Will the real Jesus please stand up.

Dedicated to my best mate. I promised to be quiet, not absent. I cannot get there but I never left you.

Sat by a riverbank, soaking in the sunshine, in June 2017 I posed a question it took me another 18 months to answer: IF God were real, what would it look like?

It triggered a process that lead me into faith one researched step at a time. I didn’t grow up in faith, my best friend had pushed open a door for me to want to seek God. Slowly and painfully I began to claw fingernail holds into what others seemed to skim over with blithe assurance. When I finally stood on the first ledge and admired the view, I realised I had gone around faith backwards to most.

Friends who grew up with a Christian faith take for granted their closeness to Jesus Christ. As a child he’s accessible, he’s a baby at Christmas, bad stuff happens before Easter but it’s all about Him, it is His story! Later, as adults, their understanding and closeness to God the Father develops out of the childhood stern figure of rules and punishment into the companion and guide with the steady gaze and boundless love.

This presented me with a unique difficulty. I had found God, I knew he loved me, I also knew I had no hope of comprehending His fullness other than what He chose to reveal to me, but nonetheless I felt that love and companionship bridging the chasm between us. But I had no clue who this Jesus chap really was, and why was everyone praying to Him?!

As an atheist I had thought Jesus was a pseudo-historical figure, probably the amalgamation of various visionaries, revolutionaries and social activists of the age, and about as real as Robin Hood or King Arthur. This martyr was enthroned by a new religious sect disgruntled with the Jewish leadership under Rome and had metastasised into a legend so twisted from the original story it became Religion! Unquestionable, unfathomable and unstoppable and every powerful Christian church had done terrible things in His name.

Where was God in any of that?!

How could the story of Jesus be true?

How could God in all His immensity squeeze into a human being?

And lastly, two years after that river bank, I stared out at the Milky Way from my tent in the Dordogne with the breeze wafting the aroma of grapes still warm on the vines, and I wondered why would God come here, to our planet? What about every other life in the galaxy, did they feel this tug to seek the divine? And given all the vastness of space, billions of stars and planets, why did the creator choose to visit a dusty, hot country two thousand years ago? I shied away from the human conceit that we are somehow more special to God.

Staring into the dark, I realised my deepest fear: what if all the men of the early church were wrong and Jesus was merely gifted, charismatic teacher and the rest was allegory or outright invention?

These are horrible questions to face alone in the dark. Especially when I felt they would offend the majority of Christians to ask them.

My best friend nudged me back at the gospels and managed not to sigh as he told me for the hundredth time to read them. This time, I did.

On first pass I didn’t find an answer. I’d sat through enough sermons by now to know experienced Christians inferred more from these stories than I was getting so I kept at it. Eventually in frustration I kept a log of all the names and titles mentioned for or about Jesus, all the bits and pieces I could see that were human or definitely magical then began to sort through them… what was “real” evidence what could have been trickery. John threw me for a loop with the whole Word bit but click the link to read how that ended!

Believe it or not, I started my Theology course still with a list of questions over Jesus’ identity… Imagine my delight when my Christianity lecturer announces he’s decided to teach Christology first this year! (Remember our -ology endings mean study of).

We immediately dived elbow deep into homoousios, the Greek word for “of the same essence” and the hypostatic union (google it and wait for your head to explode) as the specific example of homoousion that describes Jesus’ humanity and divinity. We romped through the various theories of Jesus and his relationship to God (now called heresies!) that were conceived, flourished and died in the first 500years of Christianity.

This is hugely cathartic for me! This is the same journey I have been on. These guys had inherited God the father from classical Judaism, they too were trying to figure out who Jesus was and how he fitted in. I wasn’t alone, I’m merely 1800yrs late – impressive tardiness, even for me!

Finally last week the question I’ve been longing to ask burst out – where in the gospels (aside from the resurrection) is the smoking gun of Jesus’ divinity? My lecturer beamed as he answered, “Everywhere!”

My poker face is crap at best so I’m guessing he got the message I needed more despite my mask.

I wasn’t prepared for the next ten minutes.

He directed us to look at the story of the woman who had been bleeding for more than 12yrs and was healed simply by touching Jesus’ hem. This story is found in all three synoptic gospels but for this I’m going to refer to Mark 5:24-34.

“So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.””

Mark 5:24-34 NIV

https://www.bible.com/bible/111/mrk.5.24-34.niv

I’ve read this story many times, as a pre-menopausal women I can relate to suffering unending bleeding. Coupled with that, I knew she would have been cast out of Jewish society. While on her period, a woman is viewed as unclean in Jewish society so one who is perpetually bleeding would have been seen as unable to be clean, thus unable to cook, bathe, or touch her husband or children. Her life would have been isolated, hand-to-mouth and her peers would not even have spoken her name.

