It’s both simple and beyond comprehension, historical fact and eternally significant. An ancient story still shaping the present with the beauty of a flower and the dogged perseverance of a military force.
Over two millennia ago God became part of that which He created, entering the world in real time and space so that which He’d created could be restored. There had been stories, of course, of the gods visiting humanity in ancient legends. Often these tales were of beautiful women who had aroused their passions, oracles who captured human souls as mouthpieces, or visitations to procure vengeance on those who had insulted them or falsely worshipped.
This one was different. It was about pure love for humanity and a God who, rather than seeking to wreak vengeance or satisfy lust, came instead to join with human reality even to the point of enduring death. This visitation was no momentary flash but rather spanned over thirty years and could be seen, handled, listened to, written about, and observed in the flesh. The places where He lived and walked among us are with us still and every archaeologist’s shovel reveals more and more of the reality of His presence.
And after His death, resurrection, and ascension, the story of Jesus began to be carried around the known world. First orally and then in written form the details of His life, His teachings, and the path He called His followers to walk became known to an increasing audience. In some times and places miracles confirmed the veracity. In others the very life of the people who had embraced Jesus’ teachings became the witness.
It struck a powerful chord, especially among the slaves and common people of the Roman Empire. There was one God, not many, and this God came to the poor, broken, sinners, and outcasts with a message that they were loved, they could be forgiven, and everyone could be, by grace, brothers and sisters in Jesus’ family. Unlike the often capricious and angry gods of the Empire the God presented to them in Jesus saw humans not simply as playthings but as deeply significant and infinitely valuable. This truth shook the powers that be who had invested their lives and their fortunes tied to whose gods legitimized their physical intimidation through the spiritual intimidation of their deities.
And from that time, across the generations and throughout the world that message, that truth, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that all who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life, has endured, enlightened, saved, transformed, and brought humanity out of the shadows.
At times the message, the One who brought it, and those who followed it have been mercilessly persecuted. Kings, overlords, and oligarchs fear a kingdom that lives within the souls of its followers, the one place their money, their militaries, and their power can’t touch.
Others have tried to twist it with heresies and distortions to make it more palatable to their moment in history. Being products of time, however, and not eternity their moments pass because they neither have, nor can give, that which lasts forever. Everything not in union with God eventually suffers the same fate.
Sometimes in the allure of the present world the children of the Gospel sell away their inheritance and compromise it for the sake of moments applause. They’ve gone along to get along with the rewards of the moment valued more than the riches that cannot be taken away.
Sadly, as well, the leaders and teachers, the ones entrusted to accurately transmit and the live the reality of Jesus, sometimes fall away into disbelief, scandal, as their lives drift farther from the Source. They kiss the master but then leave Him to His murderers as the followers flee in every direction to save themselves.
All this and more has happened and will continue to happen even until the close of history. Darkness despises the light, virtue is vice’s worst enemy, and the evil one, who is brokenness himself spares no effort to subvert those who are being forgiven and healed as he knows his time is short.
Yet our Lord, our Savior, our God endures and the message of who He is, how He loves, and where, by grace, the whole world is one day going will not be denied. In the world you will have many troubles, our Lord says, but do not be afraid for I have overcome the world.
The hope we have been given, the reality of the One who came among so long ago and is with us still, has fought off every attempt to destroy it, every effort to compromise it, every persecution, every scandal, and continues to do so every day. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it.
The stories told while sitting by the fires of long-ago Palestine, the stories of a Savior, of a God who loves, cherished by the witnesses and passed from person to person, writer to writer, are still fresh for the hungry souls of these days and the One who they speak of, Jesus, remains as He ever was, light of light, true God of true God. Staying true to that, and most especially to Jesus, the times, good, bad, or otherwise where the One who brought time into being directs, and in knowing this we have nothing, ultimately, to fear.