Monday, December 23, 2013

A So-called Non-believer Remembers Jesus of Nazareth

By Dee Newman

The most direct and chief source of information about the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth comes from the Judeo-Christian Bible and the four Gospels of the New Testament – Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Upon reading them one is compelled to concede that the man did once walk this earth. He was not contrived, as some believe.

Despite divergent scholarly opinions about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus, most contemporary biblical scholars and classical historians of antiquity agree that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact once live and that he was baptized by John the Baptist and crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. Though we are profoundly and utterly ignorant of the manner of his life before he began preaching, we do know that he appeared in Judea in the reign of Tiberius Caesar at the age of about thirty years and by the time of his death was accepted by a small Jewish sect (the Nazarenes) to be the Jewish Messiah (and not the son of God).

There is no doubt that the wiry, energetic and charismatic character of Jesus has, over the centuries, been distorted and obscured. The unnecessary and implausible accessories and accretions (especially of his birth and death) that began as edification became accepted fact. Though he was clearly a man of intense personal magnetism, there is no evidence that he was God incarnate. In fact, there is no evidence that God exists outside the mind of man.

Nevertheless, the deification of Jesus by many of his followers began early. And in the process his message to mankind that the renunciation of self is its own reward and the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth was replaced along the way with a creed and a doctrine promising salvation through faith. However, Christianity would have remained an insignificant Jewish sect if Saul of Tarsus (Saint Paul) and other early Christian leaders had not been so successful in convincing gentiles that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 

The sad truth is the deification of Jesus inevitably diminishes his effectiveness. As a God his deeds cannot be replicated. As a mere mortal he remains an example, a model for us all to emulate. Recognizing that the mind that was in him is in us as well, challenges us to fulfill our potential as evolved moral creatures.

So, let us go forward and embrace this kingdom of his where the serenity of an ordered and coherent purpose is realized through the embodiment of love (giving without expecting anything in return) beyond desire, greed, rivalry, ignorance and fear. In doing so the victory for which he relentlessly strove will be won at last. There will be peace on earth. His Kingdom of Heaven will be realized.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Despite not being raised in the Christian church (or any other faith tradition), what I know of the life and teachings of Jesus inspires me to be a better person. As an adult, I attended a Christian church for several years, hoping that I might have a religious awakening and become a "believer." I often found the sermons personally meaningful, but I could never honestly say, as required for church membership, that I accepted Jesus Christ "as my lord and savior." In fact, as you imply, attributing that status to him makes it harder for us to emulate him. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I hope some believers will respond with their perspective.