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The Religion of Jesus PART 5: The Advanced Man, continued

Continuing from Part 4.

However Jesus ended up in 1st century Galilee (virgin birth or otherwise), he finds himself among people less developed than himself. He seems to know he has a limited time and needs to change these people from the inside – to clean the inside of the cup – so they can improve the broader world once he’s gone. He knows that scripture fights and doctrinal strivings don’t work (if they did we’d all be magnificent by now), but he has to do something. What?

When confronting closely-held doctrines – pre-set opinions of whatever sort – we’re dealing with what an important psychologist named Boris Sidis called “a disaggregation of consciousness.” We might, in more descriptive terms call it a place where there’s a gash or a gap in our minds. Behind such a gap, a doctrine is disconnected from the reasoned analysis. And from that position, it reflexively protects itself, robotically and amorally. (I think we’ve all noticed such processes in ourselves.)

In such a condition arguing doctrine is futile. What is required is a path around the gash. If we can find alternate paths from one side of the gap to the other, it will be traversed. This is done with analogies and metaphors… with parables. Rather than attacking the gap, parables – image-based more than word-based – create parallel paths around it.

I’m convinced this is why Jesus insisted on speaking to people in parables, rather than making direct arguments. The people who weren’t able to take his discourses without reflexive opposition could and would respond to parables, which would communicate the concepts without hanging people up in word fights.

The choice to teach only in parables, then, sprung from some fairly advanced psychology. And it obviously worked.

Similarly, we see that his listeners became acutely aware that he spoke with authority, “and not as the scribes.” This can easily be seen from the advanced man perspective. He didn’t have to project or claim or imagine. He simply knew.

Consider the scenario of an electrician from today going back in time five hundred years. He or she could walk into Cambridge University and start explaining the operation of lightning, the laws underlying it, the applications of this to creating machines, artificial lighting and much more. This person wouldn’t be speculating, or even come off with “TV preacher confidence.” He or she would simply know, and wouldn’t cling to anything else. They’d seen it. They had done it themselves. They knew.

That was how Jesus came off to the people of his time. He didn’t need certifications or signs. He just said what he knew to be so.

We see this prominently in the fact that Jesus didn’t bother to quote scriptures. In the whole of the gospel of Mark, for example, Jesus quotes scriptures a total of seven times; eight if you include the “haven’t you read what David did?” passage. And all of those quotations were forced upon him. That is, he used scripture only in response to challenges, because (as we may presume with some confidence) these were the things the people questioning him took as proof.

At the same time, Jesus refers to nature or commonplace events at least eleven times.

The other gospels differ a bit, but not terribly much. Jesus simply did not rely upon scriptures to teach. He used them when he was pushed into it because that’s what the people on the other side of the arguments saw as proof. (And often as “You’ve heard it said, but I say…”[1]And note that by doing this, he is overriding the law of Moses. We can describe this as “extending the commandments,” if we wish, but he was clearly changing them… thus changing the scriptures.)

Compare that to modern religion, or even to the writings of Paul, who quotes scriptures well over fifty times in just his letter to the Romans.

Related to this is the fact that Jesus cared very little for what people said, and far more for what they did. He wanted people who were actually better; people with improved inner lives. The emblematic statement of this is from Matthew:

Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Jesus clearly wanted people to focus on what he taught them, and not on who he was. Again: “Why do you call me Lord, but don’t do the things I say?”

People majoring on “calling him Lord properly” – making theirs a religion about Jesus – was clearly not what he wanted. And the sermon on the mount finishes with his parable of the house built on rock and the house built on sand to communicate precisely this point: To talk about Jesus is nothing, to do what he said – to practice his religion – is everything.

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References   [ + ]

1. And note that by doing this, he is overriding the law of Moses. We can describe this as “extending the commandments,” if we wish, but he was clearly changing them… thus changing the scriptures.
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