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How Jesus Came to His Cross
His Death Was Not Preordained
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Donald Morgan: "Jesus' last words on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ hardly seem like the words of a man who planned it that way. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure there is something wrong here."
Did Jesus see himself on a suicide mission?
A careful reading of the gospels suggests that, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus believed that his message would be gladly received. It was only later that the chilling realization that he would fail in his teaching-efforts led him to see that he must die in order to serve the common good.
Dr. Leslie Weatherhead explains. Note the dramatic phrase: "He never returned from Tyre."
In the obscure setting of a carpenter's shop in Nazareth, we should watch a young man vibrantly alive.
He is like the other young men in the village in many ways. Yet he is unlike them. Religion is a passion with him. He spends hours with the local rabbi discussing the sacred law, poring over the sacred manuscripts... The old prophets fascinate him. The Psalms he knows by heart. Moreover, he spends hours in solitary walks, and sometimes the whole night long he will meditate...
Yet he is not a morbid or melancholy young man. On the contrary, he has a radiant gladness about him that makes everyone attracted to him... children adore him... He likes a jolly feast too, and has quite a name for being the 'life and soul of the party.'
In the course of time, with others, he is baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin...
[Then, for] more than a month this young teacher is away from the sight and sound of men, in the grim desert between Jerusalem and Jericho. Afterward, in a form they could understand, he gave them the gist of the inner conflict which, during those days of prayer and fasting, raged within his breast.
He knew he had a message about God which it was vital men should hear. Therefore, it was of first importance that he should catch their ear and gain their attention... How could he make them hear?...
Supposing he used the power he had to raise the standard of living and end their economic anxiety.
- A movement to provide bread would make them listen... If he gave them bread they might listen. After all, God meant them to have bread. How could he talk of the love of God to the starving?
Rejecting that as a way of buying men's allegiance with bread, he considered men's love of the spectacular.
- If he used sensational methods and floated down from a pinnacle of the temple, they would listen... Magic might open the door to messages he longed to introduce. But he put that aside too...
The whole country seethed with hatred against Rome... If he led a revolt, a thousand swords would flash ... in his support. To free his own dear land, to reign over all nations in the name of God, to teach them then the message that burned in his breast - surely that would do two things in one.
The age-old dreams of Israel would come true, and surely every heart would receive his message of a spiritual kingdom if, first, the material one was secured. But, as he reviewed the various short cuts to popularity, he recognized them all as a misuse of the power God had entrusted to him... God's purpose ... was to win man, not by bribes or the display of overwhelming power, or by any means which drug the personality or disable the mind, but by man's free choice...
Editor's note: Weatherhead suggests that in the early part of Jesus' ministry, a time of preaching to very large crowds, so much so that "all" (Mark 1:37) seemed to be seeking him, a time when his small band "had no leisure so much as to eat" (Mark 6:31), it may have appeared, even to Jesus, that his first efforts regarding his program were succeeding. People were listening. Things were happening. The message was getting out - or so it seemed.
I do not deduce, as I read and ponder the gospel story, that Jesus in those early days of his ministry contemplated his death at all, though of course it is possible that he referred to it... his mind was truly human and as far as may be from being morbid. Young, active men in the thrill of an early ministry in which they exult ... do not think about their death....
[His] was such a glorious message, how could [the people do anything else but hear him gladly]? God was the Father of all men. All men were brothers. Nothing was needed so much as a new relationship between man and God, and between man and his fellow man. From that, all they desired would flow. They could even win the friendship and cooperation of Rome. The whole world, through the leaven of a changed Israel, would be the conscious family of God in a world in which all necessities were provided by God and would be shared among men. The kingdom of heaven would be seen on earth. That was good news...
In those early days I don't think Jesus had any thought that men would fail to react rightly to a message which so obviously ... came from God...
The leaven of his teaching would spread through mankind until the lump was leavened and all mankind became the conscious, happy family of God.
But as one goes on reading the gospel narratives, a dark shadow begins to creep across that sunny blue sky...
