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Consider the past. How many, both high and low, have, at all times, yearningly awaited the advent of the Manifestations of God in the sanctified persons of His chosen Ones. How often have they expected His coming, how frequently have they prayed that the breeze of divine mercy might blow, and the promised Beauty step forth from behind the veil of concealment, and be made manifest to all the world. And whensoever the portals of grace did open, and the clouds of divine bounty did rain upon mankind, and the light of the Unseen did shine above the horizon of celestial might, they all denied Him, and turned away from His face — the face of God Himself. Refer ye, to verify this truth, to that which hath been recorded in every sacred Book. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 3.
In the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, it may very well have seemed to most people that he had been merely an impostor, perhaps one of many others who had made similar claims and who, in the end, had received just punishment. To all appearances, the powers that be had won the day: the “Messiah” was dead, those closest to him were demoralized and scattered to the winds, and those who had been sympathetic to his message silenced and disillusioned.
Such an assessment, however, would have failed to take into account Christ’s true power, which was born of the Holy Spirit, and which could not be reckoned according to normal standards. This spiritual power, acting at first upon his little band of disciples, succeeded in transforming the earliest Christians into spiritual giants whose exploits would successfully establish the new faith in every corner of the ancient world. And as time passed, that same force would transform a small and persecuted community, at first only one among a multitude of contemporary cults and sects, into a great world religion. In the end, Christ was indeed triumphant.
Today millions believe that Christ possessed an authority and power that came from God. His achievements and those of His followers—in spite of their utter lack of material resources, political authority, or worldly prestige—are taken by believers today as evidence of His divine stature.
It is important to remember that this historical perspective gives us a great advantage over the people of the ancient world. Very few people in the early days, even as late as two centuries after Christ, would have predicted the future that was in store for his faith.
The following question has probably occurred to most Christians and is the theme of sermons without number: Would I have believed if I had been alive during the time of Christ?
It is a sobering thing to contemplate. How many of us would have recognized in a carpenter from Nazareth our Lord and Savior, either during his lifetime or at any time during the two centuries thereafter? Would we have been moved by the story of his life and teachings, or would we have disdained him? Would we have accepted the explanation in the Gospels of how he fulfilled the promises of the ancient prophets, or would we have clung to our own notions of how such promises were to be fulfilled? Would our hearts have been touched by his love, by his suffering, and by his sacrifice; or would we, like most everyone else, have remained indifferent?
Often these questions lead to another: If he were to return to earth today under similar circumstances, would we be prepared to recognize him, or would we fail such a test?
The achievements of the Bab, his personality, his teachings, and his trials offer a remarkable parallel to the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bab was the self proclaimed Messenger of God. His teachings were spiritually profound and challenging. During his own lifetime he succeeded in winning over to his Cause thousands upon thousands of devoted followers, many of whom, like the early Christians, were to prove with their very blood the sincerity of their faith.
Youthful, courageous, and meek, the Bab possessed a loving nature that exerted a magnetic and transforming influence over those with whom he came in contact. He carried out a brief and tumultuous ministry with unflinching resolution and, to many observers, an almost reckless disregard for his own personal safety. Although not wealthy and not of the learned or ruling classes, he, by virtue of the divine power of his personality and his pen, established a new faith that challenged the traditions and dogma of the established order.
The Bab was forced to wander throughout the course of his ministry. He experienced the adulation of the masses, only to see them turn against him in the end. He was the object of the wrath of the established powers, the clergy in particular. In his final months, he was interrogated by the highest officials, religious and secular, who later pronounced upon him the sentence of death. Finally, he suffered a cruel public execution, refusing to the very end to renounce His claims or compromise his doctrine.