Jesus: The Jewish Teacher
From Total Power to Mutuality
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Most humans feel that God’s love and attention must be earned, and then they deeply resent that very process. (I know no other way to explain the passive and even passive-aggressive nature of many mainline Christians.) In my experience, people spend more time fearing God and trying to control or manipulate God than actually loving God. They never knew that such love was even possible, given the power equation. When one party has all the power—which is, for most people, the very definition of God—the only natural response is fear, hiding, or seeking to manipulate the situation. The true give and take of a love relationship is just not possible.
The only way this pattern can be changed is for God, from God’s side, to shift the power equation and offer us instead a world of mutuality and vulnerability. Jesus is the living image of this power-shift, God changing sides from power to powerlessness (where we of course eventually find ourselves, too). In Jesus, God took the initiative to overcome our fear and hesitation. Jesus, the self-revelation of God, made honest I-Thou relationship between God and humans imaginable! This real possibility, however, was already planted in human consciousness in the Hebrew Bible with the idea of “covenant love.” The God that Israel discovered and that Jesus incarnated was already seen to be “merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, and forever steadfast in love” (Exodus 34:6, Walter Brueggemann’s “credo of five adjectives” from his Theology of the Old Testament).
This week we will transition from the Hebrew Scriptures to the next major teacher in my “Wisdom Lineage,” Jesus. Over the next four weeks we’ll focus on different aspects of Jesus, the man who was both human and divine, a servant of humanity’s deepest neediness and also an exemplar of divine outpouring—in the same person. In this week’s meditations we will look at Jesus in his own context and specific faith tradition, which is, of course, entirely 1st century, 2nd temple Judaism. (I have always wondered if the recurring anti-Semitism in Christianity is not an unconscious rejection of Jesus and his message of limitation and powerlessness. Why else would you reject the race of your God-figure? And why else would you have so much power-seeking Christianity?)
Jesus was the last and greatest prophet inside of the biblical tradition. He was the quintessential “seer,” the stand-in for the universal human journey, and the first non-dual teacher of the West. He taught us an utterly new way of seeing God and reality, although only a minority of Christians ever got the point and loved his actual message. We preferred to be aligned with power and righteousness, and could not even understand, much less seek, the way of the cross, the path of ego descent, what St. Francis called the way of “poverty” and St. Thérèse called her “Little Way.” We kept God all-powerful, and then we imitated this tragic lie by trying to be all-powerful ourselves. It distorted everything.
Gateway to Silence:
Teach me Your truth.
Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 9-10; and
Way of the Prophet (no longer available)