The significance of this story is we see the divine aspect of Jesus appear, shine through the humanity and disappear again, like a barrel roll on a rollercoaster, BUT only if we read it as a first century Jew would have.

Jesus is on his way to a house to heal a child, he is walking, jostled by the crowd – all obviously human traits.

Suddenly he stops. Despite the noise, confusion and kerfuffle, he knows someone has drawn power from him – we begin to see the divine aspect as that carriage turns. Even when queried by his disciples he stands firm asking who touched him.

Remember God knows the answer already but Jesus speaks of “someone” touching him, a “who” not the “no-one” she has been for a dozen years. Into the warmth of this recognition, she steps forward.

She already knows she is healed, she already knows who she speaks to. Her explanation isn’t recorded but Jesus’ response is and his divinity blazes forth in a few words before he turns and departs: Daughter, your faith has healed you.

Jews have strict customs over family ties, your heritage and parentage are memorised as far back as is known and usually ending with Abraham to show the linkage to God’s family through the covenant they share. In this instance, the woman who bleeds is publicly acknowledged as daughter. No longer a no-one, cleaned of her impurity, she is adopted by God into God’s family through faith in that moment and publicly named “Daughter”.

Then he walks away.

You have to put yourself in her shoes for one second, left standing on the street after a brush with her God, healed, whole, loved, named…

Think about it.

I wonder if she ever washed that hand again.

As always, likes are love, comments are divine logos!

C. xxx

One last note:

My best friend remains instrumental in this process. It’s taken me this long to realise why he succeeded in cracking open the door of my atheism and anti-religion prejudice when so many others had failed.

Michael, women don’t learn faith from the bible, women learn faith in relationship with others. That’s not to say women don’t study the bible as effectively as any other person of faith but when seeking faith from outside belief, the bible is incredibly off-putting.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton famously said, “The bible degrades women from Genesis to Revelation” and this certainly matched my first impression but this is a story for another day. Take home the certainty it was through your friendship, I am here now.

I don’t know how else to thank you for your patience and perseverance with me, through all my tantrums and squabbles, other than to dedicate this and all the posts in this topic to you.

One day we’ll get that evening, whisky, good music, lots of laughs, probably a few squabbles. Promise.

49 thoughts on “Will the real Jesus please stand up.

    1. Thank you! Right back atcha!
      I do enjoy your posts. I also have Healing River on my watch list though this is not the month for it – unless people have shares in Kleenex then absolutely!

      We have similar backgrounds?! In what way? Curious now, lol

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, that’s awesome!
      Read 1, 2, and 3. Laughed out loud at the universal neurosis comment going, “yup, I remember that!”

      I made it to 39 as a fairly obnoxious atheist. I was happy, never felt a lack. Enjoyed being a hard-headed sceptic. Imagine my surprise (and a little dismay) when God got loud.
      I have never written the full story. It’s kicking around in pieces but not in one place. Much of the story is very personal, uniquely painful.
      I didn’t think my story would be of interest – everyone has a “find God” story, yes? Yet… I don’t write this blog to a purpose, the blog is my record, what I would have liked to have read a while back.
      Wondering now if I have been avoiding it.
      Hmmm…

      Liked by 4 people

      1. My past atheism often simply pops up when I write memoir posts. I’m guessing your life may, likewise, be more interesting than you think. I followed you because I like you’re writing, after all, and I have excellent taste. ;>)

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Both of your stories are encouraging. I grew up in a liberal church that believed Jesus was just a man and not divine, I became an atheist in college. Found IVCF in my senior year. But it was just an add-on to my life. After being in a another less liberal church for 12 years my wife and I joined a conservative church that believed in the literal interpretation of the inerrant Bible. Now Jesus was in my heart and not just a philosophy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!
      That’s really interesting.
      I’d be interested to hear more about your first church. From what you’re saying, I’m guessing it’s a Christian Church teaching Arianism and that’s fascinating!

      In the days of the early church Christians we’re trying to figure out who Jesus was too. The idea of Jesus being an amazing or special kind of human first gained ground around 300AD in Alexandria, present day Egypt. It is attributed to a monk named Arius who stated Jesus was begotten by God the Father but was fundamentally a mortal being. It spread fast and became known as Arianism.
      However, this interpretation didn’t sit well with everyone, many church leaders rejected this idea. Endless, biblical-quoting, word battles ensued! The debates grew bitter with both sides amassing bible evidence supporting their view.

