Since I am about to begin a series on John the Baptizer it is only fitting that this week’s quote from N.T. Wright be related somehow. I am taking this one from The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions co-authored with Marcus J. Borg (p. 102) where he discusses the difference between the longevity of the Jesus Movement after Jesus’ death with that of John after his:

“Had the story ended there, there is no reason to suppose that any kind of Jesus movement would have survived for very long. John the Baptist’s movement survived, as we know from Acts (and by implication the gospels, not least John), but probably not for more than a generation. John could still be regarded as a prophet after his death. It is conceivable that after Jesus’ death some of his followers would have continued to see him in the same way, however much that would have represented a shrinking of the aspirations and expectations they had cherished during his lifetime. But the more we recognize the messianic nature of Jesus’ actions and words, and  the messianic expectation of his followers, the more it becomes exceedingly strange to imagine such a movement, with such messianic emphasis, continuing after his death. Nobody in 71 C.E. said that Simon bar Giora was the messiah, or even a great prophet: nobody in 136 C.E. continued to believe that Simeon ben Kosiba really was Bar-Kochba, “the son of the star.”

To summarize: If Jesus had claimed to be merely a prophet we could see him remaining popular after death for about a generation much like John did. What complicates things is he claimed more than John. He claimed messianic status. Yet unlike other messianic pretenders whose memories were abandoned at death, the Jesus movement continued. This is astonishing.