So who was Jesus the revolutionary? To answer that question, we need to look at the Historical Jesus from an entirely new perspective: as a mystic, and as a prophet. And this new perspective requires Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time – which is the title of a marvelous book by Marcus Borg.
I like that title a lot, because we all think we’ve met Jesus, we all think we know something about Jesus. Well, Borg was a pastor for many years, and for many years he was a theologian, and all that good stuff, and he too confesses that it took him a long time to meet the real Jesus. So Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, the very title of his book, may be speaking to all of us. Because we are all meeting with Jesus for the first time, we have things to learn and unlearn about Jesus. And it is so easy to project onto Jesus as it is to project onto any other figure we admire.
Now projection is not always a negative thing, but it can confuse things, because sometimes we project onto Jesus our 8-year-old version of piety and religion, and it does not include this dimension of political upset that in fact was ultimately the story of his life and certainly of his death.
As we discussed in our first Christ Path Seminar, many people do not know the Cosmic Christ. If you do not know the Cosmic Christ along with the Historical Jesus, you do not know Jesus, because the archetypes, the images, visions, and the Spirit that he unleashed are all gathered in the stories of the Cosmic Christ (I’ll address these in later posts).
So the mystical side to Jesus is part of his story, as well. And this is part of the Christ Path, that Jesus is so rich, he has so many stories, he tells so many stories, and he lives such a challenging and indeed controversial life that these stories are never going to run out of steam, unless of course they are thoroughly sat upon and muted and rendered comfortable by pseudo-presentations of his path. But the stories of his life will never grow old, and will always be new.
Unfortunately, as Chilton puts it in his book on Mary Magdalene, “there was a gradual conformity to the culture,” and an anti-woman attitude that led the Christian movement away from Jesus’ radical message rather early in its development. For example, he says, in Luke “the women do not take part in Jesus’ internment, not even implicitly.” The entire story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus before his death – a pivotal part of the Magdalene stories – is excised in Luke’s gospel. Male domination is everywhere in Luke’s gospel – and why? Already, in Luke’s gospel, there is a cover-up, an act of forgetting instead of remembering.
So Jesus was a revolutionary in his day vis-à-vis religious culture and empire – even his followers were uncomfortable with the fullness of his message! But he is a revolutionary in our day too. He’s still at the edge, he’s still edgy.
Now every reformation movement in Christian history has said, We’ll go back to the sources. This is what Luther and Calvin and others attempted in the 16th century: We’ll go back to the Bible, excise the Middle Ages and all this, go back to the sources. That’s appropriate. And Francis of Assisi said, Go back to the sources; my only rule is the Gospel: go back to those values. But of course, the Gospels contradict each other somewhat, so it’s not necessarily easy.
But this is what we’re about today, too, trying to go back to the sources to renew our faith. And that’s why having the Chiltons and the Borgs and the Crossans alive and well in our time, writing wonderful books, is such a tremendous assistance to us.
And this is how Chilton put it at the end of his marvelous book, Rabbi Jesus. He says:
The Rabbi from Nazareth never claimed he was unique. His Abba was the Abba of all: his father was the father of all. His teaching, purifying, exorcising, healing, prayers, signs, meals and sacrifices were not for himself alone, were not intended to demonstrate his personal power or bring him adulation for his attributes. All his work was undertaken to open the gate of Heaven so Israel might enter before the throne of God.
Far too much theology has been preoccupied with closing that gate, exalting Jesus as the only human to be set on the right hand of God and thereby denying Heaven to others. As Rabbi Jesus’ movement enters into its third millennium, its great goal has yet to be achieved: to share Jesus’ vision with all humanity that it may enter through the gates of Heaven and be transformed by the energy of God.
So in a way we have to begin humbly and realize that we’ve not done a super job in the last 2,000 years. And this realization is especially important now, when we’re facing the demise of the Earth as we know it because of human malfeasance, which of course is a unique situation in which to find ourselves.
There’s a lot of praying and research going on in the world today from all our spiritual traditions, and that is a good and necessary thing. We’re feeling the pressure to link up to the wisdom of other traditions. I believe this is a sign of our times, a sign of how we can and need to reinvent things. How we need to go back to our sources and find the common points from which they all spring.
In my next post, we’ll take a look at Jesus as Prophet – how he spoke out and interfered with the injustices of his time, and how we can take his example as a model of creative sacred activism today.
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!