The Lightworker’s Temptation: Who are my Sisters and Brothers? (The Gospel of John, chapter 7)

Note: I will be resuming our Bible Study of the Gospel of John. Here’s post #39. (You may read all the back-posts on file for the Bible study to catch up, if you like). We will move on to the next chapters of John, soon.

Gospel of John #39: Text John 7: 1-9 is reproduced below

This passage in the Gospel of John, which emphasizes Jesus’s miracles or signs, shows that Jesus is a lightworker. Possessing the capacity for miracle and prophecy, he guards this capacity carefully. Just as lightworkers, in our own times, must be careful as to their purposes in making use of supernatural gifts, so Jesus here must be careful not to misuse his gifts. His own brothers tempt him to make use of his divinely bestowed powers, wrongly, for the sake of publicity and political gain.

Temptation

In this passage, the brothers of Jesus entice him to go to Jerusalem to “show yourself to the world” (7:4). Since the Jews wish to kill Jesus in Judea (whose capital is Jerusalem), Jesus’s brothers are positioned in this story as the bad guys, who do not believe in Jesus (v.5); instead, they wish to see him killed. Their suggestion that Jesus show himself to “the world” flies in the face of Jesus’s refusal, in the previous chapter, to become a King with a public following on a worldly stage.

Echoing Satan’s temptation, that Jesus should take command of the world as a ruler over many kingdoms, the brothers show their ignorance of Jesus’s true mission. Jesus’s mission is to work miracles, in generosity and by serving human freedom, on behalf of his friends and disciples. But, his kingdom is not of this world.

The Lightworker’s Choice

Like Jesus, lightworkers face temptations by false friends, who may betray them. Even the church itself may label lightworkers as magicians, witches, or subversive entities. Lightworkers must be discerning so as to ally themselves with friends who may assist them to channel their gifts in life-giving directions.

The brothers of the flesh, who are false friends of Jesus in duplicity, stand in contrast to Jesus’s true friends and family in spirit. When Jesus does finally go up to Judea, he stops in nearby Bethany (John 11), where he finds Lazarus, his “brother” in discipleship, and Mary and Martha, his sisters. These friends of Jesus are his true family, because they believe in Jesus’s divine stature and his capacity to do the works of God, even by raising the dead.

Historical Choice Point: Jesus and the Church

Who are the brothers of Jesus in the Gospel of John? According to Matthew, Jesus’s brothers are as follows: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matt 13:55). It is possible that the term “brothers” means natural brothers or instead kin or cousin. The brothers are included among the believers in Acts 1:14.

James, the brother of Jesus, was the leader of the Jerusalem Church, who was martyred in 62 CE. (For the martyrdom as described by the Jewish historian Josephus, see this article: James Marytrdom Josephus.) The apostle Paul (Gal 1:18-2:10) names James among the pillars of the church in Jerusalem. This James may be the same as the James to whom the Lord appeared after his resurrection (1Cor 15:7).

If it is James who is featured among the brothers in John 7:1-9, then possibly the Gospel of John opposes the Jerusalem Church. (For Robert Eisenstein’s thesis on Jesus’s brother James, see this summary review:  Eisenstein on James brother of Jesus).There are three people named James among Jesus’s early followers, named in the New Testament. (See: Three James in NT).

Lightworkers

Like Jesus, lightworkers may stand in a tense relationship toward organized churches. Nevertheless, their true community may be found among their friends, who are doing works of light and love. This community of friends, like the community in Bethany around Lazarus, will sustain lightworkers to perform works of love and light.

John 7:1-9

7 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. 2 Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; 4 for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 (For not even his brothers believed in him.) 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. 8 Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

Happy Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day: July 22

Hello All,

Happy Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day, July 22!  Notice from these passages in the Gospels that Mary Magdalene is :

  1. Witness at the Cross
  2. At the tomb
  3. Witness/Apostle to the Resurrection (the first to see the Risen Jesus)
  4. In some traditions, she is exorcised of demons by Jesus – and she may have been among the women who supported Jesus financially

Here are the relevant passages:

MARK 15:40, 47:

After death of Jesus and revelation of Jesus as Son of God, Mary Magdalene comes on the scene as WITNESS

39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[c] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome.

