Jesus came into Galilee [straight out of the wilderness], proclaiming the God News, and saying, “It's in the now-and-right-here, the kingdom of God is within grasp--Mark 1.14-15 (PT, ipsissima voce)
I'm looking at the above verse and going where did Jesus get this message? What alerted him or awakened him to the timing of the Kingdom? This was not a popularized view in contemporary rabbinical schools. This is a 'straight out of the wilderness' message! Yes, there were rabbinical discussions and debates about God's Kingdom, but always a physical, socio-political overpower-the-enemy kind of thing. And no one knew the timing.
I understand there may be some who think my question, 'Where did Jesus get this message?' is sacrilegious or heretical. Perhaps you want to tell me, "He's the Son of God. He has special knowledge, he's like superman, he's always known he's from another world, he knows that he really isn't Clark Kent but Kal-El from the planet Krypton." Many Christians I know think of Jesus more like superman than man, more like a superhero than a hero.*
There are many problems with us having a Marvel or DC Comic view of Jesus. First, he's something that we are not. Second, he has access to powers that we do not have access to. Third, he has access to knowledge and revelation that we don't have access to. Fourth, it's pointless for us to try to be like him, no more than any of us would try to be like superman.
Wherever this thinking, of Jesus being a 'special human' exists, Christians find it easy to excuse their hate, bitterness, oppression of others, and their spiritual ineptitude, as "well I'm not Jesus, he's the Son of God." I mean, think of it. As long as I can say, "Well that's Jesus! He's got special powers, of course, he can live out the Sermon on the Mount! But surely he doesn't expect that of us. We are human." This statement really is both Christological and anthropological. Humanness becomes more of a feckless mope, and Jesus is a caped superhero who uses super-strengths to rescue us. We miss seeing Jesus for who he really was, a human using weaknesses and powerlessness to redeem the world, and we miss seeing who we really can become.
On the converse, Christians, regardless of denomination or Christian tradition, who believe that the Christ limited, emptied, confined himself in Jesus to be wholly human, are constantly transforming, changing, and becoming. When I say, 'wholly human' I mean on the scale of a mortal, dependent on nothing but the Spirit as accessed through prayer and faith alone, with limited knowledge, limited resources and limited power. And this "seeing Jesus as a real human,"
resets the standard of what a human is,
giving us a picture of what we really are,
and empowers the deepest kind of love within
and the most authentic compassion without,
a dislodging our giving
and abundant forgiving,
and empowers us to live from a different Spirit.
The kenosis (Philippians 2.7-8) declares that Jesus was fully, wholly human. He was not superman. He was not a demi-god. He was a man, a servant-man. The man Christ Jesus emptied himself of all divine powers, divine privileges, and divine insights. Everything he did, said, knew he got as any human can through prayer, faith, submission to the Father and Holy Spirit empowerment. Any human. Jesus is the full vision of the human potential.
An indispensable part of my wilderness transformation (and ongoing might I add) is when I finally said, "What Jesus did, I can do. What Jesus said, I can know. Who Jesus was, I can be. What Jesus experienced, I can experience. I have the same access, to the same gifts, knowledge, powers, tools, and access points. I am a real human. The kind of human Jesus was when he walked the earth."
So, back to my original question, "where did Jesus get this message?" He could only have learned it from the Holy Spirit. I would like to suggest that it was revealed to him in the wilderness. Mark jumps straight from Satan, wild beasts and angels to Jesus walking out of the wilderness going, "The time is fulfilled the kingdom of heaven is at hand."Jesus witnessed and experienced all of this in the wilderness--Father's Voice, the Spirit's Presence, the forces of Darkness, the beastly realities and angelic forces. As he meditated and engaged in transformational praying through the Torah, as the silence and solitude gave way to hearing the Voice, and as the force of these spiritual energies collided he stood as a man in that space and knew, the Kingdom is both now (time) and here (space). Or as he will say it "fulfilled" and "at hand." In the desert he heard the Voice, in the desert the Spirit descended like a dove, in the desert the Heavens opened up, in the desert he saw angels, in the desert he overpowered evil and darkness, in the desert...
I imagine when he stepped out of the wilderness he was like, "The Gate of Heaven is everywhere!"
There are two Greek words for time, chronos and kairos. The word Jesus uses is kairos, which means 'now' or 'event' or 'moment'. The kingdom of heaven is in the now. The nowness. The present. He was not merely saying the Kingdom of heaven is in this now, AD 31. But he was saying the kingdom of heaven is in all nows, from this now forward! The Kingdom is in the Now.
You cannot enter into the Now, where Kingdom life is flourishing and transforming if you are fixated on the past--bitterness, unforgiveness, and resentment. You cannot enter into the Now if you are worrying about tomorrow, afraid of what may come in the future.
Wildernesses have a way of stripping away all the bad of the past so that it just doesn't matter anymore and taking away the bad of the future so that it too doesn't really matter anymore and bringing you into the wide open spaces of right now.
Yesterday, I hiked Wolf Ridge Trail. I listened to these words by Thomas Merton over and over (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander):
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our son-ship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…. I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.
The last sentence grabbed me as I crested a ridge, looked out over the Headlands through the bars of the Golden Gate Bridge and into the City way off in the distance. In that nowness, within the grasp of my hand loomed, larger than San Francisco, the Gate of Heaven, everywhere.
I can tell you, from experience, it's within the grasp of your heart, it's everywhere you look, accessible in the Now of this reading, in the here of this W O R D.
CHREIA OF ACTION
- Conversation. Have a conversation with Cleopas about what it means to be human.
- Reflection. Reflect on the things that distract you from the Now.
- Prayer. Thank God for this breath. Take 5 minutes. Be still. Be silent. Just be present. Be present to God loving you. Be aware of his Presence within you.
*Disclaimer: lest what I am saying is misunderstood, I believe Jesus 'comes from the Father,' has a kingdom 'not of this world,' was 'sent' and 'gave as the only begotten Son.' And so, so, so much more. I also believe that he NEVER functioned out of that privileged existence, he never did anything anyone of us could not do.