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Jesus is Dead, Long Live Christ


Many people today are seriously questioning whether Jesus actually lived and, if he did, whether the resurrection actually occurred as the gospels report it. It is suggested that if Jesus' life, death and resurrection are not historically true then Christianity is a sham; a gigantic deception which has been used to fool millions of people for two thousand years.

The reality is that whether Jesus had an actual literal and historical existence or not is not vitally important to the spiritual essence of Christianity. The foundation of Christianity lies not so much in Jesus as in the resurrection of the living Christ.

In order to understand this it is necessary to venture behind the outer teachings of Christianity. A good starting point for this incursion is to examine what the statement that Jesus was fully man and fully God means. It quite simply implies that Jesus was a man in whom God was made manifest to the greatest possible degree.

In the early stages of the spiritual journey it is soon learnt that the true nature of God is, and will always remain, unknowable. As a result of this symbols are used to conceptualize God. Within the Christian Church many small children learn the image of God as being an old man with a long white beard sitting up in the skies. (Even many adults do not realize that this is actually the adoption of a Jewish symbol found in the Zohar.) Later, the conception of Jesus as God having become man becomes the focus, with the further ill-defined conceptions of God the Father in heaven above and the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is quite easy to relate to Jesus Christ, God made man. It is simple to conceptualize Him and the Bible speaks of many different aspects of his life, mission and ministry. That he was crucified and died for our sins, then rose again, is somewhat harder to understand. However, for many this, and numerous other aspects of Biblical teachings which are not understood, form the mystery of faith. They are accepted as an implicit part of belief and trust in God and many rest content in this conceptual context.

However, it is possible to move on from this image of the divine, to push back the limits and broaden conception in incremental steps or stages. This leads not only to a greater understanding but also to an increasing experiential awareness of the divine as the relationship of profound love develops. In seeking to do this, a good place to begin is by recognizing the difference between the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ.

Let us lift our hearts and our minds then to reflect on the opening verses of the gospel of John; the most mystical text in the gospels:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

"That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-14)

Within the beginning, which is the divine realm, was (and is) the Logos or Word. The Logos was contained within the Divine Nature and is so integral to that Nature that it can be understood as being that Nature. This is the transcendent Christ. The whole of manifest or created existence results from emanation out of the Logos. This includes the very essence of life itself which is the true light of, and for, humanity. This is the incarnated Christ.

However, although this divine life and light indwells each and every human being it remains as in darkness because it is not generally recognized nor understood. John was sent by God to point others toward that Light, but he, of himself, was not the full manifestation of that Light. Those who do recognize, understand and receive the Light of the incarnated Christ have the potential to become the sons of God because they have experienced a spiritual rebirth in which their own will has become God's will. The fullness of the incarnated Christ did, however, manifest amongst us; in the person of Jesus the Christ.

Many in the Church today understand that by being a born again Christian, by accepting Jesus into their lives and by believing, they are saved, 'fait accomplis'. However. they are often merely living in the outer image, rather than in the reality, of what is referred to in the opening chapter of John. This can be primarily identified by two things. The first is that they are still subjecting themselves to the obedience of God's law or will. This is quite different from our own will becoming God's will. They are therefore still children of the law and not yet of the promise. Nevertheless, living under the law is a necessary prelude to obtaining the promise.

Secondly, the inner and spiritual transformation which produces a real and lasting change has not yet necessarily occurred. It is this transformation which sets our feet firmly on the road to becoming sons of God. How is it possible to know this? "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matt. 7:16) It is necessary to make the effort of working towards demonstrating the spiritual principles of Christianity in our lives. However, ultimately being able to demonstrate them with sustained sincerity depends on receiving the enabling gift of grace.

Jesus the Christ was God made man. He manifested the fullness of the incarnate Logos or Word. In this context, if one can appreciate that sometimes as He is encountered in the gospels it is not Jesus who is speaking but the incarnate Christ, a profound portal of spiritual revelation is opened. Behind this portal lies an inspiring insight not only into the spiritual teaching and significance of the gospels but of the whole of Scripture.

This understanding has formed the basis of Christian spirituality for two thousand years. Beginning with the New Testament it can be seen to be reflected not only in the liturgical structure of the Church but also in the writings of the great spiritual teachers of Christianity throughout history. It is understood both by the Western Church and by the Eastern Church and it was well known to those who led the Reformation, including Martin Luther

The Paschal Light discourses step through this portal and journey into what lies beyond it.

Copyright. Janet Gentles, 2001

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