See also Matthew 27:56

Then Mary Magdalene sees where Jesus is laid in the tomb:

46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

See also Matthew 27:61

BURIAL : ANOINTING

Mark 16:1, 9:Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.

FIRST WITNESS TO RESURRECTION

16:9: When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.

See also Matthew 28:1

And Luke 8:2

This verse elaborates on Mary Magdalene’s exorcism: She is accompanying Jesus, perhaps among those women who provide for Jesus financially (8:3)

8:2 “as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out”

Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their resources.

The Gospel of John elaborates the role of Mary Magdalene:

At the cross:

John 19:25 – “And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

At the tomb, where she meets the Risen Jesus

John 20:1 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”

(John omits burial anointing by Mary but includes tomb scene– see the entire dialogue in John 20)

John 20:11 “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb”

Witness to the Risen Jesus

John 20:18: “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Come Alive !: The Secret and Life Abundant

Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

The Secret, the 2007 mega bestseller by Rhonda Byrne, provokes divided reactions. The basic message of this book — and the accompanying DVD – can be life-affirming. The teaching of The Secret, it may be argued, resonates with the teachings of Jesus in some respects. Both support people to come alive in ways that are natural to our hearts, given our unique talents and desires.

Contrary to the message of the New Testament, however, The Secret can encourage rank materialism, which deviates from moral or generous aims.

Life Abundant

In the New Testament, we are to enjoy life abundant (John 10:10) by making use of our gifts for the benefit of all.  If we follow our goals and dreams, according to The Secret, while envisioning success with faith and right intention, then life will assist their realization. Surely, from a spiritual perspective, our hopes and goals for life — which make us come alive — ought to be respected and nourished. If we come fully alive, then we can assist the world likewise to be alive. The Secret may be a tool toward this end.

Many believe themselves to be prisoners or victims in life. The Secret offers those who feel like victims tools for self efficacy, so that they may chart their own destiny. Similarly, the teachings of the New Testament–for instance, concerning prayer– give us power to decide our fate and our happiness while assisted by an infinite and creative intelligence.

Morally Dubious and Deluded

Some, however, criticize the concept of the law of attraction, which is substantially the message of The Secret, as being simplistic or even deluded. (See, for instance, this critique: Mark Manson The Secret.) The empire behind The Secret, furthermore, has been riven by law suits, arguments, and betrayal, thus seeming to vitiate the message of ethically rigorous and pure-minded positivity, championed by its architects. (On lawsuits, see: Lawsuits and the Secret NYTimes and The Australian Critique Rhonda Byrne.)

Testimonials: Benefits in People’s Lives

Those who are inspired by The Secret, however, attest that its message has helped them to change their lives. Proponents and converts report that they wake up through this book to the reality that they are no longer victims in their lives but instead creators of them. The Secret restores our personal power, as one advocate describes, which is endowed by God.  (See, for instance: How the Secret Changed the Life of Jewel     Manifesting Goals and Spirituality.)

What gives people hope about this message is its affirmative vision of life. What if life is actually amenable, malleable, and responsive to our deepest desires, aspirations, goals and wishes? Whether our desire be for a wonderful love relationship, for financial success, for healing, or for the capacity to carry out a humanitarian project, The Secret affirms that these desires are good and may be realized so long as we remain focused and positive in our approach to realizing them.

Furthermore, if life can be trusted to carry us forward toward self-realization, then we need not struggle by pushing against the current of life. Instead, we may jump into the life stream and let it carry us to our highest good.

Conclusion

The Secret can, indeed, encourage wishful thinking and a superstitious fear of negativity. The emphasis, in the movement around it, on material goals may lead to ethically dubious results.

