“Well, hello, Jesus!”
Jesus Christ of Nazareth blinked a couple of times and looked around. He was standing on an octagonal pedestal which resembled a teleport pad from a popular science fiction series. The man who had addressed Jesus was standing a few feet away, wearing a blue polo shirt and khaki slacks, with a name tag that read “Dr. Hershel Mankiewicz”. He had a big, goofy grin on his face.
“I can’ believe… we brought… JESUS CHRIST… to the present day!!” This was said through the bubbling laughter of a nearby woman, also decked out in a blue polo, but with white slacks. Her name tag identified her as “Dr. Laura Traub”.
“Hold on, hold on,” a third person cautioned. He appeared somewhat older than the others and had a blue, button-down shirt under a traditional lab coat. The stitched name on the coat read “Dr. Stephen Sithton”. He wore a crimson and gold striped tie and black pants. “We still don’t know if this fellow is, you know – THE Christ. I mean, at this moment, all we know with any certainty is that we poached a man called Jesus from the area of Jerusalem of two thousand years ago who had a bunch of followers.”
“Please, please, please be the Christ.” This fourth and final voice, no louder than a whisper, belonged to a black male wearing glasses and a badge noting him to be “Dr. Nathan Jefferson”. He also wore a blue polo and khaki pants.
Jesus cleared his throat behind a raised hand. He continued to glance around the room. It was a sparsely decorated lab with two doors, one to either side. In front of the teleport pad was a table loaded down with electrical devices, connected to the pad by dozens of wires. More wires ran from the table to a wall-sized bank of screens, some of them with digital read-outs, some of them with oscillating waves of color, two with views of the interior of the lab, and one with a view of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus had just been taking a stroll away from his disciples.
For several moments, Jesus stood there, studying the room and the people in it.
“Is he going to say something?” Dr. Mankiewicz asked of no one in particular. “He’s just standing there. Do you think he’s in shock?”
“No, no,” Dr Sithton answered. “I think he’s taking it all in. See, he looks at whoever is talking.”
“Of course he is,” Dr. Mankiewicz observed. “Even a dog would do that.”
“I think he looks really calm,” Dr. Traub inserted. “That’s good, right? I mean – he doesn’t seem disturbed by all this.”
“I just wish he would say something,” Dr. Jefferson admitted.
Then Jesus spoke.
“Why did you bring me here?” he asked.
“He spoke English!” Dr. Jefferson cried out, hopping up and down on his feet and pointing. “HE SPOKE ENGLISH!!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dr. Mankiewicz agreed with a tightness in his voice. “But, I mean, that still doesn’t prove anything.”
“It proves that a man, who we pulled out of the time stream from two thousand years ago, can speak our modern language without any previous introduction to it,” Dr. Traub said giddily. “Who else can instantly switch to a modern language like that but…” here she waved her arm for emphasis. “JESUS CHRIST!!”
Jesus sighed deeply.
“Okay, okay, let’s just hold it there.” Dr. Sithton decided to impose his seniority over everyone in the room. “Now let me explain to you… ‘Jesus’… what is going on here. I’m sure this must be a bit… unsettling.”
“Unsettling?” Jesus replied quizzically. “You think that this is unsettling? I was about to be arrested and sentenced to death for telling people to love one another.”
“Well, yeah,” Dr. Mankiewicz said with his arms now crossed. “But getting yanked out of that situation to a brand new place - that’s gotta feel a little weird, right? I mean, it certainly is weird for us. We never pulled anyone out of the time stream before… um, successfully.” Here he looked at Dr. Sithton, who put up his hands.
“We just needed to tweak the controls a little bit. The first try in that bunker was pretty close,” Dr. Sithton replied defensively.
“I told you it was a good idea to use Hitler as our first test subject,” Dr. Jefferson said, pointing a finger back at Dr. Mankiewicz. “Imagine if we had accidentally scrambled Jesus Christ in the transfer.”
“I’m still a little freaked out that we may have accidentally lost Adolf Hitler in the time field,” Dr. Taub interjected.
“Look, geniuses,” Jesus said without a trace of irony, “let me put this in terms you might recognize.” He stepped forward off of the pedestal, pressing his fingertips together and waving his hands back and forth for emphasis. “Now that I’m here, you’ve initiated the sequence for My Second Coming.”
The assembled scientists paused to absorb that information. They looked from one to another to see who would respond first. When no one spoke, Jesus continued.
“You’ve heard of My Second Coning, right? I mean, I know that each of you have. I just need each of you to individually confirm that you understand what I’m saying.”
Half of them nodded their heads. Dr. Mankiewicz was, very slightly, shaking his head from side to side with a slight frown on his face.
“Really big stuff is going to happen. Like, globe-altering stuff. In fact, certain messages are already being sent out right now. Lamps have been lit. A handful of horsemen are saddling up. All sorts of stuff have been green-lighted. My physical form coming back into this world is one of the automatic triggers for the Apocalypse.”
