GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast

EPISODE THIRTY-SIX: Where I interview Jesus about his life

August 11, 2021 Jerry L. Martin Season 3 Episode 4
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
EPISODE THIRTY-SIX: Where I interview Jesus about his life
Show Notes Transcript

"I just remained open, and prayed more often and more fully, and tried to follow the guidance I felt I received."

JLM

"The life of Jesus is told in the Gospel of Mark. Long after my early encounters, I was told to ask him his side of the story. I took on the assignment like a reporter sent to interview a notable about his memoirs. Notebook and New Testament in hand, I went off to a little café in Doylestown, a longish walk from our home.

I started with the day Jesus was baptized (Mark 1:9-11): "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'

[brief interim]

JESUS

I am an ordinary boy growing up. I was dutiful but, other than that, not very different from other boys. As I became a man, I was not explicitly in relationship with God, but I did seem to have an integrity, an inner peace though sometimes an outer storm, a sense of faithfulness without its having a clear object, a kind of nobility as others saw it. I seemed a bit on a different plane, above it all, not bothered by the little things.

I did not have a great interest in women, wine, and the other vices. I gave them a sideways glance, as one would at some slightly embarrassing oddity. I couldn't quite see why one would be so powerfully drawn to them.

I had been interested in the scriptures from an early age. It seemed obvious and matter of fact to me that they were the most important thing in the world. I did not see why others did not share my interest. I thought about them, not in an effort to be learned or pious, but just taking them seriously and trying to figure out what this or that saying or story meant, what its lessons might be.

I would sometimes talk about these things, and others would seem to find my comments interesting or even arresting. I didn't see why, since my interpretations were all, it seemed to me, simple and plain.

About the age of thirty, I guess--I was not a stickler for dates--I heard about the preaching of John. While I did not feel myself a great sinner, in the sense of giving in to the temptations of the flesh and so forth, I was acutely aware of my finitude as a human being, my limitations, and the need to be sanctified. Based on my readings of scripture, it seemed right to be baptized, to ask for grace and divine guidance, and to commit oneself to the Lord, to living rightly and obediently to Him.

It was a beautiful day, or so I remember it, and a crowd was there. John was a powerful preacher--his words were God's word set on fire--and he had the ability to reach each listener's heart. He certainly reached mine. He had a much stronger sense of divine voice than I had at the time, and it was an awakening for me. I guess you could say I was John's convert.

Because I did feel a seizure of the spirit--suddenly, the presence of God was palpably real to me, as if I were infused with His spirit, and I went forward to be baptized. John took one look at me and his eyes widened, and then a huge smile spread across his face, and he took me in hand, and baptized me in the waters, and said a prayer and thanked the Lord.

I did not see clouds parting, a dove, or any of that, but I felt an openness of soul unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was as if I was totally open, nothing closed or hidden or held back. I was an empty vessel being filled by the Lord.

What previously had been ordinary virtues like integrity and honesty and openness became divinely tinged, divinely charged. What I am saying is that in one sense I did not change. A lot of the traits I became known for later I had always had. But after that day they were divinely charged. I don't know if God spoke or, if He did, whether His words were audible, but I felt His total love and support -- and also a divine assignment or mission, to live my life from that day on for His purpose.

JERRY

What did you take that purpose to be?

JESUS

I did not know. I just remained open, and prayed more often and more fully, and tried to follow the guidance I felt I received.

JERRY

Did you feel up to the task or, like Moses, a bit inadequate to it?

JESUS

Well, I did not know what the task was, but no, that kind of question did not occur to me.

[brief interim]

JERRY

Mark, in the very next verse, says 'the Spirit immediately drove [you] out into the wilderness,' where you were 'tempted by Satan.

JESUS

Well, that is overly dramatic and conflates different events. I was not " driven" into the wilderness, but I prayed, and I often withdrew to pray and I guess people thought that was odd. I guess I was rather intense about it, and maybe that is why they say I was "driven." 

I was not especially tempted. Temptations had never been very powerful with me. Others have added that because it made sense to them, but it was not part of my experience.

[brief interim]

JERRY

John was arrested and you began proclaiming 'the good news of God,' and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

JESUS

Yes, John had been arrested, and it came to me that I should carry on his message. This was the same message that John had been preaching--about the Kingdom of God, and that the time was near, and the need for repentance. That is what he was preaching about the day I was baptized.

[brief interim]

JERRY

It is such a puzzling phrase to many of us--'the Kingdom of God.

JESUS

It shouldn't be puzzling. It is perfectly plain--isn't it? The Kingdom of God is the presence of God in your heart. That is the fulfillment of His promise to you. That is the greatest gift, the greatest riches, the greatest reward. And of course it was and is at hand, within easy--or perhaps not so easy--grasp.

 

But I don't mean merely that the spirit of God is always available, though that is true, but this was an unusual time in the history of the world. The preparations had been made, the table had been set, for the next step in God's revelation. This message built on two thousand years of Jewish religious experience, and it was another piece in the pattern of God's revelations to people around the world.

[brief interim]

JERRY

What do you mean, the table had been set?

JESUS

The Jews had been taught obedience, and they had been chastised by the Prophets when they failed of obedience. The idea that the right relationship to God is based on placing obedience to God above all else, above all worldly concerns, is the prerequisite.

[brief interim]

JERRY

What happens once the right relationship is established?

JESUS

God's love comes flooding in. Obedience establishes the conduit for receiving and being filled with God's love. That was my message, that was John's message, that remains an important message today.

[brief interim]

JERRY

And the part about repentance?

