THE BIG QUESTION

In recent times there has been a huge upsurge of interest in ancestral history, with the media encouraging our exploration with a variety of programmes of that genre. Some have mused that the prospects of the future now seem so utterly daunting that we are clinging to the anchor of the past.

Last month my daughter and I received the results of a DNA test, purchased out of curiosity about origins. My supposed pure Celtic blood was quickly exposed as having been infiltrated by various other donations. Subsequently, we have been linked to second cousins whose names are mystifyingly alien to us and who may be located on the far reaches of the globe.

In the United States these readily available kits have been wreaking havoc. Family secrets intended to go to the grave are being winkled out of the closet amidst angst and angry speculation. Answers to hard questions are being demanded and things will never be the same again. It is indeed surprising how easily a good relationship can be dislodged by the shadows of earlier deeds, and how unforgiving the human spirit can be. Also underlying the curiosity about bloodlines lie the secret hopes that one may have emerged from superior stock, thus giving a boost to self-confidence and pride.

But does it all really count for much if our present-day moral stance is flawed and compromised? Is it not better to bring honour to the ancestral line in the person we have become here and now? More important still, do we believe that God planned our human timespan in eternity? Moreover, on the thread of dynasty, that we are worthy to carry the witness of his grace, mercy and love into the chain of life? The BBC programme called ‘Icons’ highlighted the lives and progress of some of our fellow human beings whose dedication, initiative, inventive creativity and even self-sacrifice had changed history. Yet, they each began like us as tiny helpless babes in a cradle, and although we may not attain to their heights, we each have a part to play in the unfolding drama of the generations.

You will remember the song that asks, “Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?” What did Mary think as she gazed at the perfection of her new born son? What was it that she stored up and pondered in her heart as she watched him grow up and when, at twelve years of age he said that he must be about his father’s interests? What sustained Mary as she watched his body being lowered from the cross and carried to a tomb?

The artist Bill Viola has created a new video instalment in St Paul’s Cathedral. It is a pieta of Mary holding the body of her dead son, grief-stricken but full of gentle reverence and a mother’s love. It is not set in marble but moving in flesh and blood. It brings the heart into head knowledge of what happened to secure our redemption.

Jesus had walked beside Galilee, going on foot along the valley of Jordan, stopping at villages, speaking in synagogues, healing, teaching and challenging his followers. He could reference all the prophetic writings and not only recite but keep all of the Law. He resisted temptation, wept with compassion and vehemently rebuked hypocrisy. Some dismissed him as a carpenter’s son. Others saw him transfigured in radiance on a mountain top and later realized they beheld the glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

In AD70, the Temple archives and records were destroyed with the building. How then could any future claimants to messiahship prove their credentials? Remarkably, the Gospels have preserved a full record of the lineage of Jesus. Matthew takes his line back through his adoptive father Joseph, the righteous man chosen by God to provide earthly care for his beloved son. Luke takes us through King David on Mary’s line.

So here is the big question. Who do you believe Jesus IS?

Iris Niven.