As I watched episode two of Bible Secrets Revealed (History Channel) last night, what really struck me was how much we humans want tangible, physical artifacts of what we believe in. This could be a location - a Holy Land, a Temple, a burial site. It could be something significant to the founder - the Holy Grail, a Shroud, a piece of the Cross. Or it could be writings that connect the present generation to the past - like the Bible.
I've thought from time to time how much better it might have been if some of the writings could be shown conclusively to have come from Jesus. Or if some artifact could be shown undoubtedly to be from Jesus, how that can prove to the world that the claims of Christianity are true.
But as I watched the show last night, I realized possibly why Jesus left no artifacts and left no command to write down his words. It was for the best. Conflicts and wars have erupted over the so-called artifacts we have today. Battles continue to rage over holy places and lands. Controversy and strife continue over interpretations of words.
How much worse might all this be if these things could be shown to trace directly back to Jesus - his words, his possessions? They would consist of the ultimate proof a sect needed to establish itself over all others. Humans are always tempted by magic and magical religions. Literal words of Jesus would soon become magical incantations that must be spoken exactly (in Aramaic, of course). Artifacts would soon turn into implements for performing magic and as proof of divine authority. Conflicts, controversies and wars would never cease as one sect battled to gain control over the relics.
Which is why what we have from Jesus is that he said that locations would no longer be considered "holy" (John 4:16-26), that Jesus himself is the new Temple (John 2:18-21), and that the only artifacts he left were the command to love one another (John 13:34-35) and the Holy Spirit (John 15) - both nonmaterial and mystical.
Jesus didn't want his people to become attached to places, things, words, and rituals. Yet that's what we've done and continue to do. Jesus wants the only attachment of his people to be to him, through the Holy Spirit and by love for one another.
I wonder if this is part of what Paul intended when he wrote "flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14)? It seems that Paul was writing to a group of believers who were becoming attached to a tangible, magical form of Christianity. Paul writes to call them back to a mystical (not magical) Christianity - where the Temple isn't a place but the body of believers; where Communion is not a magical ritual but a reminder of Christ; where spiritual gifts aren't an end but a means; where loving relationships, not words, is the Law; and where the Cross and Resurrection are events, not an object and a place.
In ABC's Once Upon a Time TV series, there is a saying, "Magic always comes with a price." In what ways does the modern church employ or teach "magic"? What price are we paying?