In his time, Jesus drew crowds. In our time, he still does. The CBS television network is counting on it with the miniseries that began last night, simply titled "Jesus."
When Jesus walked the earth in what is now called the Holy Land, people often went to great lengths just to catch a glimpse of him. One resident of Jericho, a wealthy tax collector named Zacchus, even climbed a tree so he could see the crowd-thronged Jesus as he went through that city (see Luke 19:1-10).
Exactly why any one person is attracted to Jesus can best be answered by that individual. But most people would probably agree that what's going on here is far different from the pull of a charismatic personality. The life and teachings of Jesus connect with something deep within the core of our being - something we yearn to have touch our lives.
Take our longing for a sense of individual worth. We all have it. In our innermost being, we intuitively feel we should be valued, by ourselves and by others. But on what basis? Zacchus had accumulated riches and status, but the means by which he had done so did not sit well with the people and were apparently not satisfying to him.
When Jesus spotted Zacchus in that tree and called for him to come down right away to receive him as a guest in his house, we find Zacchus saying, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold."
Nothing the tax collector had gained by compromising his integrity as an individual could give him the sense of self-worth and satisfaction he would have by regaining that integrity. Through the pure, spiritual love expressed by Jesus, Zacchus was stirred within himself to reaffirm and value his own inherent goodness, and be true to it. His life was set on a new course, a more fulfilling one.
The human spirit has many yearnings. The spiritual truths Jesus embodied and preached cut straight through to meet them. In the words of the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy: "Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe. He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 313).
No matter what was clamoring for attention on the surface of a person's life, Jesus looked deeper. Much deeper. What he found, what he connected with, was the individual's fundamental spirituality. He found the divine Spirit - the "spiritual cause" of goodness, health, harmony, and life, expressing itself in human lives. He confirmed that what we feel deep within ourselves must be true, even though human experience often seems to deny it: that we are inherently good, worthy of love and nurturing; that there is a God, a God of love, justice, and mercy, who never forsakes us; that God is not the author but the healer of disease and discord. And when this confirmation took place in consciousness, it was simultaneously verified in a changed life and in improved health, a nobler character, a surer sense of peace and purpose, and so on.
It's not surprising, then, that people of different religious persuasions (Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Hindus, for example), as well as those with no particular interest in religion, should find themselves drawn with at least some degree of interest to the life and teachings of Jesus. We have common yearnings. The spiritual Truth reflected in what Jesus lived and taught speaks to those longings in uncommon ways.
Jesus' expression of this Truth was so complete that Christians identify him as Christ, the Messiah. The message of the eternal Christ is that the divine Spirit is always expressing itself in us - that we are, in actual being, the spiritual expression of God rather than fragile physical personalities. Jesus was "scientific," as Mary Baker Eddy says, because he understood this fact, applied it systematically and exactly to human need, and thus proved it to be true through healing.
This Truth is what attracts people to Jesus.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society