If Jesus Returned Today, Would We Know Him?
What would happen — how would we react — if Jesus returned today? Would we recognize Him for who He is, or would we think He was some crackpot?
I watched an episode of the classic comedy M*A*S*H the other day and it got me thinking about what would happen if Jesus returned to present-day Earth.
The particular episode I’m talking about was titled, “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler” and told the story of a bomber pilot who ends up at the 4077th M*A*S*H unit wounded and without dog tags. When asked his identity, he calmly says his name is Jesus Christ.
His demeanor is unusually calm, even serene, given the circumstances.
Maj. Frank Burns and Maj. Margaret Houlihan immediately write the soldier’s response off as being an attempt to fake battle fatigue to get out of the war.
Hawkeye and Trapper call in a psychiatrist to talk to him. Even Father Mulcahy is doubtful of the soldier’s claims.
Only the company clerk, Radar, the most innocent character of the series, seems to actually accept the identity as genuine, asking “Christ” to bless his beloved teddy bear at the end of the series.
It is learned that the man’s true identity is Capt. Arnold Chandler. So in this case, at least, all the doubt about the man’s claims of being Jesus Christ are warranted.
But it got me thinking about the scenario itself.
If Jesus returned today, would we know him?
If it really was Christ, and we saw Him make a dramatic, miraculous entrance, such as materializing out of thin air or descending from the clouds, that’d be one thing.
But if He suddenly walked up to us and introduced Himself as the Messiah, would we be like Radar and accept His story as truth, or would we be more like Burns and Houlihan and dismiss him as a crazy person out for attention?
I’m reminded of the old wives tale of the pastor who dressed himself up as a homeless man and sneaked into the church he was about to take over as its new pastor. He wanted to see, as the story goes, how the congregation would handle one who represented “the least of these,” and he was surprised to feel shunned by the congregation who didn’t seem to appreciate the dirty-looking intruder.
Here’s another sobering thought: what if God has worked in a few additional “mysterious ways” and has already sent Jesus Christ into our lives, posing as the homeless guy we pass every morning on the way to work, or that slow driver who gets in our way every morning or the person who takes forever in the checkout line? What if it was done to see how much we really love our neighbor?
What if those people we are so quick to dismiss as little more than annoyances were manifestations of Jesus Christ?
Most believers, I would imagine, believe in the “second coming,” the moment that Christ will return at some point in the future. For years, conservative Christians have used the notion of the second coming as a “weapon” against non-believers, threatening them with the news of the event to get them to drop everything and repent right this minute since the second coming could happen at any moment.
But if really pressed on what we would expect Christ to look like, it’s probably this glowing figure straight out of a movie who levitates and sparkles and makes it clear (to us) by His looks alone that He’s who we’ve been waiting for.
The Christ depicted in the Bible didn’t sparkle and didn’t levitate for all to see. He was a regular guy with a unique message and whose love for others attracted people to Him, particularly those who had been labeled “sinners” by the church. And it was the devout, conservative church folk that labeled Him as a threat and crucified Him.
Maybe the second coming won’t happen in our lifetime, so we won’t be subjected to such a test.
But the question remains: if Jesus Christ really did return to earth tomorrow, would we know Him for who He is? Would we really be able to discern that He was Christ, or would we laugh at his apparent “mental illness” and walk away shaking our heads in disgust? Would we dismiss Him if he talked to much about helping the downtrodden or loving our neighbors, even those neighbors too many in the church have been too quick to shun? Would we use politics to gauge His true identity, deciding if He’s not the kind of guy who’d vote for the same candidate we would, it must not be the genuine article?
We like to think we’d know for sure. On first sight.
But what if we failed that little test?