First we watch the Pharisees and scribes plotting to entrap him... Are they going to change their way of looking at life? Are they going to become as little children? ... The speed of events at the end ... show how afraid they were that Jesus would lead a revolt, perhaps even using supernatural power...
Second, note the change in the crowds. They loved his preaching ... miracles ... A voice cannot be popular with the crowd when it stabs at men's moral iniquities and dismisses as irrelevant their popular hopes. So they began to change their minds about him.
Third, watch the disciples... There is little doubt that they thought he was the Messiah in their terms... Rome was to be 'liquidated' ... They were to rule... They took the words of Jesus that bolstered their own ideas ... the words that didn't fit their ideas, they left out - just as we do... 'Many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him' (John 6:66-67) ...
But, fourth, Jesus changed too...
1. There was a change in the mind of Jesus. Surely the true humanity of Jesus would demand that the ways of God, even to him, should only gradually become known. 'He ... learned ... by the things which he suffered,' says the letter to the Hebrews. If all is known at the beginning, there is nothing left to learn. Did not the nights of prayer spent among the mountains mean that the Father was gradually disclosing his mind and will to the Beloved Son? Indeed, could a truly human brain and nervous system hold, together with normality, the sudden disclosure of such mighty and demanding plans of God? Jesus himself seems to have answered the question when he said, 'Of that day and hour knoweth no one, ... neither the Son, but the Father only.'
I have come to feel that Jesus slowly changed his mind. Having set his plans for acceptance, having believed he would be followed, having dreamed he could win a response from men, he saw what the Pharisees were doing, assessed the stupidity of the disciples, weighed events, and, with solemn heart, began to learn from his hours of communion with God that the path he was treading would lead to the Cross, that he would 'suffer many things ... and be killed' ((Matt. 16:21).
- Jesus gradually learned from the Father who he was and what he was to do. The infant Jesus was not ruling the universe from his crib!
2. There was a change in the general language of Jesus. ... In the early chapters of the three evangelists, when Jesus was calling his men and teaching them and sending them out on preaching tours, there is no mention of his death, no word about the Cross...
Just as Jesus went away into the desert to think out his program when he made plans for the acceptance of his message, so he went away to the remote region of Tyre to make plans when it dawned on him that both he himself and his message would be rejected.
There is the very briefest record. 'He arose and went away,' we are told, 'into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered into a house, and would have no man know it; and he could not be hid' (Mark 7:24). He evidently wanted to be alone. He was out of Herod's jurisdiction and thus, for the time being, out of imminent physical danger, in the atmosphere of which it is impossible to think. He was away from scribes and Pharisees, free from the interruption of crowds, to meditate and pray - Matthew says he 'withdrew.'
And it is with a melancholy sadness that we think of Jesus at the seaside, among the sand hills, walking along the lonely shore of what was a 'foreign country,' with the shadow of the Cross beginning to fall upon that radiant spirit.
We have only the scantiest record of what he did there, but he was there for a long time... [possibly] nine months...
But I have come to believe that the long weeks and months in Tyre were another desert experience of inexpressible loneliness and temptation, of mental turmoil and strife.
He returns to the Sea of Galilee and soon after is found far in the north at the foot of snow-clad Hermon in the village of Caesarea Philippi: 'Who do men say that I am? ... Peter answered and said to him, You are the Christ. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed...'
What a change of language is here! The popular preacher and healer has gone.
- One might put it thus. He never returned from Tyre.
The man who returned from Tyre was no popular Messiah who was to succeed in winning Israel to God. He was the man who would be put to death...
The word charged above ... means 'rebuked.'
- He rebuked them. He must kill this idea of the popular Messiah who would be followed, and prepare their minds, as he had attuned his own in what I have called the second desert experience, to the idea of death...
3. All this involved a change in the demeanor of Jesus. We read sentences like this, 'He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.' Later still we read, 'Neither did any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.' When for the second time he had spoken of his death, we read, 'They understood not the saying, and were afraid to ask him.'...
The parable of the wicked husbandman, which, be it noted, comes as late as chapter twelve in Mark's narrative, summarizes, perhaps, our Lord's own thought. What sadness in his words, 'They will reverence my son'! In that story the son believed at first that he would not be rejected. But the parable ends with the beloved son dead and the doom of destruction menacing his murderers.
