This is the second Chapter of my book about the Course in Miracles, which is an importand message to modern Christianity, i believe.
Who was this Jesus of Nazareth, that man of flesh and blood, who walked with his friends through Palestine two thousand years ago? We need to take a brief look at the former spiritual and political situation to get an idea of what was going on around him back then. In his time the political and religious climate in Palestine was very dense. The Romans had occupied the country, but gave the Jewish people some freedom in their religion. The occupiers for example decided not to set up the statues of their gods in Jerusalem, where the Jews had their invisible God Yahweh worshiped for centuries. The Romans still allowed the temple cult and the continued existence of the corresponding Jewish hierarchy. Inside and outside the official Jewish establishment there were many religious groups with which Jesus had to deal with. Some were partly fanatical opponents of the Roman occupation and ready for violence all the time like the Zealots. Others had completely turned away from the world and expected the imminent return of the Messiah, like the Essenes. Still others tried to find an arrangement with the system and the occupying powers in order to save as much as possible of their Jewish identity for the future, such as the Sadducees, the representatives of the Temple establishment and the Pharisees, the more popular and liberal rabbis and scholars, from whom today´s Judaism has descended. What kind of relation had Jesus to these groups and was there any uniqueness in his position?
Jesus was not a theologian or a priest. There are stories in the Gospels that attempt to prove that Jesus was able to discuss in a way with the theologians, as if he were one of them. But when we have a closer look at the stories and sayings of Jesus, we can see that he was not interested in theological discourses at all. In his time it was fashion in the synagogues to have long disputes on each set of the Torah. Since each Hebrew letter holds an image, a number and a level of creation, one can easily lose himself in endless interpretations. Jesus however opposed any kind of literalism, which insisted on the strict observance of the law and was ultimately based on guilt and fear of God. He did not believe that scriptures were more important than the well being of a person. His stories should convey experiences and epiphanies and set individuals free. He questioned everything and invited into new ways of thinking. He stood outside the established priestly cast and was not an official rabbi, but acted as a lay preacher, which gave him the freedom to say and do what he really wanted, even if he risked his life in doing that.
Jesus was not a king’s son or part of a political or religious establishment, though he was said to be part of the lineage of King David, as claimed repeatedly in the New Testament. This can be proven no longer after the destruction of the records in the fire of the temple in 65, but the oral tradition was certain about it. Jesus did descend from a poor craftsman and came from Galilee. This was an area in the north, which was contaminated by the Hellenistic culture and regarded as religiously unreliable by traditional Jews.
However, Jesus was not a liberal. He resisted a softening of the Jewish faith in favor of Hellenistic influences. He did not intend to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. This meant for him to put the essence of the law, the love of God, into action in benefit of the people. God’s call to repentance into another life of peace with one another and creation was not disputable for him.
Jesus was an opponent of the orthodox Sadducees, the party of the spiritual establishment in Jerusalem who held outwards peace with the Romans and passed inward on a strict observance of the Sabbath peace and the many other laws of the Torah. For Jesus, there were other things more important than the temple cult. He criticized the Sadducees for their inhumanity, putting the law higher than human dignity. Jesus did not speak polemic against the Romans in the biblical canon. Appropriate speeches were not taken up by the writers of the gospels out of political calculation. Jesus was probably certain however that an uprising against the occupying forces would not do any good, but would turn everything into destruction. A riot was also against the commandment to love each other, he taught.
Jesus believed in an imminent radical change of the world by God’s direct intervention and the establishment of his rule, like many other people did in his time, for example, the Essenes and the Zealots.
He denounced the injustice of the system, without calling for revolution. For him, all true change was caused by God. The individual should get ready for conversion and renewal in preparation of this happening. This consists in renouncing the ego and in trusting the spirit of God, who had promised to lead all followers home.
History has shown why Jesus thought as he did. The Zealots, the dagger men, tried to end the domination of the infidels by war. They instigated the first major Jewish revolt against the Romans in 66 AD, which led to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD and the loss of over one million lives. This downfall was prophesied by Jesus and was experienced by people and disciples who had still known him. A few decades later, another Jewish revolt broke out in North Africa and Cyprus, also with hundreds of thousands dead and massacres on both sides. The last major battle of the Jews in Roman Palestine, called after their leader Bar Kochba Revolt, also ended in defeat and ended in the expulsion of the remaining Jewish population of the province of Palestine.
