We know Jesus was an influential teacher in ancient Judea. But until A Course in Miracles started to be Xeroxed and handed around, we really didn't know many definitive details about what Jesus was actually accomplishing. The gospels which make up the New Testament were written many years after his death and were highly embellished to serve as stories that would help evangelize fresh recruits into the new religion which eventually became known as Christianity.
The only historical fact we are almost positive about is that Jesus knew John the Baptist and probably studied with John at one time. The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, reports the story of the highly popular ministry of John the Baptist early in book 18 of his work Antiquities of the Jews. Then later in book 18 Josephus writes: "At this time there was Jesus, a wise man. For he was one who performed surprising works, and a teacher of people who received the unusual with pleasure. He stirred up both many Jews and many Greeks."
According to the New Testament gospels, the message of John was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" and the message of Jesus was exactly the same: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [See last month's article for a discussion of the meaning of ἤγγικε ēngike, "at hand."] Almost surely both John and Jesus taught that heaven is here and now, and can be experienced by those who open their minds, a truth that had long been taught by Buddhist and Taoist teachers of the East.
[In fact, the closest translation anyone ever rendered in the days of Jesus for "Tao" is "the way," and early followers of Jesus called their movement "The Way." Nowadays modern scholars think "Tao" almost translates to "all existence;" which is interesting because if you had asked a really ancient priest the meaning of "God," the answer would have been "all existence." But scholars use the phrase "almost translates" because technically "Tao" is really untranslatable, like the Hebrew word "Yahweh," which can also only be almost translated as: "I am that I am."]
The discussion of the name Jesus Christ in A Course in Miracles starts: "There is no need for help to enter Heaven for you have never left." But then it explains that there is a need for helpers to encourage you to choose a new way of thinking about your true identity, in other words to help you change your mind or repent. Then there is specific reference to Jesus:
"The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God."
Early in A Course in Miracles Jesus states about himself in first person:
"There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The main difference between us as yet is that I have NOTHING ELSE. This leaves me in a state of true holiness, which is only a POTENTIAL in you."
He might as well be saying "Repent, and you will experience what I experience."
Three hundred and some years after Jesus walked Judea, the majority of Christian bishops assembled at Nicaea, following age-old Mediterranean peoples' custom, legislated the nature of Jesus: "He was God," and this declaration has ever after been interpreted as Jesus was different in nature than us. But in A Course in Miracles Jesus clarifies his nature:
" 'No man cometh to the Father but by me' is among the most misunderstood statements in the Bible. It DOES NOT mean that I am in anyway separate (or different) from you, EXCEPT IN TIME. Now, we know that time does not exist. Actually, the statement is much more meaningful if it is considered on a vertical rather than a horizontal axis. Regarded along the vertical, man stands below me, and I stand below God. In the process of 'rising up,' I AM higher. This is because without me the distance between God and man is too great for man to encompass. I bridge the distance as an Elder Brother to man, on the one hand, and a Son of God on the other. My devotion to my brothers has placed me in charge of the Sonship, which I can render complete only to the extent I can SHARE it.
"This appears to contradict another statement: 'I and my Father are one.' It doesn’t. There are still separate parts in the statement, in recognition of the fact that the Father is GREATER. Actually, the original statement was 'are of one KIND'."
The LDS (Mormon) Church comes closest to this explanation of Jesus with its teaching that man eventually becomes a God. The word "becomes" could mean, as in the Lion King, "recognizes his nature as." Jesus would say it with different words: man eventually experiences himself overwhelmingly and totally as Son of God sharing the nature of God.
In the meantime, Jesus is telling us he is a needed bridge from the condition in which we find ourselves ... to the heavenly experience where we belong. If a girl imagines herself as Cinderella who needs help to make it out of the condition she finds herself in ... and to the prince's home and the ballroom where she belongs, then she understands the principle Jesus is trying to teach.
And just as Cinderella always sensed she was really destined for a much greater experience than sweeping cinders, so we all have within us a deep desire for a much more glorious experience than could ever be provided by achieving any earthly goal. So we can laugh at all the debates, historical and current, about the exact details of the work of Jesus, wouldn't you say? Because all we need to know is that Jesus lived in the very glory we crave deep inside, the infinitely-greater-than-offered-by-this-world love and joy called Christhood ... and even now he shows us The Way.
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"...nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)
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