There was a man who through the undeserved favor of the Living God became a tribe. His tribe in time became a nation. The Living God chose the man and the tribe and the nation to tell the world about the Living God and to be an example of the kind of people the Living God wanted all people to be. The Living God showered favors on the man, the tribe, and the nation. This was a time of magic, so the Living God showed them strong magic in each generation, but the people were a stubborn people. They wanted life to be one long wine-drenched party. When the Prophets appointed by the Living God demanded sober living, honesty, and hard work, the people said, “We don’t need this! Let’s go back to worshipping the Moon Goddess, who doesn’t demand uncomfortable things and keeps her mouth shut when we party wild! Let some other people tell the world about the Living God!”
As you can imagine, the Living God was a little unhappy. Crops failed, drought struck, locusts and enemies invaded, and many other subtle hints were dropped upon the people by the Living God. Often, the people saw wisdom and turned from their drunken ways back to the Living God who had chosen them…..until they stopped hurting from the last subtle hint. Then they returned to the Moon Goddess.
This way of life continued for a very long time. Many people died from the subtle hints of the Living God, but after each hint faded in memory the survivors supposed that the Living God was asleep, or not watching, or away on official business, so they visited the temples of the Moon Goddess or some other local deity. Bad move. More subtle hints on the way, mortality rate on the rise…..
Along with demands for sobriety, the Prophets kept mentioning a King who would be born as a citizen of this small, stubborn nation. He was called things like “the Prince of Peace” and “the Everlasting Father”. It was said that He would make this small chosen nation the rulers of the whole world, and that there would be no more war after he became King, and no one would ever make his people afraid again, and even lions would become tamer than house-cats. All this sounded pretty good to a people usually suffering from the latest subtle hint, and the people never forgot a word. In fact, they wrote it all down, and measured every outstanding leader by the clues the Living God gave them to recognize this King by.
Several thousand years went by, and the people began to doubt that the King would come. (Who wouldn’t?) But they still remembered, and they still hoped. So when a tramp started preaching about the Kingdom of the Living God being among them, and he was able to produce strong magic like few of their ancestors had ever seen, they WOKE UP FAST! (Who wouldn’t?) This tramp was performing such strong magic that they said, “When the Anointed One comes, will he do more signs than these?” This homeless one was doing things like feeding thousands free of charge, healing all kinds of diseases, giving sight to people who had been born blind, and RAISING PEOPLE FROM THE DEAD! This tramp was also a truly good man who lived the way the Living God had been trying to persuade the entire nation to live. His honor plus his magic made him the most popular man in the nation. In fact, the people were so convinced that he was the King they’d been told about that they decided to make him King, whether he liked it or not. (You’d think all those subtle hints would have sunk in by now, wouldn’t you?) He (the tramp) knew their thoughts and left the neighborhood until they cooled down.
Well, to make a long story longer, he really was the Anointed One, the King they’d been hoping for. Alas, he slew no dragons. He insisted that pure hearts were more important than whipping the stuffing out of the current invader who was crushing the life (and the money) out of the people. He was healing, feeding, and resurrecting so many people that thousands of the people (who had no medical insurance) were, like, wild about him.
Now, sometime in the past couple of thousand years, the Prophets had been more or less replaced by a bunch of Priests, who had a soft, high-paying job making the people pay ($$$$$) for their sins. The Priests even invented imaginary sins to collect on. So, when this tramp/Prophet/Priest/King went into the temple of the Living God and threw out the crooked Priests, called them thieves and poison snakes, told them that prostitutes would get into the Kingdom of the Living God before they did…..they became displeased. He was messing with their money machine (not to mention their already shaky reputations). They tried to trap him legally, but for all his lack of education, he was a better lawyer than any of them. He publicly pointed out to the people the crookedness of the Priests, and the people loved it. At one point, so many people were following him that the Priests said, “We have lost! The whole world is following Him!” He wasn’t a member of their good-old-boy network. He had no social standing, and few social graces either. Tsk tsk.
“Enough!” the priests said. “He must be stopped! He’s embarrassing us! He’s costing us money!!” They sent officers with a warrant to arrest him, and the cops came back without him, mumbling “We’ve never heard anyone talk like he does!” In desperation, the Priests finally made a deal with the current invader to have him tortured to death.
Seems to me they might have figured out that One who could raise the dead would be a little hard to kill. Guess they panicked. They got their wish. They whipped him, beat him, spat on him, tore out his beard, and after all that plus at least three police interrogations lasting at least all night long, they crucified him. He died slowly, and for awhile they stood around and mocked him as he was dying.
That’s when things started to go wrong.
About noon, the whole land became dark. At noon. He hung there in the darkness until about three o’clock. Suddenly he shouted, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Then he cried out loudly again, and surrendered his spirit. At the same moment the curtain in the temple of the Living God, which had separated the people from the presence of the Living God, was torn in two – from top to bottom!
Then the earth began to shake.
The rocks split apart!
THE GRAVES BROKE OPEN!
And the Priests knew they were doomed. The bodies of many righteous dead came back to life! They came out of the graves! Three days later the King Himself began appearing to his disciples – once to about five hundred at the same time. After he rose from the dead, those righteous ones who had been raised from the dead went into the city and appeared to many people!
And that’s how Death was cheated. The Living God gave this King the keys of Death, and he opened the door of The Place of the Dead on his way out. Those who had looked forward to His arrival for thousands of years were taken with the King to His palace in the sky.
The King’s disciples went around frequently repeating, “We are witnesses! We saw him, we touched him, we ate with him, after he rose from the dead!” Since the Priests were still in power, the disciples were thinned out rather quickly. But they wouldn’t recant, even when asked politely. (“Would you rather recant or feed this lion? With your body? Here, kitty, kitty…”)
You can see how it would sort of be a problem to keep all this quiet. Years later, when one of the King’s disciples was on trial before a king of the invaders, the disciple said about this matter, “The king knows these things…I am sure these events are all familiar to him, because this thing was not done in a corner.”
In one city far from the scene of the actual events, when some of the King’s disciples were found, the local Priests started a riot, saying, “Those who have turned the world upside down have come here too!” The “Followers of the Way”, as they called themselves, had become somewhat numerous. They had converted thousands. In fact, two thousand years later, they are still around, still pushy and fanatical, still waiting for the same King to return. They claim that because they trust Him, their sins have been forgiven. They believe that He will give a pardon for all sins, eternal life, eternal health, and pleasure forever in the Kingdom of the Living God to anyone who trusts Him enough to live this life according to His commands, no matter what the cost.
I know all these things because I’m one of them. You may have heard of our King.
His name is Jesus.