The others turned in unison to face Dr. Traub.
“You know, this was your call,” Dr. Mankiewicz said pointedly to her.
“Yeah, thanks for bringing Jesus to us,” Dr. Sithton huffed.
“I really wanted to meet him,” Dr. Traub said sheepishly.
“I-I thought…” Dr. Jefferson stammered, “I thought that, um… that , y’know… um…. Weren’t there supposed to be signs preceding this event?”
“Yes! Exactly!” Dr. Sithton clapped his hands together. “According to the rules, your second coming was supposed to be preceded by signs. Now, I know that people have been saying there have been signs for centuries. But there’s never been a genuine lining up of all the things that were at the end of the Bible. Since none of the signs lined up exactly, all of those prophecies have been wrong.” After a pause he added, “Right?”
“Here’s the deal,” Jesus responded, eyebrows arched. “Signs were sent out in every age of man, so that in each case where there could have been a triggering event - such as pulling my mortal form out of the time stream and reinserting it thousands of years later - then there would have been, or should have been, sufficient warnings for all who were paying attention.”
“In other words,” Dr. Traub concluded, “none of the people preaching your second coming were wrong, exactly. Their hypothesis was just not proved within their time.”
“Exactly,” Jesus smiled while pointing two index fingers at her. For a brief moment she was afraid that he was about to turn her into a pillar of salt or something.
“Okay,” Dr. Mankiewicz cut in. “Okay, well – we can just put you back.” He looked around the room as he began shifting towards the control table. “We’ll just put you back in the garden, right? That’s what we intended to do all along. For the sake of continuity, of course. You’ll be found, they’ll crucify you, and we’re back to normal, right?” He paused briefly to look Jesus straight in the eye. “And, of course, I’m a true believer now. Fully converted. I mean, ethnically, I’m still Jewish – like you! But, um, but I’ll do the Christmas and Easter thing now. Is that good?”
Jesus gave Dr. Mankiewicz a pitying smile. “You don’t need to do that, Hershel.”
Dr. Mankiewicz felt a sigh of relief leave his body.
“So, what – I still celebrate all the original Jewish traditions which OUR people have been doing for thousands-”
Jesus cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“No. You don’t need to celebrate anything. It’s all come to fruition. We’re in the end time now.”
Dr. Sithton chuckled softly. When everyone looked at him, he responded sheepishly.
“I… I thought he was going to say, ‘We’re in the End Game now’. You know… like Dr. Strange in the Avengers: Infinity War movie.” Dr. Sithton bent forward slightly with another wave of chuckling.
Jesus stared at Dr. Sithton for a few, long seconds. Dr. Sithton stopped chuckling and swallowed hard.
Jesus sat down on a rolling chair that was nearby.
“Now, don’t get me wrong,” He began. “I’m actually pleased that this is happening. After all, we’re talking about final salvation. Which I should have known you people would not get around to for the longest….” He looked around to assess the reaction of the people in the room.
Dr. Traub had crossed her arms and was holding herself tight. Dr. Sithton looked sick to his stomach. Dr. Mankiewicz was biting his lip. Dr. Jefferson had tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Are those tears of joy, Nate?” Jesus inquired.
Dr. Jefferson nodded.
“I’ve been told this would happen all my life. By my pastor. By my family.” Dr. Jefferson’s lips trembled as he talked. “I remember… my granny… Gran Jess, we called her… she used to say how we would all meet in Heaven someday. I told her I believed her, but I didn’t. Not really.” He sniffed and swallowed before continuing. “Even when she died, I-I remember that she used to say that, but I still didn’t really believe it. I-I thought that she was gone. Just dead. Now….” He stopped speaking as he was flooded with emotions.
“Yes,” Jesus smiled and nodded. “Gran Jess will be waiting for you. Her tears then will be as yours are now.”
Jesus stood up and began walking around the room.
“Are they…” Dr. Traub hesitated to finish her question. Since everyone was looking at her, she knew she had to finish the question. “Are they part of the 144,000?”
Jesus walked over to her and put his arm around her shoulders.
“You know, Laura,” Jesus said, “That number, like a lot of the stuff in the dream that was sent to the author of the Book of Revelations, was supposed to be representative. It was not meant to be thought of as an exact number. People of that age were used to allegories and coded messages. The manner of telling a story then is not the same as sharing information now. It was hoped that the actual message would be conveyed across the years regardless of the descriptive terms used.”
Jesus shook his head and blew air between his lips.
“Pssshh. ‘Translators’, amiright?”
Dr. Sithton laughed nervously, hoping that he had correctly recognized Jesus’ comment to be a joke. It was.
“The real deal,” Jesus continued, “is that pretty much everyone is going to be together again in the end. In fact, you’d have to be a really bad person who actively wanted to be away from Us at the time of your death. A knowing, willful rejection of grace and all that it encompasses.”
“Does that mean…” Dr. Sithton began, “that even… Hitler?”