      So deep was this division, it threatened to cause the first major schism in the church and that drew the attention of the church leaders. In 325AD the leaders met for a conclave that was later called The Nicaean Council. At this point, the Orthodox and Catholic Churches had not split so the council representatives came from all over.

      After several days of evidence and debate the council ruled in favour of the view of Athanasius, a bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius pointed out there was endless snippets of the bible that could support both arguments, however the overriding claim of Christianity is that Jesus came to save us, and only God can offer salvation!

      The council voted in favour of Athanasius and promptly named Arianism a “bad teaching” or heresy, his writings were systematically destroyed to the point we only know of his argument through the rebuttal letters that survived, and I find this a little sad.

      I am woefully under-qualified to argue with those early theologians but I do understand Arius was simply trying to figure out who Jesus was much like we all do. I can definitely claim to have stopped off in Arianism for a good while as I was figuring things out before I even knew what it was!

      Thank you for reading and sharing.

      Like

  2. Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:
    My Featured Blogger this week is Carolanne of Coffee With Carolanne. I don’t know much about Carolanne, except that she’s a thinker/skeptic/believer and former atheist like me. She’s British, a mother of three, and a lover of both science and God, who continually explores the depths therein. Read on and you’ll see!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There I was, elbow deep in a philosophy essay that wasn’t behaving (philosophy and I are squabbling bedfellows at best) and my phone starts blowing up!

      I’ve never been reblogged before! Thank you Mitch!
      And boy did I need a positive boost today.

      As for not knowing much about me… yeah yeah, back story, I’m on it. lol
      Some of it is written, loaded aaaaaand I didn’t hit go because… well, insert every excuse under the sun but ultimately because it’s scary letting the world in.

      Thanks again.
      C.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting.
      You raise a good point, as a scientist and atheist before faith, I still find miracle stories hard and knee jerk at some parts!

      Then I am reminded of the years I worked in hospital pharmacy, how some patients would have remarkable recoveries that left doctors scratching their heads.

      If you’re up for a read, this is an excellent book that bridges science and something else in a very readable style: Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind over Body by Jo Marchant.
      It’s available on Amazon and Audible and contained enough research data to make my inner scientist get squirmy-happy. Lol
      If you do read it, I’d love to hear your take on it.
      Thanks again.
      C.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The human body can heal and so can the mind. No magic needed. We just don’t completely understand the mind and body yet.

        My question to you is: if this god can do miracles, we never see it doing anything to a injury that can be seen e.g. amputations or burns?

        it seems to me that all theists have are false claims.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I do think the universe is worth exploring and for us to continue to strive to understand.
        I do not let go of my scientific skepticism because I found God was real, but when I challenged myself to maintain an open mind and pull apart the discoveries and mysteries, I found no contradiction.
        There are a LOT of unfounded claims in faith but science isn’t immune from that either.
        Read the book I suggested, your questions tell me you’ve got the kind of mind that will absorb and analyse. It’ll likely raise more questions and I would happily spend a few hours chewing over them with you – I have a few myself! lol You mentioned burns, there is a whole chapter dedicated to research results in tech-placebo pain management in burns victims.

        C.

        Like

      3. There is a lot of contradiction in the bible with how reality works.

        You are correct, science isn’t immune from unfounded claims and mistakes. They found out in science. They are excused in religion.

        Yep, tech and placebo managment can work for alleviating the pain from burns. My husband is bipolar and they are working on brain stimulation to help that which I find fascinating. Still no magic. I will read the book. Looks interesting and I read a LOT 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Fantastic!
        Greetings fellow bookworm! 😎 👊
        And hey look, the world would be a boring place if we all thought the same – not to mention blow Dawkin’s memetics out the water.
        I always enjoy a good chat with an original thinker. 😊

        Hope we talk again soon.

        C.

        Like

  3. I found you through Mitch! I usually loathe longer posts, but you write so well I couldn’t stop scrolling, Carolanne!

    As a generational Christian (I still chose for myself) I think your quest to find the real Jesus is Inspiring. There are plenty of Christians who can’t even tell you why they believe what they profess. Perhaps your way of coming to God isn’t so backward. The truth is God seeks us first. We would never seek Him back otherwise.
    I’m glad I discovered your blog! Blessings.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you David. It’s been a strange journey! I’d love to hear your story.
      I haven’t written on here for a while due to many essays being due on my Theology degree but I have a few ideas I want to jot down soon, please feel free to pop back.
      C.

