Found Jesus forming doubts of his own when we met up this evening.
“I’ve been thinking. I’m not totally sure people will actually need a leader,” he said. “What if God just turns up and saves all the righteous people, whoever their leader is?”
“If God turns up at all, which I doubt on past performance,” I said, immediately angry with myself for being negative again. “I mean, think about it. Without a leader, people won’t be prepared for God’s arrival. Think of all those men and women who might have turned away from their evil ways and been saved if only they had a leader to tell them what to do.
“And it’s not just the people who need a leader. If I know God, which I don’t really, but I’ve heard enough about the way he operates, I expect he will just turn up and look around for the most attractive leader with the biggest following. He’s not a detail God, and I suspect he’s not much of a planner either, which is why no one can work out what his plan really is. People say he moves in a mysterious way, but if you ask me he’s just disorganised.
“Trust me: he’ll come thundering down on his cloud with his heavenly entourage, see you at the head of the vast following you’ve assembled for him, and say, ‘Jesus, what a great job you’ve done! Have a throne, take the weight off your feet while I save your people and cast out the other multitudes into the darkness where they can wail and gnash their teeth.’ Actually, knowing God’s reputation, he won’t even bother thundering around on a cloud himself. He’ll probably send the Son of Man, whoever he is, or some other messenger. Anyway, without putting too fine a point on it, God’s lack of interest in the detail is why you need a campaign manager, to give you that competitive advantage and get you the biggest following and make you stand out from the crowd.”
“Bravo Tom!” said Jesus. “That was some speech. I’m convinced, but are you? What about your own doubts? Are you sure you still want to help me?”
“Yes, strange though it may seem,” I said. “All right, I admit it. I’m bored out of my fig tree working as an assistant scribe, and all I can see ahead of me is more kids and more scribing and more kicking around Nazareth wondering if I could have done something more with my life, and Hannah and me growing older and eventually dying. I’m entitled to a mid-life crisis too. I can help you in my spare time to start with and see how it goes.”
He thought for a minute. “OK, you’re on,” he said. “Campaign manager it is.”
“Erm, I’ve been thinking. Perhaps that sounds too much like those senior Roman soldiers who manage all the logistics and everything for a legion. That’s not exactly what I intend to do. I was wondering about director of communications and strategy, or special adviser. What do you think?”
“I think it’s all just titles. I think you’re the man for the job, whatever you choose to call it. I just wanted to be absolutely sure of you and your motives. Now, where do we start?”
“Well, we need to work out a unique message that stands out from all the others, and then communicate it effectively to as many people as possible. Then you’ll have to decide whether to do any exorcism or healing, or just do straight preaching and prophesying.”
Jesus frowned. “When you say prophesying, you don’t mean predicting the future in detail? I don’t think I’d be much good at that, not unless God starts giving me a lot more information than I’m getting at the moment.”
“No,” I said. “Just the usual broad declarations about what a sinful, God-forsaken world this has become, and how God is about to return to bring the world to an end, punish the wicked and save the righteous – pretty much what you keep going on about to me, in fact. I don’t mean fortune telling.”
“Oh sure, that would come naturally.”
“And you always have an opinion about what the scriptures mean and what we can learn from them, so your preaching would be fine too,” I said. “I can work on the message and how to get it across, and we can write speeches together, so let’s concentrate on what we’re good at and forget about healing.”
“Agreed,” said Jesus, stroking his wispy red beard.
“And you’ll probably need a group of close followers,” I said. “Every successful itinerant preacher has them. Twelve might be good: one for each tribe of Israel or something like that. I can help you recruit them. Then you need to get out of Nazareth, because you’ve completely blown your chances with this lot. They won’t believe a word you say. And take a few years off your age or people will think you’re past it. Twenty eight’s a good age, 29 next birthday in December. It’s a lie but not much of one. That should be enough to get us going.”
“I like that,” he said. “Twenty eight sounds good to me.”
“I might even use it for my diary,” I said, “to make you look more important if anyone reads it, instead of referring to a year in the reign of Emperor Tiberius. So that puts us in year 29 of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I didn’t know you were keeping a diary,” he said. I’d better do some interesting things for you to write about. I need a better name though. Jesus of Nazareth won’t exactly set the world alight. OK, we’ll work out some details, then it’s you and me against the world, like when we were kids and did everything together and they called us the twins. And God too. I need him with me in this, obviously.”
“Oh, undoubtedly. God as well.”