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It’s easy to see others’ mistakes and think, “If only I’d been there instead….” But what would you have really done if you had met, seen, or known Jesus Christ in ancient times?
Most of us have wondered what it would be like if we had been born at a different time in history. Some have wished that they had lived during the pioneer days of North America. More than a few wish they had lived during the time of Jesus Christ, when He performed all those miracles.
However, there is one troubling concern for anyone wishing to have lived during Jesus’ day and age. Despite His multiple indisputable miracles, the people of Jesus’ day crucified Him. Thus the question: What would you have done if you were there? Would you have followed the crowd? Would you have been with the mob shouting, “Crucify Him, crucify Him”? Surely not! At least that is how most of us think. But are we really all that different from the people of the first century AD?
Scripture indicates Jesus had only 120 true followers at the end of His ministry (Acts 1:15), after all the miracles He performed: turning water into wine, feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread and a few small fish, walking on water, and healing many. Some miracles were seen by just a few, as when He walked on water. Others were known by scores or hundreds—even thousands. Jesus’ revival of the four-days-dead Lazarus was so widely known that the Jewish leaders, out of jealousy, were not satisfied with plotting the death of Jesus; they also wanted to kill Lazarus, to remove the evidence of Jesus’ deed (John 12:9–11).
What would we have done if we had lived during the time of Christ? We can hope. We can speculate. But we can never know—because we would not be then who we are today. We would have had different parents and different DNA, and would have lived with very different influences.
But let us assume for the moment that we would be the exact same people in the first century that we are today. Of course, such a thing could never be, but let us make that assumption for the sake of discussion.
It is rightfully stated that the best prediction of future behavior is current behavior. Does that principle apply in the other direction? Assuming you were in all aspects the same person you are today, does your current behavior reveal how you would have behaved had you been born during Jesus’ human lifetime?
Whether we like to admit it or not, we aren’t always the person we want to be, even in our everyday lives now. This should help us understand whether or not we would have been part of the crucifixion party. It is probably accurate to say that most of us think we would be an exception to the mob. That is the person we want to be, and who we think we are. Surely, we would not shout, “Crucify Him!” But self-deception is a universal human trait. Shockingly, most of today’s professing Christians show by their choices that they would be part of the mob! But how can that be? How can I be so certain?
Jesus came in the flesh as the Son of God, but few fully comprehend who He was before that time, which even the Jews of His day failed to understand. Many assume that the God of the Old Testament—the One who wrote the Ten Commandments in stone, the One who spoke to Moses—was the One whom Jesus called God the Father. But, in fact, the divine being who spoke to Moses was not God the Father; He was none other than the Logos, who became Jesus Christ! This easily proven fact has consequences for modern Christianity.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4).
Furthermore, we are told, “No one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12). How can that be when we read that 74 men saw the God of Israel? “Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel…. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank” (Exodus 24:9–11).
How do we reconcile “No one has seen God at any time” with “they saw the God of Israel”? Jesus’ disciple John gives us the answer: “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time. The only begotten Son [Christ], who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him [the Father]” (John 1:18). One reason Jesus came was to reveal the Father. “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22).
Modern “Christianity” has created a false narrative that the Father was harsh and demanding, giving mankind impossible commands, but as shown in these and in many other scriptures, the God of the Old Testament is the One who later gave His life for mankind. He is also the One who chided the people of the first century, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
Is it really any different today? People call Jesus “Lord”—meaning “Master”—but expect Him to conform to their ideas of right and wrong, their ideas of how to worship Him, and their humanly devised customs. They claim to follow Him, but do they walk as He walked? Or do they follow the crowd, the way of family and friends—and traditions handed down from one generation to another?
Again, what would you have done if you were a first-century resident of Judea? Would you have followed Him? The Apostle John answers, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:3–6).
How did Jesus walk? Not the way of popular “Christianity”! Christianity as it is commonly known is not the Christianity of Christ! As the late highly regarded historian Paul Johnson wrote regarding the paganization of Christianity even in its earliest years:
Many Christians did not make a clear distinction between this sun-cult and their own. They referred to Christ ‘driving his chariot across the sky’; they held their services on Sunday, knelt towards the East and had their nativity-feast on 25 December, the birthday of the sun at the winter solstice. During the later pagan revival under the Emperor Julian many Christians found it easy to apostatize because of this confusion; the Bishop of Troy told Julian he had always prayed secretly to the sun. Constantine never abandoned sun-worship and kept the sun on his coins. He made Sunday into a day of rest (A History of Christianity, pp. 67–68).
The record of Scripture is unambiguous: Jesus kept the Sabbath, and the annual biblical Holy Days, as did His Apostles and the early Church of God, instead of recycled pagan celebrations (see our booklets Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath? and The Holy Days: God’s Master Plan). This April begins the annual cycle of biblical Holy Days as found in the Old and New Testaments, the very same ones Jesus, His apostles, and the early Church of God kept—the same ones to which Jesus introduced Israel prior to Mount Sinai (Exodus 12–13). This present generation would be little different from that of the first century AD. They crucified the Messiah, and so would this generation. The question remains: Based on your current choices, would you?