I love church marquees, those enigmatic sayings that are supposed to draw us to Jesus by the power of their cleverness. But sometimes the signs are so clever that I can’t understand them.
Case in point: I’m driving to a retreat center in Connecticut this past weekend and I see a church sign that reads, “Jesus. What if He never left?” OK, let’s think about that for a moment.
If Jesus never left, his body would remain in the tomb, and the resurrection would be pure fiction. Without the resurrection there is no proof of Jesus’ divinity. Without Jesus as God Christian salvation is impossible and Christianity is a sham. Why would you want to put that on the marquee of your church?
But maybe I am wrong. Maybe if Jesus never left the resurrection could still have happened but not the ascension to heaven. OK, let’s see: Jesus dies on the cross and is placed in the tomb of Joseph of Aramethea. Three days latter he is resurrected. He spends the next forty days wandering around but, since he never leaves, he never gets to sit at the right hand of the Father. Instead he’s just shuffling around the planet like a character in the Ghost Whisperer. If this is true, Christianity is still in trouble because now its God is exiled to earth for all eternity. This is the story of the Marvel comic book hero Silver Surfer, not the Suffering Servant. And, if Jesus is stuck here on earth, then the Second Coming is impossible since the First Coming never ends. But what is Christianity without the Return of Jesus? Nothing. So, again, why put this on your church sign?
Of course the sign may not refer to Jesus Christ at all. It could be an oblique reference to illegal aliens coming to Connecticut from Mexico: “Jesus. What if he never left (Mexico)? Who would cut our lawns?” A pro-immigration message like that might fly in New England, so maybe that was the point of the marquee.
Just to be thorough I tried different versions of this sign suitable to other faiths to see if they would yield any better insights. For example, a Jewish version of this sign might read, “Moses. What if we never left?” Well, if Moses never left Egypt the Jews would still be slaves, the bush would never have burned, Passover would never have happened and there would be no Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. So that doesn’t work.
How about a Buddhist version: “Prince Siddhartha. What if he never left?” OK, if Siddhartha never left home he would never have become the Buddha, Tibet would have stayed with the Bon religion and Jewish Buddhists would have had to find another religion to join.
If Mohammad never left we’d lack his Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem to heaven and back. If Krishna never left Arjuna would not have gone to war with his cousins and we’d have no Bhagavad-Gita. If Lao Tzu never left he’d never have written the Tao Te Ching. None of these are good things.
No, this church sign doesn’t work in any religion. It seems to me that all the founders have to leave or the religions don’t happen. So what was the sign writer thinking? Honestly, I haven’t a clue. So this one is up to you. Best answer wins a year of free drinks at your local Starbucks, but only if you can convince them to do this.