A Long Long Time Ago

ShinyJesusHe was a man of great charisma, a provocative individual who challenged the establishment and the norms of his day. Some said, as he implied himself, that he had come to visit the Earth from a higher plane and that perhaps, again as he occasionally hinted (though maybe he was only being contentious) that he was some sort of Messiah. He certainly inspired and gave hope to others who, like himself, found themselves on the fringes of society, who felt unaccepted and down-trodden. Some of what he said and did may have enabled such people to accept who they were or, better still, who they wanted to be.

He refused to accept that he was ‘good’, and certainly he acted as he did because it suited him to do so, not because he felt any need to impress others. Nevertheless, many found him to be humble and kind. His detractors said he was a charlatan and claimed he was demon-possessed; he was all things to all people.

His death came as a shock, what with its suddenness and the manner in which it happened, but nonetheless he seemed to have been prepared for it. In his final messages he suggested he was returning to the higher place from where, perhaps, he’d originally come.

Those who had followed him mourned him and talked of him as an important figure in their lives. They couldn’t, they said, believe he was gone. Some felt that even though he was no longer a physical presence in the world, what he had meant to them would always live on in their hearts, especially when a few of them would gather together to reminisce about him. Others talked of how they hoped and prayed God would raise him from the dead and allow him to live again.

It wouldn’t be long before someone claimed to have seen him back among the living.

So much for David Bowie (there really is a petition asking God to bring him back to life, in spite of his already having been cremated and there being no God.) Within hours of his death being announced, Bowie was elevated to a sort of godhood, his work and sense of alienation imbued with a kind of profound mysticism. The reaction we’ve seen, particularly in the UK, to Bowie’s demise is a common human reaction to the death of a revered one. It happened when John Lennon was killed (a saint he was not) and with Elvis Presley, who, in the years following his death was frequently seen alive in the supermarket or laundromat, and with Diana, Princess of Wales. Elevating larger than life characters to hallowed status when they die is a human trait that helps us mourn them and deal with bereavement.

Is this not what happened when Jesus died? The profound grief, bewilderment, fear and shared memories of those who idolised him, together with their desperate search for meaning in his pointless end, led to his elevation to quasi-godhood and, eventually, to visions of him, if not in the supermarket and laundromat, then back amongst them somehow. If such a thing can happen still, in the technological world of the twenty-first century, how much more could it happen in the superstitious backwaters of first century Palestine.


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