The Spiritualization of Jesus
We must understand Jesus as a growing and developing human being like every other human being in order for his spiritualization to be meaningful to humanity. There were episodes where Jesus made errors and misunderstood his relationships to some of those people around him. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus had a limited understanding of his purpose and he even expressed this to those around him, such as— “I have been sent to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:21-28). A poor woman compared herself to a dog in order to show her understanding and faith just to receive his acknowledgment. Others saw him grow and develop as a human being—toiling at work as others worked, learning patience, humility, strength of mind and strength of will. He ate and drank with those who would later take advantage of him, and at times he was unable to say “no” to those who would harm him. Only through his personal trials and doubts could he learn how to overcome the false humility that often comes early in a spiritual journey.
Eventually we have to understand that if he was God incarnate, he would have had unlimited ability to overcome the smallest human obstacles, yet he stumbled as all humans stumble. The ways in which he overcame sin would be rendered meaningless to those who looked to him as the way to truth and enlightenment. Like many great spiritual leaders, his message and his ministry were undermined and distorted by those who followed him. They chose to see his ministry in a framework that overlooked the personal nature of his teaching; they failed to understand how that teaching was meant to demonstrate the individual nature of every person’s salvation and enlightenment. To make Jesus God incarnate is to diminish God, and diminish our ability to understand the need for human freedom, the need for that freedom to grow and develop fully in human beings. Would God create a universe of beings without freedom to choose the direction of their lives—condemning them to hell unless they became purposeless beings, constantly repeating a monotonous refrain of uniformity and sameness? What a boring, self-serving and narcissistic God that would be! But even those who criticize these kinds of errors are caught in a similar understanding of God, unable to advance their thought beyond ancient formulations based on human capacities and strengths.