Jesus in Asia? What are the rumors?

Jesus with the rich young ruler
By Heinrich Hofmann, 1889, Wikipedia, Public Domain

Did you know that there is a shrine to Jesus, in Japan? Also, did you know there is a belief in some religions, that Jesus did not die on the cross, but escaped, and traveled east to regions in Asia? A variation of this ‘he didn’t die’ model is common among Muslims.

In the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, there is a belief that Jesus was on the cross for about six hours, but He didn’t die. Instead, he was taken down from the cross, and hidden in a tomb, where Joseph of Arimathea, a Bible character, cared for him until he recovered. Once he regained his health, Jesus escaped to Kashmir in northern India, where he lived out his life.

The tradition at the shrine in Japan is that Jesus, the crucifixion survivor, became a rice farmer, and had a family. Today, some people claim to be his descendants.

Another religious tradition, popular with some Hindus in India, is the seventeen-year model. In the Bible stories about Jesus, there is not much information about his life, from the age of twelve to the age of thirty.

This tradition focuses on the seventeen or eighteen years that are not recorded and adds an Asian explanation. Some people claim that Jesus traveled to India and possibly lived as a kind of guru, and then he returned to his home region, in Israel, as an adult.

Most Christians have never heard of these traditions. If you are interested, there are too many Internet links to include here, but you can search for “Jesus” and “Asia” or “India” or “Japan” or “Islam” etc. You will find a large amount of information.

So, what should we do with these stories and traditions? Is there a part of the Jesus story that is not in the Bible?

It’s not wise to generalize, but the seventeen-year model seems most popular with Hindus in India and possibly with other groups in the same area. The other idea, that Jesus didn’t die on a cross, and therefore did not rise from the dead, is common among Muslims. It is also the story that inspired the shrine in Japan.

Muslims also have traditions that are similar to the stories in the Bible book of Revelation, the Christian apocalypse. There is a common belief, among Muslims, that world history will enter a time of stress, similar to the Christian “end times.”

The intervention from Heaven will be the return of Issa [Jesus], to the city of Damascus, in Syria. The “prophet” Issa will defeat God’s enemies and judge the world. After that, he will get married and live for many years, until he dies.

I am writing as a Christian, and I can see great respect for the person of Jesus, in other religions. He is respected as a teacher, or a guru, who promoted a high standard of morals and ethics, somewhere in Asia. Clearly, a project like building and maintaining a large shrine, in Japan, communicates respect.

In one Bible story, Jesus traveled into the city of Jerusalem, and people waved palm branches and shouted. When angry religious leaders told Jesus to silence the crowds, He had an answer.

The whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!” (Luke 19: 37 to 40)

That man Jesus has always made a strong impression on people. There is a rumor, that Mahatma Gandhi read some teachings of Jesus, including what Christians call the “Beatitudes.” From his understanding of ideas from Jesus, Gandhi apparently developed his concept of “Passive Resistance” which drove the movement to liberate India.

That is an impressive application of the teachings of a carpenter from a small town in Israel.

Respect is easy to identify, but there is one other idea that also comes through in the beliefs that Jesus traveled in Asia. These traditions avoid or deny the death of Jesus on the cross, Jesus’ crucifixion. Either he was only a wise guru for seventeen years, or he escaped his execution and fled east to Asia, where he lived out his life, or possibly God took him up to heaven, and he will return as a judge.

The result, in both traditions, is only a wise teacher. The first Christians struggled with this, and we have the warning in the Bible “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15: 17 to 19).

For The first Christians, ‘Jesus the Wise Teacher’ was a terrible idea, and the end of everything they lived for. They lived for Jesus who died for us, and then rose from the dead.

Spiritual power was more than just wise teachings.

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