Yet, in a different way, the message of this book confirms the gospel promise of life abundant. The gospel message says that life is generous and abundant. Our individual goals and dreams may be realized through right intention and faith. After all, God cares for each of us. We are guided, easily and joyously, toward the glory of our own flowering and fulfillment — like the lilies of the field which neither toil nor spin.

 

 

Rebirth into Joy, Dying to Perfectionism

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Gospel of John #38 : John 6: 52b-53; “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.John 6: 60-64 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.”

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Who can accept that Jesus (infused with the Spirit of God) should die and his flesh and blood be ingested by the disciples? Or that we, in imitation of Jesus, must “die” to the flesh, ourselves, in order to be reborn in the Spirit? How may we understand this death and rebirth, a doctrine that lies at the center of Christian spirituality?

I will discuss this death/rebirth dynamic, first, as it pertains to our spiritual lives and secondly, as it pertains to the life of Jesus, who models the way to God.

Death and Rebirth in our Spiritual Lives

Our own death to the self can be experienced as a rebirth into joy and wellbeing, particularly if the self that needs to die is constructed of painful tendencies and destructive personality dynamics.

Many are consumed by self-criticism, for instance, which leads to depression. We seek that “perfect” life and a fully meritorious way of being in the world. The vulnerability of Life seems like a rude error.  Denying the prospect of suffering, failure, injustice, or struggle, we desperately try to create a facade of perfection, which becomes a counterfeit self, a false identity. (See this article: Perfectionism and Depression)

The false self– which is enslaved to counterfeit values (such as criticism and perfectionism)– can lead to death. Where there’s excessive criticism, which is neither constructive nor conducive to growth, how can we love?  Once we are impeded in love, we lose joy and well-being –which, in turn, can make us sick and die in the soul. The soul’s death leads to disease in the body.

If we are courageous enough to allow the false self to die– and its perfectionism and criticism to be demolished– we may enter more fully into the life of God (who is Life and Love). The death of the false self may hurt; one may even mourn this imposter once he or she is gone. New Life takes the place of death, however, a LIFE that is without boundaries. We then honor LIFE itself in whatever guise that Life takes and in whatever form that Life shows up. In short, the death of the false self liberates our lives so that we may be taken up in Spirit–in a kind of ascension of our own–to experience life in God.

The Death of Jesus

As this passage in John indicates, to accept the difficult teaching (that Jesus must die and be consumed) is to honor the Son of Man, while the one who does not believe (namely, Judas) betrays him.

Difficult teaching: Jesus Christ claims that one must ingest his very body as bread and drink his blood, in order to discover the life of God within oneself. This suggestion of cannibalism (see previous post in this series #37) is offensive to his audience.  Death is implied as a preliminary to this feast.

If Jesus is merely a human being, then he commits blasphemy (as his accusers suppose) for his claim of being not just a prophet (like Moses whose people received bread in the desert) but instead of the same substance as the Father God, i.e. “the heavenly bread”. Jesus claims union with God which would be offensive for a mere mortal (according to his accusers).

If Jesus is in fact divine, then it is difficult to understand how the divine (who is Spirit) must die like a human being in order for his flesh to be consumed. What a bizarre notion! That one should feed on the body of God and drink his blood. Gods do not normally have bodies.

Death of God as a Model for our own Spiritual Death and Rebirth

Consider, though, what we gain when we ingest the body and blood of Christ. The false self having fallen away, we feed upon an expanded awareness of divine Life as a spiritual reality, beyond the boundaries of the flesh or the ego (the false self).

As Rumi the poet says, the thing that seems most bizarre and difficult may be a guide from beyond to be welcomed, the Messenger who brings a gift to the guest house. In the guesthouse, which is our hearts, we relish the joy of Life however Life shows up. Such is Life in the Spirit: abundant and omnipresent.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,