Healing (the Christ within)

Gospel of John #31

Today we continue our bible study series with another healing story (John 5:1-16).  (See the text, reproduced below, at the end of this post).

The healing miracles of Jesus are prominent in the Gospel of John. They demonstrate that  the human person is essentially spiritual and always capable of renovation. An encounter with the living God brings one into dynamic harmony, which results in healing.

Notable in this healing story:

*The man at Bethsaida has been waiting for 38 years for someone to push him into the pool, so that he may be healed.

*Jesus comes and simply commands that he get up and walk and he does so. The pool’s mediation is not necessary.

*The message, here, is that the Christ-power, the life-force, is within oneself and can propel wellness and change, once it is activated. This inherent dynamism within the human being regenerates and heals.

As to the actual plot line of this healing story:

In this passage, the healing miracle, which takes place at the pool in Bethsaida, opens the section of the Gospel in which Jesus’s antagonists (the religious authorities) initiate a plot against him. Because Jesus heals on the Sabbath, and the man healed identifies Jesus as the culprit, the leaders begin to pursue and persecute him.

The story stylistically makes a contrasting pair with John 9. While the healed man in John 5 shows little recognition of Jesus’s stature as holy man — after he is healed–the man in John 9, who is cured of blindness, is willing to speak out on behalf of Jesus, proclaiming him to be the Son of Man (a title which indicates Jesus’s status as appointed by God).

Indeed, the healed man in John 5 –consciously or not– ends up betraying Jesus. This man has committed some sin (v. 15) while the man born blind in John 9 is innocent.

The man at the pool has been sick for 38 years — a number symbolic of Israel’s trials in the wilderness. His lassitude and helplessness are on display, when he complains that nobody is willing to give him a small push into the pool so that he may become well.

Jesus bypasses the healing pool. His own authority — as the fountain of life (see John 4) –surpasses all healing pools.

How does this story speak to us? The message is about fidelity and trustworthiness. Let’s say we are healed and we do receive the life for which we have yearned for a long period. Finally, we are released from captivity. If we go along forward, without blessing and thanking the source of our Life, who liberated us, shall cynicism then cause us to fall back again into a similar plight?

The man’s mind-set lacks perfect faith insofar as he resumes his physical life while compromising his moral life. He betrays Jesus, who has given him life. A healing that does not result in a changed consciousness and a moral renovation may offer a physical extension of life but the true life — in terms of one’s attitude and standing before God – can be unchanged.

“Pick up your mat and walk” : where have you been restored to life?

The Healing at the Pool: John 5: 1-15
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.

Free Download – New Thought Jesus (Thomas Troward 1918): There is no Condemnation in God

In his book (1918) Bible Mystery and Bible Meaning, the new thought metaphysician Thomas Troward describes the incarnation of God and crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a divine act of devotion and reconciliation.

Here is the chapter as a free download: Troward Jesus. And for his biography, see Troward Biography.

For Troward, the creative power of our own thought gives rise to all of our experience, both subjective and objective.  The divine is the universal mind. The feeling quality of our thoughts determines our rapport with divine and universal principles.  The quality of our world, our happiness, and our success in life flow from the universal and divine mind — so long as our own minds (including our feelings, our thoughts, our motives) do not impede its forever forthcoming generosity.

If we are guilty, we thwart this divine flow, for we project a punishing world. If we are fearful, the world becomes fearsome. When fear gets implanted in our consciousness, intractably, the fear enlarges itself and multiplies like a cancer, eventually devouring not only our earthly lives but even our afterlife. We expect to suffer for our misdeeds.  Guilt-ridden, we give obeisance to a vengeful deity, who metes out punishments and purgatories, supervising us while keeping count of our errors and sins.

How may our ravages of guilt be expunged, and our fears be eradicated? How may the forbidding specter of a vindictive deity be stamped out? And how may we rob this deity of his arsenal, containing menacing images (fiery lakes, wailing, gnashing of teeth), so that they cease to torment our psyche?

