It has been more than a decade since WWJD, or “What Would Jesus Do?”, became both a fashion fad and a four-letter philosophy. For a while, it rivaled both “Why ask why?” and the classic “Whazzup?” for the title of Most Popular Catchphrase in Interrogative Form.
I was in high school at the time, and remember many of the uses and misuses (Who Wants Jack Daniels?). Someone suggested that the phrase was misguided, and that the guiding question should be edited to “What Would Jesus Have Me Do?” This made sense, because there were a lot of things that Jesus would do in certain situations that modern high school students would have trouble doing—such as walking on water, and rising from the dead. However, WWJHMD never really took off in the world of bracelet and bumper sticker design.
More recently, I have begun to favor WDJD: What Did Jesus Do. Starting with some rather genius videos from a church called Vintage 21, and continuing with the Philip Yancey book The Jesus I Never Knew, I realized that the popular view of Jesus—especially among those who grew up in the church—did not exactly match the way Jesus was portrayed in the gospels.
To get a better understanding of what really did happen 2,000 years ago, I went back to the gospels with a focus on what it would have been like for someone who was actually there, watching everything unfold in real time. To help with this, I used a harmony of the gospels—a list that rearranged the events in the four gospels in chronological order. Each gospel was written in a different style, with a different intended audience and different parts of the story included. The harmony put it all into one long story.
While reading that, and with Easter coming up, I began to wonder when the different events happened. For instance, if it is 3 months until Easter, what were Jesus and the disciples doing 3 months before the first Easter? Or, if some major event happened in the story, when did that happen in relation to other major events? Did they occur within the same hour, or were they separated by a couple of years?
Such details were not necessary for understanding the story, but they would help to get a clearer picture of what Jesus’ ministry really looked like. And for some strange reason, these questions really intrigued me, to the point that I decided to search out the answers. I found that there were very few places in the story that mentioned anything resembling specific dates or times. But, the authors did mention that some of the events happened at Jewish festivals. Some quick Google work uncovered where those festivals fit in our modern calendar. Since the harmony put the events in chronological order, I then at least knew roughly what time period each event took place in—for instance, between October and December, the autumn before Jesus’ crucifixion.
I put everything into an Outlook calendar, using educated guesses for the events that happened between stated festivals. (For instance, 72 messengers are sent out in one verse to preach in multiple towns, and in the next verse they return from their travels. I don’t know how much time elapses, but it is implied that it happened during a 2-month stretch between festivals. Therefore, the time between verses would be less than 2 months, but it would have to be long enough to travel to and preach in more than one town. I put it at 3 weeks, which is probably wrong, but not wrong in a way that affects the understanding of the story.) Since Outlook only goes back to the year 1600 (and why does it go back to 1600?), I put the events in the current year, 2007/2008. That way, you can get an idea of WDJD on this day, x number of days or weeks before crucifixion.
In other words, it is just a thought experiment, and a rough tool for helping myself get a better picture of what Jesus is really like. I decided to post it online just in case someone else may find it interesting or useful.
Click here to go on to the calendar. If you want to quibble on details, check out the disclaimers at the end.