It is the lowly Jesus Christ, a humble man, born of a maiden of low degree, whose father is a carpenter. To be sure, his appearance is made under conditions which are bound to attract attention to him. The small nation among whom he appears, God’s Chosen People as they call themselves, live in anticipation of a Messiah who is to bring a golden period to land and people. You must grant that one form in which he appears is as different as possible from what most people would have expected. On the other hand, his appearance corresponds more to the ancient prophecies with which the people are thought to have been familiar. Thus he presents himself. A predecessor has called attention to him, and he himself fastens attention very decidedly on himself by signs and wonders which are noised abroad in all the land—and he is the hero of the hour, surrounded by unnumbered multitudes of people wheresoever he fares.
The sensation aroused by him is enormous, every one’s eyes are fastened on him, every one who can go about, aye even those who can only crawl, must see the wonder—and every one must have some opinion about him, so that the purveyors of ready-made opinions are put to it because the demand is so furious and the contradictions so confusing. And yet he, the worker of miracles, ever remains the humble man who literally hath not where to lay his head. And let us not forget: signs and wonders as contemporary events have a markedly greater elasticity in repelling or attracting than the tame stories generally re-hashed by the priests, or the still tamer stories about signs and wonders that happened—1800 years ago! Signs and wonders as contemporary events are something plaguy and importunate, something which in a highly embarrassing manner almost compels one to have an opinion, something which, if one does not happen to be disposed to believe, may exasperate one excessively by thus forcing one to be contemporaneous with it.
Indeed, it renders existence too complicated, and the more so, the more thoughtful, developed, and cultured one is. It is a peculiarly ticklish matter, this having to assume that a man who is contemporaneous with one really performs signs and wonders; but when he is at some distance from one, when the consequences of his life stimulate the imagination a bit, then it is not so hard to imagine, in a fashion, that one believes it. As I said, then, the people are carried away with him; they follow him jubilantly, and see signs and wonders, both those which he performs and those which he does not perform, and they are glad in their hope that the golden age will begin, once he is king. But the crowd rarely have a clear reason for their opinions, they think one thing today and another tomorrow. Therefore the wise and the critical will not at once participate. Let us see now what the wise and the critical must think, so soon as the first impression of astonishment and surprise has subsided.