I feel inspired today to explore an alternative version of how the story of Jesus came into being. The version currently popular is pretty much standard fare throughout the world, from the account of his birth at Christmas to the account of his death and resurrection at Easter and beyond that to his ascension. Today, I want to focus not on the possibility that he was not actually born on December 25th or on any day in December but on the possibility that those who wrote about his death and resurrection had ulterior motives for embellishing, even possibly distorting that part of his story.
Suppose God intended Jesus to be not the “only one” who experienced the process of transcendence but instead a universal “first prototype” of the process for everyone. That is, suppose Jesus was the first human being to be clearly aware and confident of his nature as a child of God with full manifestation of divine power while upon the Earth in human form and that God intends everyone to eventually become so aware and confident with full manifestation of divine power while in human form. Those who witnessed and reported Jesus’ experiences were not by their personal experiences clearly aware and confident of what a child of God might be or how divine power might be manifested through such a person. With their deficit in personal experiences on par with to Jesus’ experiences, they were observers, recallers and reporters, not personal experiencers of what Jesus experienced. So, suppose that their observations, recollections and reports were distorted by motives typical of men and women who had not yet become as fully aware of their divine nature as Jesus had. What if those motives caused them to tell Jesus’ story with less than full completeness and accuracy?
I’ve been thinking about the possibility that those who reported the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection colored the story with features they would have preferred to believe were true had that death and resurrection happened to them – from their limited perspective of not yet having had the experience themselves. For example, suppose a reporter personally witnessed (or heard secondhand) about the death and resurrection and tried to make sense of it from the reporter’s perspective while not having experienced it himself or herself. Might he or she have misunderstood aspects of Jesus’ experience and/or reported them inaccurately according to how he or she would have wanted the story reported had it happened to him or her? I’m not talking about malicious intent to distort the report. What I have in mind are well-meaning reporters who lack direct experience of death and resurrection wanting to tell a story favorable to Jesus – empathetic reporters who try to put themselves in Jesus’ shoes and ask “If this had happened to me, how would I want to go down in history?”
At this point, it seems possible, even likely, that each reporter’s bias may have been in favor of making Jesus look as good as possible. For example, to avoid making Jesus look foolish or shameful, perhaps a reporter might be inclined to see and report things through the lens of pride as he or she might have projected his or her own pride upon Jesus and assumed that Jesus would have felt about the experience of crucifixion, entombment and resurrection as the reporter imagined he or she would have felt. Perhaps the reporter subconsciously felt, “I’d be ashamed of having been treated so badly by those I cared about and who professed to care about me.” And perhaps the reporter would have continued along the same lines to feel, “I’d be proud to show those folks a thing or two and step out from the tomb even more alive and free than when my body was laid there as if I were permanently dead.” Shame and pride. Did human perspectives of shame and pride color the accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection that have passed down through the ages? Did such perspectives color the original accounts to some degree and then continue to add color as the accounts were passed along from person to person? Do layers of pride and shame now cloak the real story beneath their distorting influences to invoke pride and shame in every person who hears or reads the story? Can we consider what the story might have been from Jesus’ perspective had Jesus been free to tell it himself to every person who has ever heard or read about it?
Secondhand stories retold become third-hand, fourth-hand, etc. Eventually they become what the law characterizes as “hearsay” and offer decreasing credibility as indications or evidence of the truth. Even with the aid of the Holy Spirit’s efforts to preserve accuracy, is it possible that retelling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection century after century through multiple layers of changing cultures has woven significant inaccuracy and incompleteness into the story we now hear or read?
I ask these questions because I wonder how Jesus would tell his own story. Would he be more careful to tell a story that did not assert or even remotely imply that anyone was to blame for his death? Might he be careful to clarify that he chose to die the way he died and holds no one else to blame? Might the implications of blame woven into the story as told by others reflect the pride and shame of the reporters and not Jesus’ perspective at all? Might Jesus tell a story of having voluntarily with full willingness not gone “down” to the grave at all but instead “up” to grace? Might he have seen far beyond the cross and the tomb to see God’s glory waiting for him and knew (as Moses had reported) that God’s glory was His grace – a grace within which not one hint of pride or shame could be present?
Grave or grace? Towards, into and through which did Jesus voluntarily walk when he chose to allow his body to expire on the cross? In what orientation towards life did he arise when he exited from the tomb – in human disgrace or in God’s grace? Would Jesus have objected mightily had anyone tried to restrain him from experiencing God’s grace so purely? Might that not be why he scolded Peter when Peter tried to steer him away from Jerusalem? Perhaps Jesus foresaw what he was doing more clearly than Peter or others could at the time and simply moved towards the fuller experience of God’s grace so that we can now follow his example even before setting aside our bodies. Perhaps he knew in his heart, “If I do this this way, you can follow after me along a path or ‘process that I’ve opened to you by grace when you place your faith in me and trust me to lead you forward, upward and onward.” After Jesus rose from a human’s grave, God’s grace has flowed to all humanity with increasing freedom as more and more people believe, place faith in Jesus and trust him to lead. By allowing himself to be wounded not only physically in his body but also emotionally in his heart, Jesus’ wounded heart became the gateway into grace for all who believe and place their wholehearted faith in him.
By the expiration of his body at the hands of others, Jesus was not in any manner disgraced. He was graced more fully than he could have been otherwise. No person need shoulder blame for Jesus’ death any more than any person can take credit for his resurrection. We are all innocent of wrongdoing in regard to Jesus’ death and resurrection. And that’s how Jesus wants us to be – innocent and free to receive and flow with grace as he receives and flows with it. Our calling now is to walk in our innocence upon the Earth as children of God with the capacity to manifest ever greater power of grace as Jesus promised we could. Shall we believe him and live like believers by faith? Given the downward spiral of human culture worldwide, is it not worth investing in this faith-based experiment to see what may come of it? In all likelihood, within this process we’ll discover the manner in which we can co-create peace and goodwill among all peoples of the Earth.
The process of remaining in bondage within Ego’s paradigm of shame and pride is entirely devoid of grace because Grace is of God and the Ego repudiates and defies God. The process of being liberated from the Ego’s paradigm so as to experience God’s paradise on Earth requires us to trust God to lead us to access and ascend into a divine realm where the Ego has no capacity or desire to go. Our choice is to continue to entrust our lives to Ego as we’ve been rigorously and vigorously trained and socialized to do or to switch our allegiance and trust wholeheartedly in God no matter how mysterious a Being or process that alternative may be. Those of us who have had our fill of Ego’s way will be most inclined to try it God’s way instead. To do so, we need only empty ourselves of the Ego’s fill and allow God’s presence to enter into and occupy the vacated places within our hearts and minds. The disciples needed to make this transition are simple and yet challenging until we get the hang of soaring on wings of eagles.
© Art Nicol 2017