Since Jesus did not support the fight against the Romans, he was sitting between all chairs. He probably incurred the hatred of the nationalist zealots, who preferred to see him in their ranks as a charismatic speaker.
Jesus did not foster any retreat from the world as the Essenes did. They divided the world into light and darkness, seeing themselves clearly as the children of light.
But Jesus taught and lived in the midst of the world and did not hesitate to contact the Romans, sinners or collaborators, such as he hated tax collectors. Furthermore, he did not teach any asceticism. He drank wine and ate meat and joined the festivities and meals of the rich with his entourage.
Jesus, however, was anything but a son of the middle class. He seems to resemble more of a modern hippie. He did not work, was fed by his followers, and did not bother about religious laws. As we already said, Jesus did not teach a compromise when it came to the real things like God, as the Pharisees did in his opinion. They believed that they could accumulate merit before God and divide their loyalties between God and the secular authorities.
Jesus did not believe in any religion of laws like today´s Orthodox Judaism, Islam and Hinduism still are. God was a living reality for him, whose claim to the people could not be limited by anything.
So what after all of these accruals made Jesus special? He preached the kingdom of God. It was something mysterious, luminous and new, that was touched by the prophets of Israel only a few times over the centuries. This Reign of God whose total breakthrough was imminent in the near future, was already palpable in his own presence and that was the one thing that made Jesus really unique. The so-called “eschatological expectation” he shared with many of his contemporaries, as we said, particularly the religious zealots who expected not only the salvation of the world, was also the divine punishment for the unbelievers.
There was something that went far beyond this expectation. It was the teaching of the faith in God in all aspects of life, a life out of the uncertainty of the moment. This life surrendered itself to God moment by moment by its defenselessness. It gave him the room for his guidance and opportunity to bless one with miracles.
Jesus was certain that God would help the people who depended on him only. He pulled God closer to the people, made him a confidant again, a privilege of a few prophets until then. It is sure that he referred to himself not as the Son of God or the Messiah. The confession of being the Son of God was revered to him in the light of the post-Easter experience. But on the other hand, Jesus spoke during his teaching period with such an inner authority, that it seemed to indicate that he knew the will of God exactly as it was. The healings he accomplished seemed to prove also that his power and his claim were justified. They were not just empty words. The title of the ‘Savior’ and ‘Christ’ was awarded him by the post-Easter community therefore on a twofold basis; his life on earth being completely unique and his resurrection, which was, attested by many, the basis for the Christian faith and all the writings of the New Testament.
Later, the threat of hell was put into Jesus’ mouth, which has terrified a whole Christian era. In the Old Testament, such a gloomy outlook did not exist, as there had not been any belief in after-life at that time. But could Jesus really threaten people with hell and speak of a loving Father in Heaven? If these threats should make any sense within the context of his doctrine of God’s love, it could only mean that by denying the voice of the Holy Spirit, one will stay out of heaven. Being caught in the wheel of rebirth was called hell by the knowing. In summary, we can say that Jesus spoke not about the things we can see with our eyes. He spoke of a sphere of consciousness in which an unconditional love exists, which has no opposite because it is all encompassing. This is difficult to understand on earth, because all earthly laws and habits are pointing in the opposite direction.
But for Jesus this kind of love made perfect sense, because only in it he saw a way out of bondage and the suffering in the world. He had become a little familiar with his earthly life and his intensions. We can see what a genius had came to earth by him with the Course. This work empowers everyone with the tools for his own inner growth.
There were some outstanding ambassadors and successors of the teachings of Jesus, such as Meister Eckhart in the 13th Century, John of the Cross in the 16th Century and Mary Baker Eddy in the 19th Century. But now we have a document in hand, we thought was lost forever, a book in which Jesus speaks to our time. This could be the most important message to humanity since the New Testament. Are we ready for it?