The human being craves an image of Divine Love — a Suggestion (in Troward’s words) — that will be forceful enough to overpower the deep-seated Suggestion of guilt and punishment.

God is eternal and deathless. God, the one who is not required to die — nor to suffer –voluntarily submits (by the crucifixion) to suffering and death. The incarnation (namely, that the deity takes the form of a human being, i.e. Jesus) demonstrates God’s compassionate and empathic embrace of the human being, the very human whom God created in God’s own image.  Not content merely to enter into human experience, God makes himself a victim, a prisoner, and a hostage to the most fearsome and gruesome punishment that can be conceived. On the cross, the deity through Jesus Christ grapples with the fear and guilt that inevitably counter pain and condemnation.

This sacrifice on God’s part is an act of consummate love for it eradicates the thing that humans most fear: punishment, guilt, fear, and the image of a wrathful, vindictive god.

How does the divine sacrifice cut off, and cast away, this burdensome segment of the human predicament? By suffering with us (so I infer from Troward’s exposition), God demonstrates that the divine character is not such as to punish and impute guilt. Rather Christ forgives and suffers undeserved indignities with an innocent and pure motive.

“If the Universal Spirit could thus inspire one to die for us who was already beyond the necessity of death, then It cannot be less loving in the bulk than it has shown Itself in the sample.”  Here, Troward interprets the crucifixion as proof (citing St Paul) that “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” and “if God be for us, who can be against us?”

The “great Sacrifice” of God through Jesus Christ serves to link the human mind to the divine and universal mind by bonds of trust, devotion, and gratitude. All of our human life prospers when our core attitudes are renovated based on this example of divine love.

 

 

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NFL Protests and early Christian Martyrs

Hello All,

Peaceful protest, and the right to dissent, are encoded in our democratic constitution. The NFL controversies (see: NYTimes on NFL ) are sparking new debates about this freedom. Where does peaceful protest, such as the NFL players demonstrate by kneeling rather than standing during patriotic anthems, constitute a healthy freedom? Where do such gestures undermine civic unity and become disloyal or unpatriotic?

From a Christian standpoint, similar democratic rights are enshrined in early Christian accounts. The Roman governor Pliny the Younger (in 112 CE) wrote to the Roman emperor Trajan about disciplinary problems, in his territories, concerning  Christians (see: Pliny’s Letter on Christians ) who confess to being Christian. Pliny wants to know whether the mere name of Christian is sufficient to be deemed a crime or whether it is only crimes (in conjunction with this self-appellation) that may give cause for legal suspicions. The Christians are innocent in their practices (see Pliny’s description of their practices below). What then gave the Romans reason to criminalize Christianity? Such that to belong to this sect (this “superstition”) would constitute a crime?

As the martyrdom accounts show, it was the Christian refusal to offer obeisance and sacrifices to the emperor that incurred civil rebuke. Christians made peaceful protests against what they viewed as monarchic abuses in the Roman imperial regime. They offered worship to God alone not to a human ruler.

The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, a second century text, exhibits in stock scene the trial of early Christian martyrs who refused to offer obeisance or sacrifices to the emperor. (See excerpt below).

As a country, the USA was founded upon democratic protests against monarchic abuses. Surely, the people ought to exercise these freedoms, while our president could squarely confront rather than punishing such critique. Christianity was founded upon a similar right to critique authoritarian regimes while offering devotion to God alone.

From the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felictas : Hilarianus the governor, who had received his judicial powers as the successor of the late proconsul Minucius Timinianus, said to me: ‘Have pity on your father’s grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors.’ ‘I will not’, I retorted. ‘Are you a Christian?’ said Hilarianus. And I said: ‘Yes, I am.’ When my father persisted in trying to dissuade me, Hilarianus ordered him to be thrown to the ground and beaten with a rod. I felt sorry for father, just as if I myself had been beaten. I felt sorry for his pathetic old age. Then Hilarianus passed sentence on all of us: we were condemned to the beasts, and we returned to prison in high spirits.

