The Greatest Story Ever Told?

The greatest story ever told.  This is how the story of Jesus, the Gospel, is often described.  When I hear this, though, I think of those “cheesy” movies of the 1960’s and 70’s, like Ben Hur or Jesus of Nazareth.  They weren’t terrible, but they were nowhere close to the greatest story ever told!  The greatest story would have to be something more like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, three of the top books and movies of all time.

The greatest story ever told.  The two things that matter most to us as humans; the two universal, existential realities that affect us most deeply, leaving the most profound impact on our lives, are love and death.  Love is the one and only thing that makes sense of life.  It is where, deep down, the meaning is found.  It’s what makes life worth living.  Love is what we need and desire most—our truest joy.  Death is our greatest nemesis, our biggest enemy, primarily because it steals love from us—those we love most, and eventually, us!  Death is what we most want to avoid—our deepest fear.

The greatest story ever told would have to deal with these two realities.  It would have to somehow depict the defeat of death itself and portray a perfect love that fulfills our heart’s deepest longing.  It would have to reveal an eternal love.

Like no other, the Gospel does this.  Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reveals a love that is eternal.  It depicts God Himself making the supreme sacrifice for us on the Cross, saving us in the most heroic way possible, through the ultimate act of love.  Then, in the Resurrection, it portrays the final defeat of death itself.  Death is utterly vanquished, revealing that the perfect love of the Cross is the most powerful force in the Universe. 

As Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien said: “…there is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true…” (J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” in Tree and Leaf, New York, NY: Harper-Collins, 2001, p. 72)   There is no other story humans would most want to be true.  This is the ultimate victory of good over evil, love over hate, life over death.  This is the greatest story ever told! 

If there is no God, if there is nothing beyond the grave, then nothing has any meaning.  All the love we share and experience amounts to nothing.  It doesn’t matter at all.  In the end, it has no significance, no lasting value whatsoever.  Life is clothed in absurdity.

But something deep within us rebels against this.  Our deepest intuitions tell us that we’re not some accidental collection of atoms.  Our deepest intuitions tell us that our lives do matter, that love matters, that we do have meaning and significance. 

Jen Fulwiler is a Catholic radio host.  But up through most of her young adult life she was a staunch atheist.  A number of things changed her mind about God, but one of the most important was the birth of her first child.  She knew that the logical consequence of her atheism is that the love she felt for him and her husband was nothing more the release of chemicals in her brain.  However, she had a hard time accepting that.  The love she felt was too overwhelming, too real and complex and beautiful and meaningful to be reduced to neurons firing off in her brain: “Atheism could not account for the bond that Joe and I shared.  It offered no lexicon for capturing what I saw in my child.  An atheistic worldview could offer an accurate explanation of the way my brain chemistry had been altered to experience more of the sensation we label ‘love’, but I was certain now that that explanation would stop short of the full truth.  It would be like confusing a picture of the Grand Canyon with the actual place; there’s nothing false about the picture, but it would be foolish to confuse the piece of paper with the real thing.  There was more to human life than the atoms that made up our bodies—I was sure of it.” (Jennifer Fulwiler, Something Other Than God, San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2014, p. 59)

If she’s right, if there is a God, then, precisely because it deals so sublimely with the two biggest, existential realities we face, the Gospel is exactly the story we’d expect to be true.  It’s exactly what a God who created us for His eternal love would do—perfect love Himself dealing the decisive blow to death, showing us that “no greater love” on the Cross and then vanquishing all that threatens or opposes this love in the Resurrection.     

The greatest story ever told?  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  This is the story we’d most want to be true.  Which means, chances are really good that it is!

Do you think the Gospel is the greatest story ever told?  Let me know what you think by going to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leaving your comments there.  Also, please “Like” our Facebook page, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and keep telling your friends about us.  I really appreciate it!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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