Went to see Jesus during my lunch break, and found him staring into space.
“I’ve cracked it.” That made him jump.
“What? Don’t creep up on people like that.”
“I wanted to tell you, I’ve worked out how we’re going to launch your new career. It needs a bit of stage management but if we can pull it off it could be really impressive.”
“What about the bastard thing though?”
“I’ve had an idea about that too. Which do you want to hear first?”
So I told him.
“We’re going to say you’re the son of God.”
“But we’re his chosen people. All Jews are sons and daughters of God. That’s not very original.”
“No, I was thinking of something more in the Greco-Roman tradition, where a god actually takes human form and…”
“That’s disgusting. It’s blasphemous and you could be stoned to death for that. The God of Israel isn’t the sort of God to go cavorting with mortal women. Especially Jewish ones – they’re his daughters already so that makes it even worse.”
“But it might appeal to the Greeks and the Romans,” I suggested.
“But this isn’t about the Greeks and the Romans. Don’t you get it? We’re nearing the end of the age and the God of Israel is coming to create a kingdom on earth before taking his chosen ones up to heaven. The Greeks and Romans don’t get a look in, or any of the pagan gentiles. They’re not invited to the table. They will be first in line to start wailing and gnashing their teeth. I want to fulfil the law, be one of the chosen ones and save as many followers as I can. Sod the Greeks and the Romans.”
“Hmm…Look, you’re the one who’s bothered about being called a bastard,” I said through gritted teeth. “All I’m trying to do is think up some plausible story that would not only shut people up but might actually add to your reputation as a man of God. If you can think of anything better, go ahead.”
Jesus narrowed his eyes, bowed his head and took a deep breath.
“OK, I appreciate what you’re doing for me. Maybe we could keep it in reserve in case anyone asks. No, it’s just a complete lie. Oh I don’t know. Maybe it’s better than nothing.”
“Thanks a lot,” I said.
“No, honestly, it’s a great idea, apart from being blasphemous and untrue. But what about when they disappeared to stay with Dad’s parents in Bethlehem shortly before I was born to try to escape the shame? How do you explain that?”
“Oh, we could say there was a census or something. Like that one Quirinius had when we were kids, remember? No one would check the dates. And we could say everyone had to travel to their ancestral city from the time of King David to register. No, nobody could possibly fall for such a complete heap of crap. Imagine anyone having any idea which town their ancestors lived in a thousand years ago anyway. No one could possibly know. Imagine the chaos if it did somehow happen. Hundreds of thousands of people on the move, and when they got to their chosen town, the people in charge of the census would ask them what on earth they were doing there.
‘Sorry sir, you may have good cause to believe your family came from Bethlehem twenty-eight generations ago, but you’re not on the register. Where have you come from? Nazareth? Well, aren’t you on the register there then? I thought so. Do you really think the Roman Governor gives a toss where you think your ancient ancestral roots are? He wants a record of where you live now so he can send the tax collectors round, so he can brag to the Emperor about how much he’s raised and get promoted and moved away from this crummy corner of the empire to a nice cushy desk job in Rome. Now run along now before you miss the census in Nazareth and get thrown into prison, and take your donkey and pregnant wife with you. Look, if I had a denarius for every person who’s told me they were of the line of David today I’d be a rich man. Sorry, I’m only doing my job…’ But it’s a story. People want to believe something, so you have to give it to them. Believe me.”
“But it still doesn’t explain who my real father was though. Still, as you say, we can keep something like that in reserve in case we really need it. I really am grateful for your efforts.” He put his hand on my shoulder when he said that, and I just had to believe him. He can be such a charming bastard at times.
“We’ll have to talk about the launch later,” he said. “You’ll be late for work.”