Wednesday, February 29th. The 8th day of Lent.
I heard Ian Cron read from his memoir last year at Laity Lodge. He described a mystical experience he had on a Saturday morning when he was ten years old. He was riding his bicycle along a street lined with trees waving in a blue sky. Suddenly he knew that he was “the object of a terrible and awe-full love.”
What would we see if we could travel back in time and stand beside the road on that Saturday when Ian pedaled his bicycle and received his beatific vision? His description in his memoir is so detailed and compelling. How much of it happened as he remembers it? If we were there would we see the trees and the sky as beautifully as he now describes them? What if we saw a boy ride by without any outward hint of inspiration? How has a lifetime of reflection on the events of that day influenced his memory?
I have asked the same questions about the gospel stories of Jesus. Someone once asked me if I would like to go back in time and meet Jesus. “Hell no!” I said. Apart from being petrified at the thought of meeting him, I’m certain I don’t want to know what really happened in those days. And how would I know what did happen, even if I saw it? The gospels are exactly what they claim to be. The Gospel According to Matthew, According to Mark, According to Luke, According to John.
I guess I’m saying that The Gospel According to Gordon the Time Traveler would probably not shed any particular light on the subject. I would be just another human being observing something from a very limited perspective and trying to put it into words. Seeing something in person doesn’t mean human interpretation doesn’t come into it. Even a video tape of an event just brings up more questions about what really happened. The Zapruder Film taught us that.
Gospels According To may be all we humans are capable of. We recreate the events of the past to match our desire and longing.
It’s what we do.