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I was scrolling through a social media thread recently and stumbled across a mention of Mel Brooks, the famous comedian from yesteryear. One of his most famous comedy bits was the 2,000-year-old man, a character he created in private while amusing his friends. I was never able to enjoy it, to be honest, knowing that it found its roots in making light of the crucifixion of Christ. It wasn’t particularly blasphemous; he was merely pretending to be someone who remembered Jesus from 2,000 years ago, and he developed the routine long enough ago that he kept the humor light and (mostly) respectful. As a practicing Jew, of course, he did not consider Jesus to be Messiah.

I have an offbeat sense of humor that sometimes gets me into trouble, and I appreciate the power of wit to add a little color to an otherwise grayscale world. But levity connected to the Cross? It’s a decided turnoff—the pain that heaven felt that day was just too grave to qualify as source material for comedy.

Not long after that brief reminder of Brooks’s work, I found myself in a group of people who were singing the well-loved hymn “He Lives”: “I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today . . .”1

It’s a well-known song and popular during the Easter season, when the world appears to slow down a bit and at least acknowledge the story of the Resurrection. As the words of the song made their way from the lips of congregants to the ceiling of the chapel, I had an epiphany: I really do know a 2,000-year-old Man. Jesus, after all, returned to heaven as a human being—the Son of Man—a real, flesh-and-blood Person. He ate in front of the disciples when they struggled to believe that He had returned from death. He invited Thomas to touch Him. He didn’t rise from the dead as a spirit being; He rose as one of us.

“This Jesus,” the angels informed the disciples the day Jesus returned to heaven, “who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:112). He returned not to resume His existence as the pre-incarnate Son of God but as the new head of the human race—the last Adam, as Paul called Him (1 Corinthians 15:45).

After Adam sinned, there was no possibility that he could stand in God’s immediate presence; he had compromised what it means to be made in God’s image (cf. Genesis 1:27). We were placed in this universe both to provide meaningful companionship for the Creator and to serve as a reflection of His goodness and glory. Once we chose selfishness, our existence became a lie about God: fallen angels could point to our behavior and suggest that perhaps God wasn’t all that good after all.

In Christ, that all changed. He is both fully God and fully human at the same moment, and in His humanity, He lived the perfect human existence. In fact, He did it under more trying circumstances than those faced by our first parents—in a fallen world. And now He stands in the courts of heaven as our Representative. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,” the author Hebrews reminds us. “Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14, 15).

I really do know a 2,000-year-old man. For Mel Brooks, it was a ludicrous thought. For the Christian, it’s everything. Jesus is still alive—the same Jesus that walked with the disciples and inspired weary, heartbroken crowds with His descriptions of His coming kingdom. The same Jesus who multiplied a few fishes and loaves into food for thousands. The same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead. The same Jesus who met Nicodemus in the wee hours of the night and taught him the way of salvation. That Jesus. Still alive.

My bookshelves are overflowing with biographies of famous historical characters: Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, and others. They’re all dead; they no longer exist anywhere except in the imaginations of those who love to pore through the pages of historical documents. Their brief existence on this blue marble is remembered on grave markers.

There is no grave marker for Jesus. He is still a Man, and He is still alive. More importantly, He has not disappeared from this world to enjoy a cosmic vacation. The Bible describes Him as our High Priest, the One who stands in the courts of heaven as humanity’s perfect Representative. When the songwriters suggested that our risen Savior i “in the world today,” they were precisely right:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15, 16).

the 2000-year-old Man in heaven

I love to wander through the cathedrals of Europe, spending long hours in front of magnificent medieval works of art, and I’ve noticed that the Jesus of art is often ethereal, shown standing in or above clouds in a world that we cannot possibly identify with. I have no doubt that the realities of heaven are beyond our intellectual grasp; Paul, after all, tells us that heaven is “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined” (1 Corinthians 2:9). So, the artists were not wrong: the place where Jesus now represents us defies human description.

Yet, at the same moment, it is all-important to remember: He works there as a real human being. He has a physical existence like yours. He exists at real spatial coordinates and occupies a real place in God’s universe. He is one of us. And His deepest desire? “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

“I go,” Jesus told His disciples shortly before His departure, “and prepare a place for you . . . that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

For many decades now, people have tuned in to Mel Brooks’s 2,000-year-old man sketches and laughed because we all know there’s no such thing. It’s absurd!

Oh, to be sure, we occasionally daydream and try to imagine what it would be like to live for centuries. I know I’ve done it. What if we could outlive multiple generations? What kind of wisdom and life experience would we finally bring to the table?

The thought is tantalizing. At some point, we all realize that we’re on a grand moving sidewalk, and there’s a casket waiting for us at the far end. About the time we begin realizing the value of life—and about the time we start accumulating a little bit of common sense—the ride is nearly over. In fact, it appears to be picking up speed, taking us ever faster toward the finish line, denying us the opportunity to apply what we’ve learned. We realize that we squandered much of our youth, blindly burning up precious moments we could have used to improve our current lot in life. Never mind that death is a penalty we brought on ourselves; it still seems cruel.

“All things are full of weariness,” the wise man taught; “a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8). Oh, that I could have had the wisdom of age early on!

But wait. I do! My best Friend is a 2,000-year-old Man whose origins, in reality, run back all the way to eternity. (See Micah 5:2) But as a Man? As one of us, He’s been a part of our existence for 2,000 years and counting. Who better to represent us before the throne of God? Who better to reach back into this broken world and offer me wisdom and assistance to help carry me through to the finish line?

And then—miracle of miracles!—pointing back to the day He rose from the grave, He tells me that because of His victory over death, I can also rise and step into an eternity that is no longer governed by the horrible deadline that hangs in front of each of us:

“In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).

The realization that I know a 2,000-year-old Man has changed the way I pray. I still think about the transcendent magnificence of God when I close my eyes and address the Almighty, but I also know that I am speaking to a real Person. That real Person has invited me, in fact, to pray in His name. There is a Man in heaven who slips His arm around my shoulder and escorts me to the throne of grace. He understands what it means to live in this fallen world: He understands loneliness, rejection, disappointment, and pain. He even understands death itself and knows more about it than I ever will.

So, no, the idea of a 2,000-year-old Man is no laughing matter. It is, in fact, the greatest hope that I have, and that Man is my Sponsor to a fully restored human existence in a very real place:

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

the sun shall not strike them,

nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16, 17).

You can pack an awful lot into a single verse of a song.

I serve a Risen Savior, He’s in the world today,

I know that He is living, whatever men may say.3

Indeed. Now, I’m looking forward to becoming a 2,000-year-old man myself.

Shawn Boonstra is the speaker and director for the Voice of Prophecy ministry in Loveland, Colorado. His broadcasts and books have been a source of inspiration around the globe.

1. Alfred H. Ackley, “He Lives,” copyright 1933 by Homer A. Rodeheaver. Renewed 1961, The Rodeheaver Co. (a div. of Word Music, LLC). All rights reserved.

2. Unless otherwise noted, Bible verses in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

3. Ackley, “He Lives.”

He's Alive!

by Shawn Boonstra
From the March 2024 Signs