I’m always interested in people’s stories, and I’m always on the lookout for ways in which God may make himself known to us. So I have done some research on people having visions of Jesus – whether there are credible stories, and what they tell us.
I have come across two quite different types of stories:
People from other religions
There are many stories on the web, in written form and on video, of Muslims and others having visions of Jesus, sometimes accompanied by healing or other answers to prayer. Often they have these visions after seeking God in a special way, perhaps having heard about Jesus, or perhaps as part of the holy celebration of Ramadan.
Whatever we think about these stories, the visions have clearly had a big impact on many people, and led to many of them becoming followers of Jesus.
People in the west
Philosophy professor, Philip Wiebe, investigated accounts of people in the west (mainly in his home country of Canada) about 20 years ago, and then tried to account for the visions by several naturalistic or supernatural explanations. People of various ages and backgrounds, of various beliefs or none, reported these experiences, and Wiebe was convinced that the people he interviewed genuinely believed they had seen a vision of Jesus.
How should we explain these visions?
There seems little doubt that people see visions – in one case Wiebe investigated there was even some photographic evidence. But he found that, scientifically, there was no explanation he could find that fitted the facts (even the common view that they are hallucinations), though he recognised that there has been little research on this. The visions challenge most viewpoints, both religious and sceptical.
The failure to find a full natural explanation, and the many lives changed as a result, make it easier to believe that at least some of the visions in both categories, probably many of them, are genuine revelations of God. They may, or may not, help those of us hearing the stories believe in God, but they surely provide good reason for those who experienced them.