The Eternal Now
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
To understand the revelation of God in Jesus we have to know or see Jesus differently from popular religious characterizations of him. Jesus has become objectified, and thus many have sought to explain his life and teachings from a limited concept of perfection. Objectified concepts of perfection fall short of the true revelation manifest in Jesus. There are some things the early writers understood and interpreted correctly— primarily that Jesus was a human being of special ability and power. Of all the things we need to understand and know about Jesus, we have to start with this understanding and then it is up to us to respond to what happened inside of him and what was done to him as a human being as he lived. Ironically, many who reject the notion of Jesus as fully human, those who consider him God, miss out on the depth and meaning of his divinity. They think that their “high” Christology gives proper reverence to him, yet it is the “low” Christology, his humanness—remember his reference to the least—that actually captures his purpose and role in the world and in our lives.
Remember, a key error in understanding Jesus is understanding time only as chronological. Eternity, the eternal, though defined as an infinitely long chronology of events, is better understood as a state of being that can be described as the cosmic present. The cosmic present contains everything that is the cause and everything that creates the experience, plus the result. Cosmic present, eternal now, it does not matter how we use words to describe this phenomenon. Time is a construct of the human mind to create order out of multiple and overlapping events. Hindus and Buddhists often use the word “unfolding” to describe the process: like a cloud that billows—flows out—and at the same time collapses into itself, a cyclic process that is both creative-appearing and deconstructive-disappearing.
Jesus—the power and presence of his compassion, God within him and he within God—unfolded before the eyes of those in his presence. This human being—in a cosmic moment—revealed God. The human mind of those who witnessed his being—unable to comprehend everything seen in that cosmic moment—could only fix on one aspect of the experience at a time, and then the minds of many individuals attempted to place those events in a chronological sequence. Some would see only the material aspect of his life and consider him delusional, zealous, prophetic, and fully human. Others caught sight of his divinity and saw the oneness with God, the incarnate presence, and the unconditional love expressed during the Passion, and they declared him to be God. Jesus did not make this claim. Look carefully at the record of his words and look carefully at what others said about Jesus—even those who wrote the Gospels, the letters of Paul, and other texts that appeared after his life on earth. Did he not say that God was within every human being? Does it not also follow that all of creation is within God?
To say that Jesus was divine does not mean that Jesus was God. To say that Jesus is divine does not mean that the destiny of all other human beings is to remain materially human and separated from God. To say that others can also manifest the divine does not diminish what has been revealed in Jesus. There are many errors of intellect and faith that prevent people from understanding Jesus. To avoid those errors one must walk the path that he walked: to bear witness to truth, to overcome the illusory aspects of the material world, to live authentically one’s purpose, to embody compassion through words and actions. Yes, there will be suffering, but not all are required to suffer the same passion as Jesus. Through his suffering we learn to understand our suffering, through the giving of his life we learn to give our lives to the highest purpose, through his devotion to God we learn how devotion to God strengthens us, through his bearing witness to the truth we learn to trust that seeking truth will lead us to God. We can move toward God by pursuing truth, but we progress more rapidly when we combine our search for truth with devotion to the one God.