      Like

      1. I will most certainly pop back in, Carolanne. I am now following you.

        Thank you for wanting to hear my story. I will keep it brief. .

        I grew up in the Bible Belt (Southern US), where there are more churches than pubs. My grandparents were Christians, my parents were Christians, and more of my friends attended church weekly than did not.

        I was converted at age 9 and my relationship with God grew deeper at age 15. By age 18, I felt strongly that God wanted me to serve in full time ministry. I became a worship pastor at that time, later completing a bachelor’s degree in music and a Master’s in Religious Education at a top seminary. In total I served in full-time ministry for 14 years, before my marriage ended. Sadly, for a Southern Baptist (what I was back then) divorce pretty much means the end of your ministry career.

        After a three year career in sales, I used my music degree to obtain a teaching certificate. I have been an elementary music teacher since 2004 and am happily remarried.

        I started my blog in 2018 as an outlet for my pastoral skills, I like to help and encourage others and needed a place to do that,

        Thank you for reading. My story took longer than I thought!

        Blessings!

        David Duncan

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow, thank you for sharing.
        I did not realise divorce ended ministry for Baptists. I’m still thinking about that, the ramifications etc.
        Hmmm… lots of thoughts. Might hit you up for further insight, if that’s ok?
        It’s too easy to stray into judgement, so I reckon we have to be willing to bare some skin to the flame if we’re going to pass comment.
        Teaching is definitely a calling – go you!
        I like that you’ve found an outlet for your pastoring. I’m going to slope over there now and take a gander!

        C.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. many are seeking to make sense of the current times, they say, when you look to the past, you find the signs. To say it short, when you can join the dots of the past, you see the connected nature of everything, and when you analyse the current state of the world, you find, that those words of life spoken all those years ago, are the answer to the issues of today, the example of Jesus, no idols, all credit to the one above who made it all possible, amen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      It takes time and a lot of study to get the message within the gospels. They don’t read easily at first as you’re wobbling into faith.

      I’ve just written an essay on the Gospel of Mark, it’s been fascinating to see how it folds and joins, to figure out the themes. Most biblical scholars now agree his gospel was written first with Matthew and Luke taking and developing his narrative with additional source(s) and the themes they saw as vital.
      But to lay it out there and go first, to brave the criticism? That took courage. If Mark enjoins us to take up our own crosses and walk, he certainly practised his advice.

      Thanks again

      C.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this wonderful, well-written and captivating story of your questing into faith. With your permission, I would like to repost it. I, too, found you through Mitch. If you’re up for a heavy-duty study of the Gospel of Mark from a socio-political viewpoint, I recommend *Binding the Strong Man* by Ched Meyers. It’s profoundly unsentimental yet inspiring. I also highly recommend just about anything by Richard Rohr. One last little bit on the healing of the hemorrhaging woman: When Jesus tells her to “Go in peace” there in the midst of the crowd, he is not only endowing her with a benediction, he is giving her safe passage through a crowd that might be inclined to harm her because of all the cultural boundaries she has crossed in order to touch him. In doing that, he, himself crosses some of those same boundaries. And that’s our calling, I think. To cross boundaries when necessary to to bring compassion, healing, restoration and peace. Peace and all good to you as you continue on The Way.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Wow Steve, thank you for reaching out, reading and commenting.
    You absolutely may repost, this is the first time I’ve been re-blogged and I’m a little wide-eyed! I write to share, I love to talk, and I have yet to meet anyone as stubborn as I was at the start – my buddy deserves sainthood!

    Re: Mark, I haven’t submitted that essay yet – it’s percolating so the grammar bloopers bubble up! With that in mind, I may slope off into the library again for swift peek at Meyers. Do love Rohr, have one or two, just bought one for a friend as well.

    Lastly, your extra comment about the story of the bleeding women, wow, that is so on point. With your permission, I’ll include that thought when I come to visit that story again.

    Thank you
    C.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My friend, you don’t need my permission. We open each other’s eyes when we open our hears and minds. I know I’m going to keep coming back to your post—and most probably your future posts. Peace and all good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol, thank you.
      I have an overactive sense of humour that gets me in and out of trouble on a regular basis!

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m definitely getting the feedback I need to write that full finding faith story… smh. I honestly didn’t think anyone would want to hear it!

      Hope you enjoy the rest of the blog.

      C.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Lmao! For honesty’s sake I should be clear there are a LOT of tantrums and knee-jerks left out of this account.
        I don’t know you yet, so I’m concerned this may be me speaking unfairly but it’s a thought I feel should be said, even if it’s not to you, yeah?

