Suppose that Jesus returned tomorrow. He appeared somewhere and announced the end of time, judgment day, the rapture, whatever.
Where would he appear? If he appeared at Bob Jones University, a lot of us would have to rethink some of our value judgments. Maybe that’s where he would appear. He would arrive in a limo surrounded by Secret Service agents, wearing a nice suit, with a cell phone. He would shake hands with Pat Robertson and say, “blessed is he who preserves traditional family values, promotes deregulation, and cuts taxes for the rich.” Then he’d go golfing with Pat and Jerry at Augusta.
But what if he had a kind of funky sense of occasion and appeared in New York? He might drive his own Volvo, or a Prius. He might be dressed in black t-shirt and jeans, and preach in Central Park. He might hang out with beggars, welfare mothers, drug addicts and prostitutes. Mayor Bloomberg might elbow his way into one of these gatherings and try to give him the key to the city. He might say, “there is more love and beauty and truth among these panhandlers and homosexuals and prostitutes, than among your councils and your senators and your police.”
Some people would suggest Jerusalem. I have a hard time believing that Jerusalem has any special claim, especially lately. Does Jesus share our fuzzy conceptions about spiritual significance? I doubt it. Jerry Falwell thinks the anti-Christ is already in Israel. But that’s Jerry Falwell. Maybe Jerry Falwell is the antichrist. So what if Christ appeared in Jerusalem and stood in front of an Israeli tank, like that heroic student in Tiananmen Square, and said, “the endless cycle of violence and retribution can only be broken with an act of grace and love”. Do you think the tank would stop?
Our best guide to where Jesus will reappear is the bible, of course. In the bible, Jesus was born in a very small, insignificant little town. He carried on a lively ministry in several small towns in various areas of Palestine, and even ventured into Samaria. Then he went to Jerusalem where, of course, he was finally arrested and sentenced to death by the civil authorities, after a trial held by the Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin.
Do I have this all right? I’ll check later. I’m going from memory.
Why would he reappear in Jerusalem? A lot of people believe that there is still a special tie between Jesus and the Jews. The Jews don’t believe that– a lot of born-again Christians do, especially those who buy into a lot of the silly “end-times” tripe being trotted out by guys like Tim Le Haye lately.
The biggest problem here is that some evangelical Christians think that they will do a lot better than the Jews in 0 A.D. They think they will know who Jesus is. They won’t call him a blasphemer and send him to the Romans to be executed. They will see this person who looks like any other man. They will hear him speak like any other man speaks, except for the content of his speech.
They think they will take one look and say, “it’s the Messiah! He has returned!”
Think about that. How will they know it’s really the Messiah? How do they know what Jesus will look like, or what he will say? Do they honestly think he will say “God bless America”? Will he carry a little American flag? Will he say, “you people in your suburban churches with the rock bands and the lighting effects, and the annual trip to Vegas, and the hummer, and clever tax dodges– yes, that is exactly what I meant.”
Or might he say something like, “Cursed be those who make weapons of death and destruction and sell them to tyrants and dictators. And cursed be those who pollute the earth, and rape her forests, and destroy all that lives beneath the sea. And cursed be those who cry ‘war, war’, while the hungry lament in silence. And cursed be those who seek status and wealth; and cursed be those who elect politicians and judges who allow the execution of people whose minds are so shattered they have no concept of right and wrong…”
And cursed be the tobacco companies, Enron, and the companies that make little plastic land mines.
Maybe he’ll tell a parable like the one Nathan told David about the rich man who stole the sheep from the poor shepherd, even though he had thousands of sheep of his own, and maybe he’ll mention the words “Citibank” and “Third World Debt”.
What if he said, “this nuclear bomb is a great evil. Men will make war, and men will die, and evil will be heaped upon evil, but let no man be received among you who has deliberately targeted civilians.”
And what if he said, “my father gave you a beautiful planet that lavishly provided everything you needed to prosper– how well have you taken care of it?” He might take one look at our abandoned open-pit mines, and our slums, and polluted rivers, and plastic islands, and say, “oh my God!”
We wouldn’t like that message. You know what we would do? We would say, “you’re not the real messiah. ”
The real messiah will look more like a gay Caucasian shepherd with a bunch of tiny lambs at his feet, carrying a spool of cotton candy. “That’s more like it, we’d say. Will there be ice cream in heaven?” Of course there will be. It’s melting right now.
And because you people all went to church almost every week and Christmas and Easter and because you gave money that one time to pay for Amy’s surgery after her gymnastics injury because it wasn’t covered by her parents’ health insurance, and because you once almost joined a protest march against abortion, and because you didn’t see any actual nudity in that stripper movie you went to see last year, and because you got married just as soon as you found out you were pregnant, you get to have some.