The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
In turning our attention to Holy Week and the story of the Crucifixion, it is obvious that there is need to recount the details of it, and yet, it is so well known and so familiar that the words in which it is couched are apt to mean little and often go unrealized.
The tale of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temple and the releasing of the animals, of His gathering the disciples together into the upper room, and there sharing with them the communion of bread and of wine, and of the desertion of those who supposedly loved Him, with His subsequent agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, is as familiar to us as our own names, and much less arresting.
And that is the tragedy of Christ....
He did so much, and we have recognized so little. It has taken us twenty centuries to even begin to understand Him and His mission and career. The Crucifixion itself was only an anticipated and expected consummation. No other end was possible. It was predetermined from the beginning, and dated from the time when, after the Baptism initiation, He started out to serve humanity, and to teach and preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God.
That was His theme, and we have forgotten it and have only preached the Personality of Christ - the one theme which He Himself ignored and which seemed to Him of small importance in view of the greater values involved. This again is the tragedy of Christ. He had one set of values and the world has another.
We have made of the Crucifixion a tragedy, whereas the real tragedy was our failure to recognize its true significance. The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was based upon the fact that He was not understood. Many have died violent deaths. In this, Christ was in no wise different from thousands of other farseeing men and reformers, even down thru the ages.
Many people have passed through the Gethsemane experience and prayed with the same fervor as Christ that God's will might be done. Many have been deserted by those who might have been expected to understand and participate in the work and service visioned. In none of these respects was Christ unique.
But His suffering was based upon a unique vision. The lack of comprehension of the people, and the distorted interpretations which future theologians would give to His message must surely have been a part of the prevision, as likewise the knowledge that the emphasis accorded to Him as the Savior of the world would retard for centuries the materializing of the kingdom of God on earth, which was His mission to found.
Christ came that all mankind might have "life... more abundantly." Yet we have so interpreted His words that only the "saved" are credited with having taken the necessary steps towards that life. But the abundant life is surely not a life to be lived hereafter, in some distant heaven where those who are believers shall enjoy an exclusive life of happiness, whilst the rest of God's children are left for naught.
The Cross was intended to indicate the line of demarcation between the kingdom of men and the kingdom of God, between one great kingdom in nature which had reached maturity, and another kingdom in nature which could now enter upon its cycle of activity. The human kingdom had evolved to the point where it had produced the Christ and those other children of God whose lives bore constant testimony to divine nature.
Christ assumed the ancient symbol and burden of the cross, and, taking His stand beside all the previous crucified Saviors, embodied in Himself the immediate and the cosmic, the past and the future, rearing the Cross on the hill outside Jerusalem (the name of which signifies the "vision of peace"), thus calling attention to the kingdom which He died to establish.
The work had been completed, and in that far away little country called the Holy Land, a narrow strip of territory between the two hemispheres, the East and the West, the Orient and the Occident, Christ mounted the Cross and fixed the boundary between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world, between the world of men and the world of Spirit. Thus He brought to a climax the ancient Mysteries, which had prophesied the coming of that kingdom, and instituted the Mysteries of the kingdom of God.
The effort to carry out to perfection the will of God brought to an end the most complete life that had been lived on earth. The attempt to found the kingdom, preordained for all time, and the antagonism it evoked, brought Christ to the place of crucifixion.
The hardness of men's hearts, the weakness of their love, and their failure to see the vision, broke the heart of the Savior of the world - a Savior because He opened the door into the kingdom and none would walk through.
It is time that the Church understood its true mission, which is to materialize the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now. The time is past wherein we can emphasize a future and coming kingdom.
People are no longer interested in a possible heavenly state or a probable hell. They need to learn that the kingdom is here, within us all, and must express itself on earth; it consists of those who do the will of God at any cost, as Christ did, and who can love one another as Christ loved us.
The way into that kingdom is the way that Christ trod. It involves the sacrifice of the personal self for the good of the world, and the service of humanity instead of the service of one's own selfish opinions and desires. In the course of enunciating these new truths concerning love and service, Christ lost his life.
Is it not understood that the Crucifixion of Christ, with its great preceding events - the communion and the Gethsemane experience -is a tragedy which has its basis in the conflict between love and hate?
It is not to belittle the events which took place upon Calvary. But today, as one looks back upon that event, a certain truth begins to emerge, and we have mistakenly interpreted that sacrifice and that death in purely selfish terms.
We are concerned only with our own individual interests. We have emphasized only the importance of our individual salvation and pride it to be of tremendous importance.
But the world view and what Christ was destined to do for all humanity down through the ages, and the attitude of God towards human beings from the earliest times, through the period of Christ's life in Palestine and on until the present time, are subordinated to the factor of our belief or non-belief in the efficacy of the Crucifixion upon Calvary to save our individual souls.
Yet in His conversation with the repentant thief, Christ admitted him into the kingdom of God on the basis of his own recognition and understanding of divinity. Christ had not yet died nor was He resurrected, and the blood sacrifice of Christ had not yet been made.
It was as if Christ had foreseen the turn which theology would give to His death, and endeavored to offset it by making the recognition of the dying thief one of the most outstanding events at His death, for He made no reference to the remission of sins through His blood as the reason for that admission.
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