So, as we read the Gospels, we watch Jesus going on alone in a loneliness of spirit that even his closest friends could not understand. But in the light we have now we can say this.
- Something that was plotted by wicked men contained within its horror an interim or circumstantial will of God. It had not been the ideal intention of God that Jesus should die. But in the evil circumstances which men created through misuse of their free will, his death was, in those circumstances, God's will...
Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem to get himself put to death. There was no suicide spirit about it. By the hands of wicked men he was crucified and slain, as Peter said afterward (Acts 2:23). But Jesus did not allow evil circumstances to defeat him. By his faith and his positive creative attitude, won at bitter cost in Gethsemane, he swept evil into the stream of divine purposefulness.
- He knew that if only he was brave and confident and kept close to God, then, not only in spite of, but through the evil plots of men, his Father could accomplish as great a redemption as he could have accomplished if the beloved Son had been followed and not rejected.
We hush our minds and almost hold our breath as we watch him going up to Jerusalem to challenge evil in its stronghold to do its worst, asserting mastery over it, and so wresting it and grappling with it and reacting to it that he forces it out of the channel of unusable evil into the channel of the purposes of God.
If not by his words, then by his deed he will win men. If not by the way of success, then by the way of so-called failure. If he cannot make them see by living, he will by dying. But no man shall take his life from him. He will lay it down of himself. ('The bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.') All things are delivered into his hands; and in God's name he will claim all circumstances that evil machinations can devise and remain master of them, through death's dark valley,out to that vindication on the other side which, in the lonely months at Tyre, has been revealed to him as his Father's alternate plan.
- When Jesus came back from Tyre, he was not the popular Messiah of Israel only. He was, as he knew himself to be, the Saviour of the world...
According to the scripture, Jesus was a man who “learned” from his experiences. He was not the embodiment, the sum and substance, of all knowledge and wisdom. He made mistakes; if this weren't possible, neither would learning.
I think Pastor Weatherhead is correct in his analysis. The gospel account itself reveals an early picture of Jesus as a bright-eyed, enthusiastic, young preacher who really believed that the crowds would listen to him, that he could change the world, and bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth, right then and there. However, as the venomous attacks mounted, as the vested interests of this world, like storm clouds, gathered against him, he realized he’d been naïve.
Somewhere in the channeled writings of the ancient Spirit Guide, Silver Birch, he states, to the effect:
“My advice to those of you who are service-oriented, who desire to change the world, is this: Do not attempt a direct frontal attack on the dark institutions of planet Earth. It will not end well for you. You must take a less direct approach. We have a certain main purpose in coming to this troubled world. We come here to “wake up” spiritually. Yes, we help others as we can right now, but we are under no illusions that a time of 'universal salvation' will be at hand. That’s not what this world is for. That comes later; for many people, much later.”
Jesus tried a “direct frontal attack.” He had no chance of winning that way. Not in this world. Silver Birch was right. Winning comes later. We say “later” when, in Summerland, having come into our new-found abilities, we’ll “hold all the aces,” and then we’ll decide, on our own terms, the best way to serve each frightened and angry person, probably floundering in a Dark Place somewhere.
Editor's note: See my article on how Jesus, just before he was killed, resigned himself to a very long project of "saving" the world. He had changed his mind, and his tactics, by then.
After Jesus died, the apostle Peter (purportedly) writes that Jesus visited hapless spirits in Dark Prison. Of course. That would be a natural thing for any service-minded entity. There are thousands and thousands of advanced Spirit Persons who work as missionaries in the Dark Realms. Read what Father Benson has to say about this.