From Pliny’s Letter: re Early Christian practices.

That they were wont, on a stated day, to meet together before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god, alternately; and to oblige themselves by a sacrament [or oath], not to do anything that was ill: but that they would commit no theft, or pilfering, or adultery; that they would not break their promises, or deny what was deposited with them, when it was required back again; after which it was their custom to depart, and to meet again at a common but innocent meal, which they had left off upon that edict which I published at your command, and wherein I had forbidden any such conventicles. These examinations made me think it necessary to inquire by torments what the truth was; which I did of two servant maids, who were called Deaconesses: but still I discovered no more than that they were addicted to a bad and to an extravagant superstition.

 

 

 

 

Miracle/ Healing (and worthiness)

Gospel of John #30 : John 4:49-54

Hello All,

Today we continue our bible study series with a healing story. (See the text, reproduced below, at the end of this post). Here is a brief analysis of why self-worth and worthiness are essential to healing. In fact, what the New Testament calls “faith” can be equated, often, with our notion of worthiness, a worthiness to  stand before God.

The opposite of such faith – or worthiness – is guilt. Guilt involves the expectation of punishment. One projects upon God an image of a wrathful persecutor, who would withhold the gift of life, love, and healing, because of one’s wrong-doing.

Consider somebody you love. It is likely that your love is nourished by an assurance that with this person, you are free to be yourself. If you hold yourself back, because of guilt or shame about who you are, then you will block the love offered to you, inasmuch as you will hold back your own fullest and most natural self-expression.

Worthiness, then, – the conviction that you, indeed, are good enough to reveal who you are and to be loved for who you are – has a great deal to do with one’s capacity for love — both in receiving and giving.

One may glimpse this definition of faith, as a kind of worthiness, in the religious autobiography of Martin Luther, the religious reformer. In his early years, while undergoing grueling spiritual exercises as a Catholic monk (by fasting, prayer, and asceticism), Luther continued to feel hounded by guilt, low self-worth, and by the angry face of God. He commented, “When it is touched by this passing inundation of the eternal, the soul feels and drinks nothing but eternal punishment.” : Martin Luther Article

Later he realized that righteous and good people can never reach God by spiritual exercises on their own. Instead, the faith is a gift from God, available to those of good and righteous intention. He commented, “Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

My purpose is not to advance a Lutheran interpretation of this biblical passage. In our own day, the doctrine of “by faith alone” (sola fides) can sometimes be just as tormenting as a religious exercises and penances had been in an earlier day. People may question themselves, “Am I REALLY full of faith? Do I really believe? Have I made the required confessions?”  Such self-doubt – and quibbles – land us into at least a diluted form of guilt and unworthiness.

Instead, let’s try it this way. Unload anything from your conscience that you need to unload. Make amends. Forgive. Give love. Then reach up to the sky, and declare, “I am worthy of Life! I am worthy of Love. I am willing to receive!”

This receptivity to life, the divine life, heals.

50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way.

Question: Where can you open your heart a little more in order to receive and be worthy of all that Life has for you?

John 4:49-54

49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live”; and he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

True Friendship

Friendship involves: promises, commitment, imagining a life together, taking on the burdens of your friend as your own, not only wishing but also working together for the best. If we remain superficially acquainted, we are never obliged to anybody nor do we ever grow and change through the power and possibility of love.

1. Here’s Montaigne on Friendship:

Michel de Montaigne on Friendship (1580)

2. Seth Godin on Friendship: a thought-provoking idea

Seth Godin on Faux Intimacy

3. David and Jonathan on friendship:

Jonathan and David on Friendship

Note the conclusion: “Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.”

4. Ruth and Naomi

Book of Ruth

Ruth and Naomi: One Perspective on their Friendship

5. Male- Female Friendships

6. Friendship between Men

7.  Friendship Between Women