Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New or Old?

In the new ‘gospel’, Jesus is made out to be a mystery man, a guru. He laughs mockingly when the disciples try to understand what he’s about. He is said to reveal the mystic names of heavenly powers, and to explain how the universe was created by inferior angels. He claims that the soul is only a very temporary dweller in the body. And Judas is told repeatedly that only he understands Jesus, not the other, dimwitted, disciples. It’s the standard kind of teaching you expect from gurus of a certain sort.

Now turn to the New Testament. Here is the real Jesus who actually has a recognisable human setting. His favourite method of teaching is to tell sharp and sometimes satirical stories of ordinary life, with a sting in the tail. He doesn’t suffer fools (especially religious fools) gladly, but he has all the time in the world for those who are thought to be failures. He is a straightforward, not a cynical man. He likes being with children. He knows his disciples don’t fully understand him and sometimes it makes him angry, but he goes on loving and trusting them. When he’s faced with a horrible and unavoidable death, he trembles and cries, but goes on with it.

When the Jesus of the Gospels comes back from the dead, he doesn’t go and crow over his enemies, he meets his friends and tells them to get out there and talk about him — about what his life and death have made possible, about forgiveness, making peace, being honest about yourself, checking the temptation to judge and condemn, tackling your selfishness at the root, praying simply and trustingly.
'Doubtful gospels blind us to faith'
Rowan Williams.

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