Editor’s note: If Jesus began his ministry with a too-optimistic view of things, and if God did not pre-ordain Jesus’ death, then why did Jesus agree to die by the hands of his enemies? My sense is this: He may have made another mistake by believing the greater good could be served by his death. One thing is for sure. He wanted to be a force for righteousness, to help – everyone. But how to do this? With many months having been invested preaching to the crowds about the reality of God, he may have thought it defeatist to simply disappear into the wilderness; it could send a message of giving up. A martyr’s exit from this world could lend some weight to his teachings, he might have surmised. Whether this decision, in fact, made things better or worse, I will address: the so-called Church, arguably (see below), has been the greatest despotic-oppressive curse upon humanity the world has ever seen.
Consider this: In the gospel of John, just before Jesus was to depart, his students begged him to stay. Oh, how despondent they were! Now they would lose their beloved teacher, and how would they prosper themselves in his absence? Notice the words, by this time, of a much-wiser Jesus: He does not say, “Well, it’s true, if I stayed you’d have a benefit.” Instead, he says, and implies, “It is better for you if I leave, because, if I stay, you will become more co-dependent on me, more dysfunctional, forever like children wanting to be near a strong daddy. But, if I go, you will learn to access, I will help you to realize, the holy spirit, the purified consciousness, within your own souls, which is your very own link to God. That’s what you need, not hand-holding from a big brother. You need to grow up and become who you really are – a mature son of God.”
You cannot “save” people in groups. You cannot help a multitude with mass-chanting, joining hands and all singing “kumbaya.” It has been said that people go mad in herds, but recover themselves, their sanity, if at all, one at a time. No group effort will raise the level of light in a person one whit – the only thing that will “save” a person, that is, bring him or her to a higher level of consciousness, is sacred introspection, the “long dark night of the soul.” You can't make a horse drink, at best, only point out where the fountain is. Each person, of and by him or herself, has to wanna.
And I hate to be the one to break the news, but Jesus would learn that his efforts to build a church on the Earth – an attempt at “group salvation” – would end in utter failure and disaster. Look at the Church today, in its bickering 40,000 sects and denominations. What a pathetic and dreadful cacophony of egoic chatter and grandstanding. The Church, the mother of all cultism, has been one of the greatest sources of evil, one of the greatest curses, ever to afflict humankind in all of history.
In the “Reincarnation” article, we learn, from some of the wisest and most ancient Spirit-Guides, that, while there is no return to this world for the average person, there are, albeit rarely, special missions of service entertained by some individuals. It is said, in some of the afterlife reports, that Jesus had undertaken such a mission. The evidence suggests that, if Jesus knew then what he knows today, about the inner workings of the heart of darkness, he would not have made that last trip to the Earth.
This is a large subject, too complex to discuss here, and I would invite you to read my four articles on the nature of “Spirituality” for extensive discussion. But the bottom-line is, no one can force, or proactively lead, or arrange for, the spiritual growth of another. You cannot “save” another person. That is not possible. It's a violation of free will, which is the "prime direction" over there, and here, too, if we have eyes to see.
There are well-meaning and kindly-motivated – but naïve -- Spirit-Beings on the other side, however, who disagree with this assessment and believe that it is possible to “make a horse drink” from the well of life. I suspect that Jesus -- enthusiastic, service-minded, but, in the early days, unwise, as he was – came to the Earth to start a religious-political movement. He really thought he could pull it off. But it all ended in spectacular disaster; moreover, he created a worse problem by launching, by lending his name to, the mother of all cultism, the Church.
The apostle John, too, as a very old man, finally learned these lessons. There were those in his congregations who were trying to be heroes and saviors, proclaiming how wonderful they were, and how the rest of the membership needed to be taught by them. And though he was still loyal to Jesus, in this political-religious atmosphere of local-church conflict, John charged that, “Anything that’s really important in life will be taught to you directly from God via the purified consciousness. You don't need any external teacher!” -- which means, no one can "save" you; no one can open your eyes to the truth. If you want to remain in blindness, then do that, and reap the suffering, which will be your next teacher. This is how people "save themselves." They get a belly-full, eventually; with "eventually" meaning, maybe tomorrow, or maybe 10,000 years from now. It all depends on when that horse will be willing to drink from the "waters of life."
Among those today who understand that Jesus was not God, there is still a certain sentiment which offers deference in terms of, “Jesus is a good role model. He points the way, for all of his, in his self-sacrificial example.”