“Oh, no.” Jesus assured them. “He’s gone. You people did a real number on him.”
“A-men,” Dr. Mankiewicz muttered under his breath.
Jesus cocked an eyebrow in his direction.
“Sorry,” Dr. Mankiewicz said quietly.
“So, what’s going to happen now?” Dr. Sithton asked. “Are you going to, like, snap your fingers and everyone is in the Kingdom of God, like Thanos, but in reverse …or something?”
Jesus shook his head with a look of confusion on his face.
“What is it with you and references to the Avengers?”
“I guess,” Dr. Traub offered meekly, “I guess that we’re each trying to wrap our heads around what you just told us. And the divergence from what we’ve been taught. I mean, about the… End?” Her face twitched lightly as she added the last word out of trepidation.
“Oh, well,” Jesus lifted his eyebrows. He slowly waved his hands in broad circles as he talked. “There are still going to be stages to go through. Big climate change events, pestilence, wars, the whole anti-Me person stirring stuff up. Because, well… for reasons that I can’t get into right now.”
He gave no further explanation on that.
“Listen, um… Jesus.” Dr. Jefferson paused to remove his glasses and rub at his eyes. “I still can’t believe I’m talking to Jesus Christ.” He composed himself, laughed briefly, then continued. “I-I’m ready. My family made sure that I would be ready for this… I mean… to the extent that anyone could be ready for this. But,” he gestured to the others in the room, “for a lot of people this is going to be a kind of… well….”
“An unexpected and unwelcome revelation?” Jesus finished the thought.
“Yeah, I guess.” Dr. Jefferson licked his lips and crossed his arms.
“Listen, my message back then,” Jesus said as he pointed to the screen that showed the Mount of Olives, “was pretty simple. And although I followed the rules of our people,” he said as he gestured to Dr. Mankiewicz, who smiled not-so-subtly, “the message I brought was for everyone. And it was a really, really simple message. Love. Forgiveness. Humility. Generosity. Praise.”
For a moment, just a moment, there was sadness in Jesus’ eyes.
“And you struggle with it. You all struggle.” Jesus paused briefly. “I know that the source of the struggle may seem contrived to some of you. Life is hard, I get it. But the reality is that none of you were meant to be permanent for this earth. And if you were not going to be permanent here, then there had to be a mechanism for beginning and finishing your time here. It couldn’t be like punching a clock to start and end a shift. To be fully immersed in the wonder and joys and momentous occasions of this life, it had to be a process whereby one could truly experience this life in its various stages. Mortality. All of you were made to be mortal. And that sets you up for struggling and suffering. I know. It seems unfair. But a plotted existence which ensured no harm to anyone would have only made each of you a cog in an elaborate machine. There would have been no point in putting you here at all. When it was decided to grant you these lives, a break from the eternal, we accepted the consequences. You, Me, all of us.”
For a moment, Jesus stared at the screen showing the garden he had been pulled from.
Then he stepped back up on the octagonal pedestal. He was accustomed to finding the high ground to speak to larger crowds.
“There is light within each of you. A beautiful, transcendent, eternal light. That is what will be returning. But the light could not experience the totality of the lives that each of you have had here. You had to be of this earth, at least temporarily, to have these lives. To be the boy who found a wounded kitten and, after failing to heal it, vowed to be someone who could make a difference and reduce the suffering of others. To be the girl who got lost while riding bikes with a friend, but who clamped down on her fear and doubt so that she could lead her friend back home. To be the young man who made a vow to a woman, and when she went through her final stage of mortality, he questioned everything and everyone, but stayed with her to give her what she needed until the end. To be the grandson who made a promise to his grandmother and, in deference to her memory, kept a little bit of faith alive in a world where there was little encouragement to do so.”
“Do you have to go back right now?” Dr. Mankiewicz asked abruptly.
“Yeah, I… I have so many questions,” Dr. Sithton added.
“If we’re going to send you back to the exact same moment when we took you,” Dr. Traub asked hopefully, “Can we actually have you with us… for a little bit longer?”
“Yes. Yes!” Dr. Jefferson pointed as he spoke. “The whole intent of our experiment was to ask a series of questions of the historic people we pulled out of time, and then reinsert them at the point we took them out.” He paused as a look of consternation crossed his face. “Wait - we were going to give him a shot to muddle his memory of having been brought to the future.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work here,” Dr. Mankiewicz observed.
The scientists looked back and forth between each other and Jesus. Just when the silence was becoming uncomfortable, Jesus spoke again.
“I can stay with you for just a little while. I’ll answer what questions I can, but I have to warn you - I can be a little cryptic. And I do eventually have to get back in the past to set the stage for the things that are beginning to happen now. Otherwise, no salvation for you.”
The scientists were struck dumb at the moment.
“Just kidding. A little apocalyptic humor. So,” Jesus said as he clapped his hands together, “who wants to go for a venti latte?”