Sunday 28 July 2019

The strangeness of Christianity (in the Fourth Gospel)

A man emerges, Jesus - who is instantly recognised, on sight, by John the Baptist as being the Messiah: the Lamb of God who will take away the sin's of the world. When John baptises him, John perceives that the Spirit of God does not only touch and depart, as usual; but uniquely stays with this man: Jesus has become divine.

What does it mean that Jesus would 'take away' sin? Sin seems to mean all the transitory nature of satisfaction in this world, the corruptions, the selfishness, that which contributes to the recurrent sense that life is travail and loss. Jesus will take away Mortality and all its badness, all that we know in our hearts to be intrinsically wrong about life.

This Jesus immediately recognised and accepted John's divine identification, immediately changed his life; took on the role or Messiah. What, then, did this man Jesus say about himself and what he brought?

That he brought, he made possible, an altogether higher, better, permanently-satisfying way of living. So, this good life Jesus gave would be not just greater than anything we had or could ever experience; it would be ever-lasting, it would be eternal.

Further; this good life would be experienced in our bodies, we would live forever and satisfyingly as embodied men; in bodies that would could not be destroyed. How extraordinary!

But - and Jesus was clear about this - we could reach this state of the Good Life (Jesus himself could only reach this state) only by first dying and then 'resurrecting'. The Good Life Jesus promised was on the other side of death!

And Jesus himself would 'show' that what he claimed was true, and how it worked; first by 'demonstrating' the process on his friend Lazarus; and then by himself going-through this same death and resurrection. How strange!

Why must Men die in order to be remade for the Good Life? Jesus did not explain. It seemed to be something to do with the fact that mortal bodies were intrinsically corruptible; and to 'make' eternal bodies required this process of 'resurrection'. 

But why did Men need to live the Good Life in bodies? Why not as spirits? That was perhaps the strangest thing of all. Again; Jesus did not explain, but the fact seemed to be quite definite.

What Jesus did explain, was that if we wanted this Good Life for ourselves, we needed in some sense to follow him. And that this following was a matter of love; the Good Life was itself a thing of love, the GL was joined by loving.

The Good Life was made possible by Jesus's love for each and every Man; and the 'process' was completed by each Man who wanted this Good Life loving Jesus. It had to be our decision, each individual's decision.

This business was not something done by God, to Men - or for Men. This step was a thing that we needed to do for our-selves; there were two sides, and we each must participate in the process - God's side of the matter being accomplished by a Holy Spirit or Comforter, which Jesus would send after he himself left the mortal world. Jesus implied that this Holy Ghost was in some sense himself, returned, in a form who was accessible to any Man who wanted it. 

And that was it, pretty much! That was the essence of the thing. Having made this clear, Jesus went ahead and did it; he completed the process.

Writing about it later, Lazarus noted that not many people were keen to accept the gift Jesus had brought; indeed they mostly reacted with anger and hostility, and indeed killed Jesus on the flimsiest of excuses (and also killed John the Baptist).

This reflected badly on Men; but it was hardly surprising - it was indeed exactly the kind of thing (sin) that Jesus had enabled us to escape from. However, it did not affect what Jesus had done for us.

The Good Life was from now a permanent possibility for any Man; albeit only attainable on the other side of death and by the choice of love.

(Note: The above is written in something of the style of Charles Williams in his books He Came Down From Heaven and The Descent of the Dove; although my interpretation of Jesus's work is extremely different from CW, and my expression is intended to be clear rather than esoteric.) 

1 comment:

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I found this interpretation of "taking away the sin of the world" helpful and have posted on it here.