The Abiding Genius of Jesus of Nazareth

The Abiding Genius of Jesus of Nazareth: the Universal Pilgrim Introduction “Jesus stepped off the pages of the Gospels into the turbulent winds of history”. I have read and reread the pages of the Gospels more times than I can recall in Greek, the language used by the gospel writers, and translations from it in other languages. Every page is about the same subject.

That is, Yeshua ben Yosif, “Jesus, son of Joseph” , as he was called in Nazareth of Galilee. His name is so absorbed in his hometown that he can be referred to as “The prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” . He left his mark on that once obscure village and it has left its mark on his memory trail. Life as we know it came to Jesus in a room at Nazareth where the light of creation hovered over his mother’s womb. and Mary was told of her via the Divine Messenger of the immediate effect of what was happening to her. The conception and birth stories presented by Luke touch on the response of Mary of Nazareth to this awesome visitation. The cryptic lines of what we call the Magnificat, crafted with the song of Hannah in mind, is our sole source of her response to the Angel of the Lord’s soul-shaking message to her. The word “angel” means a messenger in Greek. We are familiar with those who come at crucial moments of our life with messages that sustain and guide us: we always remember them. With delicate literary artistry Luke describes the conception of Jesus as an “overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.” Chapter 1. Dynamically Human A young man clad in a closely woven linen robe and wearing stout leather sandals strode through the Galilean countryside in Palestine. His gaze swept the countryside, soaking up the details of rural Galilee. He was a Galilean man and the city of Jerusalem was never home for him. It was a place of pilgrimage at Passover for him with its Temple. it was also the focal point of the worship of his people. It housed the Ark of the Covenant, surrounded by the Holy of Holies located behind a thick curtain. But we know from his use of parables and other teachings that his focus was on the Galilean countryside and its people, its scenery and its way of life. Yeshua was slight and supple in build, with several lines carved into both sides of his face and thick black hair down to his shoulders. He was neither handsome nor plain, this prophet, with glowing eyes of luminous depth and an inner silence that entered the experiences and brushed over the faces of those who met him. He was known in Nazareth as Yeshua ben Yosif, “Jesus, son of Joseph”. The cultural norms of Nazareth would have named him as the son of Joseph, though Mary of Nazareth knew differently, and the Gospels of Luke and Matthew agree: Yeshua was the son of Mary by supernatural conception. The Gospel of Mark begins with a supernatural message, not a supernatural conception. The Gospel of John traces the lines on the paradigm of his being all the way back to the beginning of creation in the Logos, the reasoned ground of all being and the inner principle of the Nephesh, “the utter ground, the indelible imprint, of what it means to be human”. Nephesh also means “Life in the body”, what St. Paul calls “the Spiritual body.” It is the place where the image of God engages the human spirit. It is a paradigm of the colours and contours of our identity, with its threads of communication and sound patterns drawn in language utterances. Without Luke’s gospel there would be no descriptions of Christmas such as we know it. We would have the visit of the Magi from Matthew and brief descriptions of his birth in both Luke and Matthew, but without the extended artistry of Luke and his contacts with sources who knew Mary the mother of Jesus, we would be bereft of much that enriches the stories of what happened at the time that Jesus was born. The Roman pagan festival of the sun was instituted long after Jesus was born, and the calculation of the appearance of the star came from Christian sources. The Angel of the Lord, the great messenger of God, brings “glad tidings”, related to the word for “gospel” in the New Testament and in the Christian tradition. The birth stories of a famous people are not told until after they have become famous. The first Christians recorded the events of the last week of Jesus life, his trial, death and resurrection, crucial information for the Christian Mission, and then they told the stories of his teaching and ministry and of his birth. Luke uses his birth story to tell us a great deal of his vision of who Jesus really was and what his mission was in the world. Luke was a creative writer and an artist of the words of life, but he was also the greatest missionary writer of the early church after Paul had spelt out our connection with God in his great teaching about how we relate now to the risen one who had walked in Galilee.That is, by being justified before God by our faith in the Lord our Saviour. This is obviously a Christian statement, and it expresses faith in the uniqueness of Christ and his mission in the world. But that does not mean that the Christian religion is unique and therefore all knowing, any more than other religions are unique in themselves. I do not think that the Christian Church has ever fully grasped the mysterious nature attached to the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. It is beyond our imagination and comprehension in my view. The brilliant Islamist writer Reza Aslan, respected in the Australian media, wrote a very perceptive book about Jesus and his revolutionary ideas, but in one of his books he stated that Christianity had committed the ultimate arrogance in assuming that a man could become God. This of course is a travesty of the Christian position: it is rather held that the divine Father/ Creator bowed to the ground at Nazareth and Bethlehem to become one of us. This stupendous statement should have encouraged us to be ever careful about knowing everything about him and making extravagant claims in his name. My brand is of course Christian, but it is offered with huge respect for other approaches to expressing the heart and mind of the Creator, the one who loves all his children and provides many ways of walking to his heart. I’m also respectfully mindful of those who are either agnostic, “insufficiently informed in order to agree”, or contra any spiritual spiral from creation. It is interesting that Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudate Si, has commended two entwined spirals of creation, the imaginative description in Genesis 1-3 described by Jordan Peterson as “utterly profound”. and the scientific spiral through evolution dating from first beginnings of the creation itself. This is a far cry from the persecution of Spinoza and Galileo. It was a huge moment some years ago when Cardinal Poupard stood in his cardinal’s gown in the Vatican and pronounced that the Church had been wrong in trying to stem the recognition of a scientific picture of evolution. I’m also entranced by the Buddhist use of intense mental processes to eliminate those things which are contrary to the development of a meditative approach to ascertaining the truth of our actions and their outcomes. The Jews have their mystics at Safed, and the Sufis bring a softening dimension to the stark transcendentalism of Allah in Islam. “There is no God but God” is commendable, but extremists with their deadly intent are no good in any of our religions, as we have witnessed in the past through the perversion of Christ’s teachings in the Crusades, with terrible violence being exercised in his name, a person of dynamic humanity dedicated to peace! Yeshua was on one hand immersed in the ways of his people, and on the other hand he was creating something new that would outrage his own people and lead to his death. Some New Testament scholars think that he was executed because of his predictions about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and that may well have played a part in the violent reaction to him. But his portrayal of what it meant to be truly human was also very threatening for those who thought that their way into God via the enclosed lines of the current religious architecture of belief in Israel and later in the Gentile world. It may well have been the prime reason for the ultimately violent reaction to his teaching and his public manner of being a prophet in Israel.