JESUS

You cannot receive God's love--you cannot have it flood your soul--until you put aside other attachments. Love is a two-way street. If all your desires are toward possessions and material things, and pleasures of the flesh and of the ego, then you are closed to God. Obey the Lord and you will be filled with His spirit. That is what the Jews had learned. John and I were simply putting the exclamation point on the sentence.

[music]

JERRY

Mark says you saw Simon and his brother casting a net into the sea and said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fish for people.' And then you called other followers.

JESUS

Yes, that is right. Don't pay too much attention to the chronology in these accounts. Nobody was keeping track in those days. But one of the things you do as a preacher is to recruit adherents, people who can help spread the message--and help with the myriad tasks involved in traveling around and preaching to large crowds.

JERRY

Why these particular individuals?

JESUS

They were ready and open and willing. They were called.

JERRY

Is being called something very special?

JESUS

In a sense, yes, but anyone who is sufficiently open is, in effect, called.

[music]

JERRY

Mark next says that you went to Capernaum and taught in the synagogue 'as one having authority.'

JESUS

Yes, I was a traveling rabbi and what you do is stop at each synagogue along the way and preach and teach and answer questions.

JERRY

But you taught with authority, 'not as the scribes'?

JESUS

Yes, I did teach "with authority," with a firm, direct sense of what the scriptures meant and what God's message was. I taught simply, honestly, and forthrightly, and people responded to that. The typical scribe or scriptural scholar tended to know the words but not the music and perhaps to be pedantic or show-offy.

[music]

JERRY

What about the story about the man with an unclean spirit, and you cast out the spirit?

JESUS

Yes, people are often infected with an evil side to their nature, as if something has taken hold of them, like Jung's "shadow self." It is possible to force a spiritual opening, to suddenly turn them, jerk them toward God, so that the evil side is drained, loses its power, and shrinks or withdraws.

[brief interim]

JERRY

Next is the story about Simon's mother-in-law, who had a fever, and you 'took her by the hand and lifted her up' and 'the fever left her.’

JESUS

Yes, mind and body are interrelated, and some diseases have a spiritual cause, and I can heal those. Virtually all diseases have a mental or spiritual component, and the right relation to God can help heal those or make people better able to cope with them.

JERRY

Then people started bringing 'all who were sick or possessed' and you 'cured many' and 'cast out many demons.

JESUS

Yes, of course. In a way, that interfered with my ministry, since my mission was not to heal the sick but to open people's souls. But it also helped the ministry since it spread my fame.

[music]

JERRY

In the second chapter, Mark tells about the incident where you say to a paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' The scribes think: 'This is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?' You are quoted as saying that indeed 'the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.'

JESUS

Yes, that is a true incident. The man was presented to me for healing, but I saw that he was troubled by his sins and his feeling of guilt, which is itself among the sins, and that this was the more important matter, so I told him that his sins were forgiven.

JERRY

Did that mean that you had the power to forgive sins?

JESUS

No, the rest of the story isn't quite right. I told him, correctly, his sins were forgiven. The model of forgiveness is not quite right. Past sins do not have to be " forgiven." They have to be released, lifted.

If you wrong a man (person), only he (or she) can forgive that wrong. 

 

One would think that if you break one of God's commandments, only God can forgive. But two factors modify this equation. First, as soon as a person opens his (or her) soul, their past is " forgiven." It doesn't have to wait for an act of God or a word from me. All I was doing was reporting the fact to this unfortunate man.

 

Second, sins are not so much wrong actions to be forgiven as conditions of the soul that have to be healed or mended. If you used to be a drunk, for example, no one--not even God--has to forgive you for that. If, having given up drink, you feel guilty about having once been a drunk, that guilty feeling is a sin and needs to be expiated. 

 

Some are addicted to the crime-and-punishment model of sin, and of course they were and are offended by my attitude.

[music]

JERRY

There was a complaint about you and your disciples not fasting.

JESUS

The complaint that I and my disciples did not always keep traditional religious restrictions is true.

 

There are many ways to be obedient to God. We were being obedient. We were not flouting religious rules out of disrespect, but simply because they were not part of our worship or mission. Sometimes we were celebrating our fellowship, not to satisfy fleshly desires, but to enjoy and honor one another in the context of doing God's work. That is why I answered with the analogy of the bridegroom at a wedding.

JERRY

According to Mark, Jesus says, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?" And then, "The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.”

JESUS

The bit about not being with them later was enhanced after my death. The other quotes about new cloth in old garments and new wine in old wineskins are from other occasions. I would use these simple images to make different points at different times, but roughly the message was that forms of worship must be responsive to one's current contact with God.

[interim]

JLM

"Next your disciples are accused of violating the Sabbath. After citing a biblical precedent, you make the striking statement, 'The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath,' and conclude with the overreaching claim that 'the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.'"

JESUS

 

Read more about this term, "Son of Man," and then we can discuss it. Meanwhile, just keep it in mind that this is one way of saying, 'a person who is in attunement with God.' Respecting the sabbath may be one way of being in attunement with God, but it is not the only way.

[interim]

JERRY

Chapter 3 begins with another apparent violation of the holy day. Here you looked at your critics 'with anger' and were 'grieved at their hardness of heart.' I find it disturbing when you display these very human emotions, some of which, such as anger, we expect a spiritual person to rise above.

JESUS

Remember that anger is not always a vice. Appropriate anger is a virtue. And, yes, I was a human being and certainly felt sensations such as hunger and emotions such as anger.

[interim]

JERRY

Mark 3:28-29 quotes you as saying that 'whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.' You said that sins do not have to be 'forgiven' but perhaps sins against the Holy Spirit are sins that keep God at bay.

JESUS

Yes, that is correct.