        Having one’s worldview shattered is acutely painful. Yes, I am happier now for coming through that time but if you start someone on that path, be aware what you are doing, stay with them, bear them company in their frustrations and tears.
        Meeting my best mate was not the first time I had encountered a devoted Christian, but rather than handing me a pamphlet or book and walking off, he met me toe to toe in every argument and was still my friend afterwards. I know I was a bloody handful, I argued without restraint in ways I now understand are pretty tough to take from a position of faith.
        It was always my lack of understanding talking and I could not see that until something happened to radically change my view. Recently my best mate told my eldest that that was when I stopped fighting, I still had questions and boy, he has had to baby me along like a six yr old attending Sunday school for the first time, but this story is really from the point I was willing to listen.

        I probably need to blog about this… lol

        Thank you for commenting, it’s fantastic to read your thoughts.

        C.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I was never an atheist, but, I did grow up Jewish. I accepted Christ on or about my 40th birthday and at 76 I am so, so grateful I did. For my spouse and me, it has been a wonderful journey whatever difficulties we faced. Good to read your post. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      I would love to hear more about your change of heart, if you’re willing to share.
      Perhaps where those religious divisions run deep, we should remember every apostle was a converted Jew.

      Thanks

      C.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Absolutely LOVED reading your blog and seeing your discovery and search for who Jesus is. I am so blessed to have Jesus as my best friend and love how much he loved others – especially outcasts. Keep writing, it’s really beautiful to read xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you!
      There are a few other articles on this topic on my blog, and pls do follow if you want any to read more. As soon as I kick my last essay in for my degree this year, I will be posting more!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      C.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Carolanne, I’m glad Mitch shared your post. I find it absolutely fascinating. I grew up in a very strict, conservative, and traditional environment~the Bible Belt, as it’s called. My grandfather was a Baptist minister who scared the hell straight out of me when I was 8. For many years I only believed as I was indoctrinated to believe. Until life hit, my Apple baskets kept dumping over and over, and every “Christian” I attended church with basically thought I was sending myself and my boys to “hell in a hand basket” through divorce. I began to think the church, or the one I knew, had it all wrong. I was doubting everything. As a history major (and deep thinker) I began to research and dig deeper into scripture, its origins, the “players” and their backgrounds; seeking truths about the political, social, and personal platforms of the lives during the days in the life of Jesus. The laws had been basically pounded over my head so my quest was to find LOVE, acceptance, mercy,…WHO was this mortal who walked among men performing acts only given by a higher power? But even better than that to me, who was this kind, loving, and accepting miracle worker who was THE example of what I wanted to be; and wished others around me emulated. I thought, “Who cares if I question what he did or didn’t do?” The man was just nice and loving. Wouldn’t we all want to be that way? I was in an accident I shouldn’t have survived. I lost a career due to my health. At one time, I tried to end my life and I know what saved me. And then my Father, the first one in his lineage to live past 75, suddenly had collaterals growing around a completely blocked heart. A peace and self-forgiveness washed over me when I began working with the homeless in my area. I decided that my life would simply be a miracle if I chose to believe through faith. Jesus’ life was proven to exist. There has been no reason to make me believe less. And I guess that’s enough for me. I imagine as I age (I’m just 51 as of yesterday) I’ll keep searching and growing. Although I’ve not seen water turn to wine, I’ve personally experienced healing in ways science can never explain. My touch of his garment came after being surrounded by believers who were never within an arm’s reach of the proclaimed Savior. There’s more comfort and leave in my life by believing. And I’m ok with that. I’ve bet my life on it. 😉 I’m so glad to meet you and know your story. I love your writing style~conversational and transparent. Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.
      Belated happy birthday! 🎉 🎂
      What an amazing 51yrs you’ve had.
      I can relate to the childhood experience. I was put off when I was kicked out of Sunday school for asking questions – apparently blind faith was the only appropriate reaction for children.
      I was 39 when my best mate patiently convinced me it was really all about love.
      It was hard. I kicked up over and over unable to grasp that core simplicity, until God got a lot loud, but that’s another story, one I’m still wary of sharing.

      I glad you enjoyed this. Pls have a rummage around here for the few other bits I’ve posted and there is more coming soon.

      Take care sister.

      C.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re so welcome! And thank you for the kind thoughts and birthday wishes. I was born a question-asker so I completely understand your Sunday School story 😂. Aw, faith like a child. It’s a great and simple thing. Writing has been healing. Like you, there are still things that I’m not “there” to share. I will kindly rummage around your site and I look forward to more. You take care too; keep the faith and I’m glad we’re sisters! ~Karla

        Liked by 1 person

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