An explanation of my current thinking about Jesus is due by my promise to my secular friend who was kind enough to inquire where I was headed in my God quest. Specifically she asked among other things my thoughts about a Resurrected Jesus. Other readers might be interested as well so I'm making this post about it.
You know, this is really difficult and awkward. I heard the Jesus story (well at least a very conservative estimate of it) from my parents when I was a child. When I was six I saw a picture of Jesus carrying his cross on the way to his execution in one of the magazines that our denomination put out. That and the story of his death so impressed my young mind that I cut out that picture and taped it to the wall beside my bed.
My family also had a framed holographic picture of Jesus' crucifixion. Looking at it straight on you saw the crucifixion; move slightly to the side and you saw a depiction of his ascension to the heavens. I spent much time pondering that picture.
All these years later Jesus still energizes my imagination and haunts my mind. I do believe he was a historical person. I do believe he was a powerful Jewish teacher and religious leader whose influence has survived through the centuries and impacted other great religious leaders even in our times, such as Gandhi and MLK, Jr. I do think the synoptic gospels especially present us with traditions that date back to him, even if the copies we now have are the results of many hands and many years. I'm not unfamiliar with certain rationalist works that have attempted to undermine the historical tradition of Jesus and the gospels. I just don't find them overly persuasive.
But I haven't as yet been able to find my way back to Christianity. I doubt I ever will. I believe Christianity as we know it owes more to the Apostle Paul than Jesus the rabbi. I think I find myself more impressed with and closer to Jesus' Jewish monotheism than Paul's pagan-influenced mystical religion about Jesus. (That isn't meant as a criticism because I also share sympathy with both religious mysticism and pagan symbolism.)
Often I've thought about searching for a church where the power of the symbols in Christianity are exalted and the more irrational aspects of taking symbols as literal truths is downplayed. Fellowship is nice to find but hard to come by when you are a religious heretic in the eyes of many.
However, I presently find my most meaningful fellowship in the company of other non-dogmatic and open-minded spiritual seekers. For now I'm content to do so. For me morality and moral "oughtness" ties in too well with religion for me to be happy with mere humanism.
Having said that, I would still feel much more comfortable in the company of atheistic humanists than with religious people who use Jesus (or Mohammed or anyone) as an excuse to act harmfully towards their fellow humans.
As touching the alleged resurrection of Jesus, I don't think I have much to offer. If my sense of God and religious sentiments depended solely on the literal truth of that hypothesis, I think I would be in trouble. That calls for a type of faith I don't posses. I don't like a faith that puts too much emphasis on things based on second hand accounts. I'm more convinced by what I can directly examine and experience. I don't mean this as any type of argument, but rather as a statement of where I stand.
So I would not explicitly argue against miracles or the resurrection of Jesus. I don't deny he walked on water, either. It just seems to me that these are easier understood (at least for me!) as symbolic legends than actual events.
If the empty tomb could be demonstrated to be a historical fact (which I don't see how it possibly could), I would sooner think Jesus never actually died in the first place. Someone surviving crucifixion would be almost as "miraculous" as someone actually being brought back from the dead (as in complete and total cessation of life for an extended period of time). The advantage to this is that we have actual verification of folks surviving short-term life cessation, even under amazing circumstances - and none for the lengthy dead coming back.
But as a spiritual guide I find Jesus both inviting and relevant - not as a God-man, but rather as a God-intoxicated man. I quote Jesus often in my daily dealings with people because I do find him relevant and helpful. I only wish my fundamentalist Christian friends would take time to study the gospels in-depth for themselves and find out what Jesus really did have to say. As Gandhi put it: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."