Jesus of Nazareth: Week 1
Simply put, God reveals God’s self to us through what unfolds as our life, along with every visible thing around us. (Sunday)
In Jesus, God was given a face and a heart. God became someone we could love. (Monday)
How we see Jesus . . . shapes what we think the Christian life is most centrally about. —Marcus Borg (Tuesday)
Spiritual authority lies not just in ancient texts but in the living Christ of history, church, community, creation, and our own experience confirming its truth. (Wednesday)
Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated a new social order, an alternative to violence, exclusion, and separation. It is no fantastical utopia, but a very real and achievable peace—by the grace of God. (Thursday)
Jesus was a person radically centered in God, empowered by that relationship, and filled with God’s passion for the world—a passion that led to his execution and vindication. —Marcus Borg (Friday)
Practice: Reading Scripture with the Mind of Christ
Looking at which Scripture passages Jesus emphasizes, we see that he clearly understands how to follow the thread that confirms the God he encountered, knows, loves, and trusts. At the same time, Jesus ignores or openly contradicts many texts in the Hebrew Scriptures that are punitive, imperialistic, classist, or exclusionary. He never quotes the book of Numbers, for example, which is rather ritualistic and legalistic. He never quotes Joshua or Judges, which are full of sanctified violence. In fact, he teaches the opposite.
Jesus does not mention the list of twenty-eight “thou shall nots” in Leviticus 18 through 20, but chooses instead to echo the rare positive statement of Leviticus 19:18: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” The longest single passage he quotes is from Isaiah 61 (in Luke 4:18-19): “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord.” Jesus appears to have deliberately omitted the last line—“and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2b)—because he does not believe in a vengeful God.
Jesus sees where the text is truly heading, beyond the low-level consciousness of a particular moment, fear, or circumstance. He knows there is a bigger arc to the story: one that reveals a God who is compassionate, nonviolent, and inclusive of outsiders. He knows how to “thin slice” the text, to find the overall pattern based on small windows of insight. He learned from Ezekiel, for example, that God’s justice is restorative and not retributive (see Ezekiel 18:21-23, 27-29).
We can only safely read Scripture—it is a dangerous book—if we are somehow sharing in the divine gaze of love. A life of prayer helps you develop a third eye that can read between the lines and find the golden thread which is moving toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice. I am sure that is what Paul means when he teaches that we must “know spiritual things in a spiritual way” (1 Corinthians 2:13). A hardened heart, a predisposition to judgment, a fear of God, any need to win or prove yourself right will corrupt and distort the most inspired and inspiring of Scriptures—just as they pollute every human conversation and relationship. Hateful people will find hateful verses to confirm their obsession with death. Loving people will find loving verses to call them into an even greater love of life. And both kinds of verses are in the Bible!
Richard Rohr and John Bookser Feister, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Franciscan Media: 1996)
Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke: Spiritual Reflections (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1997)