Jesus was born of a virgin and God, then that better be the by-god factual truth of the matter.
But that’s not how mystery works.
Mystery is about giving us the things we don’t know we need. We’re taught this in Sunday School** that the Jews didn’t recognize Jesus as the messiah because they were expecting an earthly king who would lead an armed rebellion against the Romans. Many an atheist can tell you how folks who performed “miracles” like the ones ascribed to Jesus were a dime a dozen back then. In other words, in a world that seemed to need someone extraordinary, a terribly ordinary man was the one sent to do your god’s work.
And now, at a time when so many Christians are hell-bent on believing in the factual inerrancy of everything in the Bible, here’s some news to shake that up.
I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Mystery demands, by its nature, doubt and confusion and leaps of faith and misunderstandings.
Even Jesus, when hanging on the cross, expressed doubt and confusion–“My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”*** and the folks around him misunderstood and thought he was calling for Elijah.
Right there, at a central point of Christianity, when the realm of Heaven is so close to us that the curtain in the Temple is torn, what marks it? Confusion, misunderstanding, doubt, fear.
That that should continue to be a hallmark of Jesus’s story seems to me to be important. I don’t know why. I don’t know what it means.
I just know that too much certainty is anti-Christian.
*Apparently, it needed a drink of water, or maybe to go to the bathroom, because it seems to be out of bed and scurrying around upstairs.
**Though, as NM points out, what we learned in Sunday School is not necessarily what was going on on the ground in real life, so let’s just all agree that we understand this as inherited mythological understanding and not a history of the middle east.
***The opening to Psalm 22, where the title from whence the title of this post also comes.