Imagine waking up and only you had heard of The Beatles.
That’s the conceit behind the latest movie from director Danny “SlumDog Millionaire” Boyle and screenwriter Richard “Love Actually” Curtis, Yesterday.
Yesterday is shaping up to be the feel-good movie of the coming northern summer, in which a talented, but spectacularly unsuccessful musician, Jack Malik, wakes up in an English coastal town after a bicycle accident only to discover the world has never heard of The Beatles.
Watch the trailer here, it’s magical/miraculous:
The astonishment and confusion Jack briefly experiences in this alternate universe, in which John, Paul, Ringo and George never entered a recording studio, and are even now seeing out their respective retirements in middle class Liverpool, is soon swept away by the realisation that, as a musician, he now has a back catalogue of amazing songs with which to amaze the world. The success that has eluded him is about to swamp him.
And the world is amazed. I live in a house with a 17 year old daughter who has The Beatles on high rotation on vinyl, and songs like Something, Yesterday, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Let It Be, Come Together, Oh Darling, still give me goosebumps.
Taking all other factors into consideration: the rise of a global youth culture fuelled by the post-war Boomers become teens; the ubiquity of TV and other forms of communication; a rejection of the older moral and social standards of the day, any current star who came up with all those gems would be one of many well-known musicians, not necessarily a global sensation who changes the world.
In an era when an Ed Sheeran Youtube video can garner four billion views, and Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk 3.4 billion, there’s no doubt Jack Malik, Beatles back catalogue or not, would be fighting for superstar oxygen in today’s cultural climate. Incidentally Sheeran’s in the movie, in a role that is a cheeky heads up from the new generation to the old.
Mind you, if I woke up tomorrow as the only person who had heard of Michael Buble I’d consider switching denominations and taking a vow of silence.
But leaving all that aside, it’s the sheer joy, exuberance and exhilaration that the first hearings of “Jack’s” songs engenders in people that has made me watch the trailer about ten times since its release a few days ago. Of course there’s a love story, and the little matter of plagiarism to contend with, but it’s the first time discovery of The Beatles’ music by an unsuspecting public that’s so wonderful.
It’s a little bit like this level of excitement:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44).
The key word in that verse is joy, is it not?
And it got me thinking: Imagine walking up tomorrow morning and being the only person who had heard of Jesus. What would you do?
Yes, yes, apart from the fact you would wake up in a world that would be a cold, dark, pagan place ruled by the prince of the power of the air, what strategy would you have?
Let’s assume first up, you wouldn’t pretend to be Jesus, that’s been done before. What would you do! You’d want people to know his back catalogue wouldn’t you? You’d want to play it all the time, and to play it to as many people as you could. You’d want people to discover the joy!
You’d want to tell as many people as you could what Jesus was like, what Jesus claimed, what he came to do, where he came from to do it. What it would be like to meet him!
You’d want to tell people stories about how Jesus came up to broken people and put them back together. How he approached untouchable, hated people and touched them and loved them. How he spoke life to dying people, and resurrection to dead people.
And you’d tell people how if God cares for the animals and plants as much as He does, then how much more he cares for them. You’d want to show them that death can hold no fear for them because of Jesus.
Most of all you’d want to tell people how much Jesus loved them Not just loved people, but loved his enemies, and what it cost him to do it, all the way to his sacrificial death on the cross for them to save them from a fate that includes death.
And further to all that, if indeed you did wake up tomorrow morning and no one had heard of Jesus except you, the first thing you would not talk to them about was keeping lists of just laws. Or how baptism should happen. Or how we can build lasting institutions. Or even what we should do with marriage, important as all of those things are. You’d realise that none of those things would exist anyway, not in any manner you’d recognise them.
No, you’d keep it focussed on Jesus, because without Jesus those other things just don’t hang together. Without Jesus as the gravity, all of the benefits the world has accrued from his entry into our space would float away into space.
And here’s what you’d want: You’d want to see the wonder and joy in peoples’ faces when they came to the realisation of Jesus for the first time. That’s what you’d want isn’t it? First to share the joy and then to see the joy Jesus brings!
And here’s the other realisation: the way things are going in our Western world, never mind what is already the case in huge swathes of the rest of the world, we do indeed wake up many a morning in a world in which many, many people have not heard of Jesus. Perhaps they can hum a few bars, but that’s about it.
And there’s something exciting about that. There’s a whole bunch of people out there who are yet to discover the joy of a hidden treasure revealed for the first time. And those of us who know and love Jesus already, get to be the people to sing his praises from the moment we wake up tomorrow.
Jesus Christ: the same, Yesterday, Today and Forever.