Imagine if someone arrived on the scene with a bold message that both threatened the very heart of the religious establishment and the authority of the Government, and inspired masses of people to question their submission to either of them.
How might those two established powers – the Church and the State – respond to someone whose voice held such power over the hearts and minds of their citizens? Especially if that voice was gaining influence and if that figure began to physically impede the collection of taxes and use phrases that included tearing down their buildings, replacing their governing officials and bring fire upon the whole system?
You’d probably start looking for ways to silence such a voice, wouldn’t you? You’d want to shut them up, shut them down or snuff them out.
This is what got Jesus crucified.
Because this is exactly who Jesus was and what Jesus did: He challenged the religious powers, teachers and systems of his own people. He contradicted their scriptures, found fault with their teachers, opposed their religious practices, and taught radical ideas that made their entire faith obsolete.
When Jesus kicked off his walking tour of Judea, he began by saying things like:
*“I’ve come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and once I do they will disappear.”
*”Moses was wrong about who God is: He brings rain on the just and the unjust, and that’s why you should love your enemies as God does. This is what it means to be Holy as God is Holy.”
*”The Kingdom of God is not over here, or over there. It’s within you! You don’t need a priest or a temple or an animal sacrifice to know God. God abides in you and you abide in God.”
*”Loving God and loving others is all that is required to fulfill the Law. (So, don’t waste your time jumping through religious hoops.)”
*”Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God (which is everything!)”
When Jesus went as far as to enter the Temple in Jerusalem and chase out the money changers, he was sending a radical and threatening message: The entanglement of the Church/Temple with the Empire/State is an abomination to God. This is a place of prayer for the Nations, not just for the Jews. Let’s take the power back from the religious leaders and the government powers. We don’t need either of them to connect with God.
He subverted the power of the Empire. He mocked their threats of crucifixion. He showed them he wasn’t afraid of what they could do to his body because he knew his ideas had more power than their ideas. And it was true. They were more afraid of him than he was of them.
The timing of this interruption of the flow of income from the Temple authority to the Roman Empire was intended to directly challenge both powers. It got their attention, and it resulted in a mutual agreement to silence this radical carpenter from Nazareth once and for all.
Tragically, within a few hundred years, this same anti-religious, anti-government radical would be re-branded into a symbol for the power of the global Christian Church and the best friend any World Empire could ever dream of.
The religion that bears his name has almost nothing to do with the actual Jesus, or his message. At best, Jesus is a minor character in a faith that claims to follow him but, in truth, follows religious doctrines that re-orient animal sacrifice, temple systems, and paid clergy/priests into the very ideas that Jesus died to abolish.
Jesus humanized the sick, the outcast, the sinners and the outsiders.
Jesus blessed the unbelievers, the doubters and the pagans.
Jesus prayed that we all humanity would experience the same level of oneness that he experienced with the Father.
Jesus made love the only law and compassion the only test of faith.
What we need is a new vision of who Jesus was and what Jesus stood for.
He was anti-religion. He was anti-government. His message was that God’s Kingdom was within every single one of us. He defied the power of the State. He subverted the power structures of religion and government. He refused to become the mascot for either of them.
Yet today, this is exactly who we have made him out to be.
That Jesus is a lie.
I don’t know about you, but I want the subversive, authority-challenging, status-quo denying, radically defiant Jesus who turned over those tables and did his best to tear down those power structures from within.
It’s time for Christianity to become dangerous to those institutions again.
It’s time for the followers of that radical Jesus to turn things inside out, upside down, and create some good trouble again.
Trust me, there’s nothing the Christian Church fears more than millions of Jesus-followers who realize they don’t need the Church to experience God.
There’s nothing more terrifying to an Empire or National Government than millions of Christians who refuse to go to war, or to support tyranny, or to fund their war machines.
We have the power. We have always had the power.
Jesus knew it.
It’s time we knew it, too.
Are you curious about the sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas? If so, I invite you to join me every week – right here – for a brand-new, subscription-only blog series called THE INNER CIRCLE. This ongoing series will explore the textual connections between the Jesus we see in Thomas and the rest of the New Testament, as well as the consistent message of Oneness, connection and non-duality also found in those same New Testament texts.
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Keith Giles is the author of the 7-part best-selling “Jesus Un” book series from Quoir Publishing. His latest -and final book – in this series, Jesus Unarmed: How The Prince Of Peace Disarms Our Violence is available now. Keith is also the host of Second Cup with Keith [a new solo podcast available now on the Ethos Radio App, for Apple and Android and on Spotify; and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast [along with co-hosts Matthew Distefano, Dr. Katy Valentine, and Derrick Day], and the new Apostate’s Anonymous podcast with Matthew Distefano.
He and his wife, Wendy, currently live in El Paso, TX.