I agree, and I have no problem with that. I too consider myself a follower of Jesus, though not in a conventional sense. But here’s the problem with this kind of thinking, as it easily veers off into error.
The churches preach that Jesus suffered more in his tortures than any other human being. This is absolute rubbish. I could make a very long list of people in history, even some who are suffering today to promote the truth, who endured greater atrocity than Jesus. Some of their tortures make crucifixion appear as something preferable.
In every age, in every culture, there are people who rise up and willingly give themselves -- as martyrs, if need be -- to promote the truth. And we do an injustice to all of these stellar spirits by unwarrantedly elevating the example of Jesus.
Why does this happen in every culture? - because, at all times, among every group or society, there are those who have learned to “go within” where God is found. Jesus, too, learned this, as per his “artesian spring” metaphor in John 4. Fine examples of service are wonderful, and we need more of them, but, fundamentally, we don’t need heroes, anything external, to lead us. That's for children. We need to discover the “true self” and then we’ll see that we can do some things, too. Every son and daughter of God is meant to grow up and experience this.
Elsewhere, I’ve discussed the issue of differing opinions among Spirit-Guides and advanced persons on the other side. There is debate, at high levels, concerning the nature of ultimate reality, and how to best effect human evolvement. For example, “The Wedding Song” was given to us by Guides who believe that an experience of authentic romantic love, one particular woman for one particular man, will open the human spirit as nothing else. Not everyone over there agrees with this view. Some believe primarily in "doing" more than "being"; and while charitable works will always be important to us, well-meaning effort per se, without more, I have learned, cannot create one atom of authentic spirituality.
Jesus – the facts become clear – changed his mind and grew in understanding to perceive that the way forward for humanity will not come about by indulging a subservient, cultish devotion to an august other, even one exhibiting a fine, selfless example. These luminaries might inspire us, and its well that they do, but, to allow ourselves to offer undue deference, in surrendering one's own human potential, a hero-worship, becomes counter-productive, quickly devolving to psychological dysfunction, victimhood, co-dependency, and programmed helplessness.
We were “made in the image” -- that's what we need to keep in mind, and to allow it to unfold. Each son and daugher of God has the exact same potential, which means to that, as we develop over the coming centuries, we will have things to offer, too.
Editor's last word:
Jesus’ early view, a too-sunny assessment of the dark side of human nature, is not unlike that of many Spirit Guides. I’m reminded of more than one book, channeled from the other side, written just after World War I, that spoke to us optimistically, to the effect:
“This great war was terrible, but we on this side see better days ahead. Our message is getting out, and more and more people are learning about life in Summerland. We foresee more cooperation and harmony coming for the people of planet Earth and, even, a new golden age of brotherly love.”
Well, it's a nice sentiment, but we all know what happened later in the twentieth century, a march toward increased atrocity, that has not stopped in the new millenium.
It’s take more than “kumbaya, let’s all join hands and sing” to bring lasting peace to the troubled minds of egoic homo sapiens. See my four articles on “Spirituality.”
As an additional note, see below a partial transcript of Elizabeth Fry's testimony, speaking from the other side of life:
Christ himself had no intention, no desire, to found any religious organization. This is completely, absolutely, a man-made thing - which over the centuries has misled mankind; and, indeed, I think it is pretty obvious, that if you analyze the whole of Christ’s teaching, you will find that he was the most humble of souls; that he had no desire to form any kind of an organization; he chose his disciples among the most ordinary of men; he did not try to dictate; he did not suggest, in the sense that some people assume that he dictated that they should do this or do that – he gave them, completely and absolutely, free will -- free will to choose the path that they should follow.
I think that people will only recognize … what Christ really was, when they begin to discount a lot of untoward creeds and dogmas, tacked on over the centuries by men who desired power and position – I would say to you, above all things, if you want to discover truth, avoid men of power and position, because … [they desire] power and position because of their material perception of things - you cannot, surely, build a truly spiritual realization of God on something which is of a material conception – God is not found, in a sense, in buildings or places … God is found within one’s soul, within one’s inner consciousness”