In the March 16, 2011 Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Billy Graham is asked about the timing of Jesus’ first arrival on Earth.
Billy’s reader asks: “… why didn’t Jesus wait until now to come to earth? It seems to me that with [technology] and everything He could have made a much greater impact if He had come today.” You can read Billy’s column here.
Billy says he understands the logic of the question and that Jesus arriving in modern times would have allowed Jesus, and His followers, to spread the word more quickly and reach more people.
However, Billy says Jesus arrived at the ‘best time’ since that time was determined by God. Billy does not say how he knows the mind of God, but we can let that pass.
I also wonder why God did not do something for the remote people and countries of the world so they could learn about Jesus. Mormons believe that the resurrected Jesus ministered to one of the lost tribes of Israel living in America. Why didn’t God have Jesus appear before the aborigines in Australia, or the native tribes in New Guinea, The Philippines or The Hawaiian Islands? Surely God could have done that. Instead, He allowed those distant peoples to live for thousands of years without Jesus. It is almost as if Jesus and His followers were unaware of the existence of those lost souls.
Billy’s next point is important. Billy says that if Jesus had waited until modern times to arrive, all the people living over the past 2000 years would not have been able to be Christians and they would have died without hope of eternal life. Billy also says our world would be different because of all the schools and hospitals that would not have been built.
On the first point, I have to raise a question about the several thousand years between the Christian date of creation, 6000-years-ago and the birth of Jesus 2000-years-ago. Shouldn’t there be some consideration for all the people who lived before Jesus? Why did God allow them to die without hope of eternal life? Shouldn’t God have thought about them and sent Jesus when there were only a few people in the world, say a few hundred years after the creation when Adam and Eve were still alive? Jesus could have met every person on the planet personally and not bothered with sending disciples all over the place to preach and evangelize. Every person on the planet would learn about Jesus, right? The only person Jesus could not preach to would have been Able, killed by Cain. Then again, Jesus could have pulled his Lazarus trick on Able.
Instead, God waited 4000 years for the right time, allowing millions of people to die and go to hell. By that time, people were spread so thin that not all of them would be told the Jesus story even with 2000 years in which to do it. In addition, many of those groups of people had developed religions quite different from Judaism or Christianity. With those religions in place, it was more difficult for Jesus’ disciples to convince people to convert.
Billy’s point about schools and hospitals is weak. There were plenty of schools and hospitals before Jesus and there were plenty built in places that never heard of Jesus. If Billy wants to give Jesus credit for the schools and hospitals, then Jesus also needs to take the blame for the fighting and killing done in His name.
Let’s consider for a moment what it would be like if Jesus did arrive in 1980 and is just starting His mission today. Water into wine and feeding the multitudes would not be viewed as much compared with illusionists who make the Statue of Liberty or jet airliners disappear, who can escape from chains and locked rooms, or catch bullets with their teeth. Jesus and His tricks would not be as entertaining as Penn and Teller.
There have been several people who have claimed to be Jesus or the modern version of Jesus. Haile Selassie I, Jim Jones, David Koresh and Sun Myung Moon come to mind. Their claims have been challenged, not only by the authorities but also by the established churches that do not want their cash cow taken away. How would Pat Robertson or Benny Hinn respond to being told their work was done and they should stop preaching and collecting donations? Billy himself might be at the front of ranks denouncing our modern Jesus.
Yes, I think Billy might be right. Jesus did arrive at the best time. There were plenty of people who could be recruited as followers, but they were scientifically unsophisticated and would believe the stories about Jesus, just as they believed the stories about all the other gods and miracle workers around at that time.
Did God send Jesus at that time, the best time? I don’t think so. I am willing to grant the probable existence of Jesus, but not His divinity or His magic abilities. He was a preacher who taught that the end of the world was coming in a few years. He was killed and His followers promoted Him all out of proportion to His message. To make Him more attractive to non-Jews, His message was cleansed and edited. The Jesus/God Billy worships is not the Jesus who may have lived 2000-years-ago, and certainly not the God of the Hebrews from 3000-years-ago.
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