So in what way was Jesus a prophet? There are so many ways…but let’s look at just a few. We do know how, very early in Luke’s gospel, in the 4th chapter, he went to the synagogue. And it says in the gospel that he picked up the scriptures and started to read.
But Chilton says that Jesus was not literate, that this is Luke, making Jesus look better to the culture, cleaning it up, making him look good to the middle class: he could read, he could do everything the priests could do. And we shouldn’t fall for that.
And this is where it helps to have these scholars to get underneath the text. For me it says something about Jesus that he memorized the scriptures, he didn’t read them, saying “The Lord’s Spirit is upon me.”
But of course Chilton translates the essence of what transpired that day, and it’s much shorter; he got it from the old Syriac gospels, which were in a language closely related to the Aramaic language Jesus used. Here’s what Jesus spoke:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, on account of which he has anointed you to message triumph to the poor. He has delegated me to proclaim to the captives release, to the blind sight, and I will free the broken with release to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Now we know that what Jesus said disturbed the people – they were ready to stone him right there and then! They took him to the edge of the cliff to throw him over, but he snuck away. He was still young and lithe and slippery. He’d learned to be slippery, because his mentor John the Baptist had taught him that among other things.
But notice – this is the kickoff in Luke’s gospel: he is identifying himself with that prophetic promise, that he had come to speak to the poor, heal the blind, and so forth – as we all are!
Again, we have to be very careful of projecting our vocations onto Jesus. He’s dead. The Christ Spirit is not dead, but Jesus lived his years, he did his thing.
The question is – How are we doing?
And don’t tell me that you’re studying Jesus! That’s not the point. Jesus didn’t spend his life studying John the Baptist. When he was with John the Baptist he learned everything he could, he drank it in, and when he had to face the same powers that did John the Baptist in, he had to reinvent his world. He had to get very creative.
And he broke with John the Baptist over fasting: John the Baptist was a faster, Jesus was a feaster. And he was criticized for this: “You’re hanging out with the drunks and the prostitutes, and John the Baptist never did that.” That’s right – John the Baptist chose the ascetic route, perhaps relative to the Essene ascetic movement.
Jesus chose an aesthetic route – the route of creativity. And that’s the route of the prophets.
Rabbi Heschel says prophets are not ascetics. They’re about passion, they’re about the aesthetic – that’s my word, the aesthetic, and it’s about beauty.
And it’s about recognizing that the opposite of beauty is injustice – because there is nothing uglier than telling me that 67,000 black people in Houston have 1/10 the right to vote than 6700 white people in Houston. That’s intolerable. And it’s going to get worse, much worse, since the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the right to vote. And we should all be protesting in the streets about that, taking our democracy back.
I’ll continue looking at the example of Jesus as prophet shortly, but I want to pause briefly and use my next post to honor those young people around the world – young people of all colors, classes and creeds – who are taking Jesus’ example of justice, compassion, and courage to the streets.
While adults and church leaders are debating how to pass on the nuts and bolts of their religion to the younger generation, these young people are teaching the world how to create a new society in the spirit of the Cosmic Christ – by whatever name.
Adam Bucko and I call these young people “The Occupy Generation.”
To register for the “Cosmic Christ and Youth: The Occupy Generation,” the next Christ Path Seminar weekend taking place 10/11-13, featuring Adam Bucko as guest speaker, and based on Matthew Fox’s and Adam Bucko’s groundbreaking book, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation, see http://www.christpathseminar.org/ai1ec_event/cosmic-christ-and-youth-the-occupy-generation/?instance_id=99
To order the complete 12-DVD set of recordings from the first Christ Path Seminar weekend, “Cosmic Christ and the New Humanity”– including Dr. Fox’s delivery of the Saturday afternoon lecture from which this post is clipped, see http://www.christpathseminar.org/participate-by-dvd/
Be sure to sign up on the Christ Path Seminar mailing list to receive word when the DVDs from the second weekend, “Cosmic Christ and the Historical Jesus,” are released!