Once upon a time (about 2000 years ago), there was a child who was born in a town called Bethlehem. His mother, Mary, knew of the prophecies that were predicted hundreds of years before (as recorded in the Old Testament) and figured she’d try to convince the entire population that her son was the “Messiah” and named Him Jesus, which means “the Lord saves” (virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that the person of Jesus existed).
Why did Mary decide to try to pull off such an improbable hoax? She knew the hostility the Jewish people would have against her (not to mention the ire of the Romans who would undoubtedly look to kill her son and the rest of her family upon learning of their claims). She also knew the impossible burden she’d be putting on her son by proclaiming Him as the “Son of God,” but she went for it anyway against all conceivable notions of sanity.
Mary knew she (as well as her fiance Joseph) was of the line of David, so she knew she could try to pull of the hoax since the Messiah was supposed to be in David’s lineage. Furthermore, Mary decided she’d give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem so she could also fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
Mary also did some work to fulfill multiple other prophecies so there’d be no doubt her son was the Messiah. In fact, she somehow fulfilled each one (including His ancestry, place of birth, time of birth, born of a virgin, His name, a child massacre occurring at His birthplace, spending a season in Egypt, etc.). Some of these she obviously had no control over, but somehow, she was able to set Jesus up perfectly to be “the Son of God.”
After a few years of growing and maturing, Mary and Joseph had Jesus totally convinced that He was the Son of God! I mean, I know parents can have some overly high and unrealistic expectations of their children, but Jesus believed His parents, and deep down inside, He had no doubt He was who they said He was! (see Luke 2)
After being wholly convinced with every fiber of His being that He was God, He began devising ways to try to convince everyone around Him of that lie. He knew it wouldn’t be easy and knew His life would be marred by poverty, persecution, and eventually a horrible death, but He decided to go through with it anyway.
Somehow, Jesus was able to perform amazing miracles (apparently He was the Houdini of His day) and inexplicably convinced people to give up everything they had to follow Him. He cured, taught, and brought hope to thousands (and eventually many billions)–all under this ginormous hoax He and His uneducated family devised before He was born.
Eventually (in order to fulfill all the prophecies), Jesus had to find a way to be betrayed, falsely accused, spat on and beaten, mocked and ridiculed, have soldiers gamble for His clothing, have His hands and feet pierced, be forsaken by God, be buried with the rich without any of His bones broken, resurrect from the dead, and ascend into Heaven!
Furthermore, in order for the hoax to be a success, Jesus had to trust that His followers would spread His lie to the rest of the world against the most intense and violent persecution imaginable! Sure, the entire Jewish community, the powerful Roman empire, and the rest of humanity would have no reason to believe such a lie. In fact, they wouldn’t want to just not believe it, but would do everything in their power to squash the movement before it even got started! It wouldn’t be hard, for how could such a movement occur when the person behind it had been brutally tortured to death the way the worst of criminals would have been in the day?
Against all odds, Jesus’ followers decided to spread the lie anyway. I don’t know why, for surely they knew it was a lie at this point, but hundreds of people now claimed to have seen the risen Jesus (including Saul–one of the most intense persecutors of Christians of all time). Apparently all these people got together at a Hoax Convention and decided to spread this lie despite the knowledge they’d be hunted down, captured, and brutally killed for doing so.
2000 years later, the hoax is somehow still going strong! In fact, the story of the hoax–the Bible (written by multiple eye-witnesses of the events in question)–is the most read, purchased, and talked about book in all of history, and the hoax’s message of love, hope, and sacrificial grace continues to change lives throughout the world!
This is what some consider to be the story of Jesus–He and His many accomplices have somehow pulled off the greatest lie mankind has ever seen!
How did He do it? How could one man make so many people believe this most epic of lies?
It’s like He was the Son of God or something…