When people say that they don’t believe in Jesus, I often don’t understand what they mean. Are they saying that they don’t believe Jesus ever existed? (That he is fiction.) Do they think the same thing about Plato, Julius Caesar, Michelangelo, or any one else from the long ago past?
Are they saying that Jesus is misguided (if they wanted to be charitable) or a liar (if they were blunt) – that they don’t believe what he says – and that if he said the things he said in their presence today that they would call him out and say, ‘Rubbish’ or ‘Liar’ or ‘Delude fool’?
Or are they saying that they have considered Jesus and his claims and they accept that he did exist, that he did say the things he said and that he meant them, that he believed his own words, and that he did die on a cross, and that he was raised to life again – and now standing in front of them, so to speak, they are saying to him, ‘Whoever you are, you are not God’?
When people tell you that they don’t believe in Jesus – or if you yourself don’t believe in Jesus – which one of the above examples best describes you?
I think there is a difference between not believing in Jesus and not believing Jesus but irrespective of that distinction why don’t people follow (believe in or believe) Jesus?
Two things come to mind and I often encounter. The first is that people can know about or be-lieve history and historical persons because it doesn’t have a personal impact on them now. Everything about Jesus is more personal because of the resurrection. Jesus’ death isn’t really disputed but his resurrection, if true, changes everything. It means that the Jesus of history is also the Jesus of now and so following or trusting or relying on Jesus is a now event – and that’s scary, challenging, fearful, and the rest – where will Jesus lead me and do I want to go there?
The second challenge is the Christian Church. There’s a lot that could be said here! Following Jesus – discipleship – is not a solitary event – when we find others also following Jesus then we have a link (Jesus) and for nearly 2,000 the followers of Jesus have been working out what that means that we are Christ’s body here on Earth. Our history as Christian Church and as denominations are what they are – and open to interpretation – but the message I think we want to share is that we are like everyone else in that we are a mixture of good and bad, ups and downs, pride and humility, obedience to Jesus and sins against Jesus and others but that Jesus has taken hold of us and said, ‘I know who you are and I have given you life with me and another identity and I am here to help you follow me each day’ and we rely on, trust, and be-lieve Jesus is with us because of that cross and empty tomb. The Church isn’t a holy club full of good people. It’s full of people who have found that Jesus does help them live in this world.
The world cannot prove Jesus is a fraud but Christian belief isn’t grounded in something nega-tive (because the world can’t prove us wrong). The Christian Faith focus is Jesus and that he does exist, is present (but hidden), and cares for us in our lives. Yes, this focus leads us to words, water, bread and wine, living together as his followers in the world, and a lot of theology. We remind ourselves and want the world to know that Jesus is real today and that he holds us, that he is for us not against us, and that’s why we cling to (trust, believe, and rely on) him. GS