Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus' description of himself "I am the Good Shepherd" (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: "To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This article is from the March/April 2009 issue of Unity Magazine.One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is “What am I?” The answer determines our self-concept, which influences the boundaries of our personal growth and development.
Those who have embraced ancient wisdom teachings, such as Unity, accept that who and what we are is more than what can be seen with our physical eyes or described through the five senses. There is a part of us that can never be endangered or destroyed and is our true nature and being. It transcends our history, human lineage, and false concepts that we have accepted for ourselves. When we live from that awareness, we fulfill the life that God sees when God sees us. It is a life that reflects our divine purpose, in which we contribute our unique gifts and talents to our world.
One person who fully contributed his gift to the world and arguably fulfilled his divine purpose like no other before or since is Jesus the Christ. Yet we are reminded by the apostle Paul that if the Spirit that dwells in Christ Jesus is in you, you too will be lifted up (Rom. 8:11).
We drop the if off the statement because the Spirit that dwelled in Jesus or in any avatar throughout history does indeed dwell in us. We don’t just worship and believe in Jesus, we believe what he says—you are the light, and the kingdom of God is within. When we fully embody that truth, we will be lifted above any circumstance we may face or experience.
Death does not have the final word
The Easter story demonstrates that there is something within us that was here before we incarnated and remains after seeming death. Death is not the end of life, rather the continuation of the life process. Jesus proved this in the great demonstrations known as the resurrection and the ascension. Jesus’ essence was so spiritualized that he was able to say “the Father and I are one.” He was serving as a reminder that there is no separation between us and Spirit. It is the recognition that there is only God; all else is just an illusion.
Resurrection follows crucifixion. No life escapes this process. The Easter story is about an old way being crucifiedso something new can be born. This is not a
Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
once-in-a-lifetime event. When someone experiences a divorce, the death of a partner, loses a job, or experiences a shift in external circumstances, an old identity dies so a new one can be born.
We look to Jesus as a model for how to resurrect from our own crucifixion experiences. The Easter story is a reminder that no matter what seems to happen to us, it does not have the final word. We can look beyond appearances and recognize that there is a divine plan unfolding. Our task is to hold on to that vision until our life bears witness to truth that liberates us and sets us free.
Accessing the eternal dimension
In the Easter story, Jesus gives us clues on how to access this eternal dimension and spiritualize all aspects of our life. To help us with this process, we ask, What did he do? What was he thinking? What was his way of being in the world?
We start with the realization that he prayed all the time. He often stole away from the masses to keep his communion with Spirit high. He did this as a way of life and not just in an emergency. Nowhere in the Scriptures does it say, “There was an emergency and Jesus went to the mountain and prayed.” No. He prayed all the time and, as a result, when the big moments came, was “prayed up.”
Since he was in constant communion with the presence of God, when seeming betrayal in the form of Judas took place, Jesus was ready. Note: it was a seeming betrayal. Judas is often unjustly maligned. But without Judas sacrificing himself, Jesus would not be remembered today. Sacrifice means to
"The Judas Kiss", (Mark 14:45) by Gustave Doré. Judas kisses Jesus in order to betray him to the guards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
make sacred. Judas is often condemned as the one who loved Jesus the least. In fact, he may have been one who loved him more than anyone. He served as the catalyst for the glad surprise of the resurrection to take place.
For this purpose I was born
The King James Version of the Bible quotes Jesus as saying during the crucifixion experience, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” However, the Lamsa Bible translation suggests that the original Aramaic language does not say that. In the Lamsa Bible, Jesus says “It is for this purpose that I was born.” This suggests that Jesus was fully aware that this was his great moment. It was the moment he was waiting and preparing for all his life.
It’s like an Olympic champion who has prepared and trained for years to reach the final race and, just before the event, is asked, “How does it feel to be getting ready to perform before thousands of people in the stadium and millions watching on television?” And the athlete responds by saying, “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. I was doing all the things I needed to do to prepare for this moment—waking up and going to bed early, eating nutritious foods, practicing, lifting weights. All of that was for this moment.”
This was the case for Jesus and is the case in every moment of our life, when we realize that whatever we’re going through, we are not to shirk from any situation or circumstance that seems to overwhelm us. It is in such moments we are to remember who we are spiritually—we are spiritually made in the image and likeness and out of God. When we see from this vantage point, we will stand and say “For this purpose we were born.”
In other words, we can say this situation is an opportunity to go beyond our self-imposed boundaries. This opportunity is calling for the highest and best within us to shine as never before.
So we see the seeming betrayals in life from that vantage point and begin to practice a new way of being in the world. We no longer see ourselves as victims but as the vehicles of pure Spirit.
Resurrection follows forgiveness
Any resurrection is built on the consciousness of forgiveness. Only then can we see the gift in the seeming betrayals in life. When people or situations betray the pictures that we have in our mind of how things should be, that is when we must invoke the consciousness of forgiveness.
So we hear Jesus saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and examine its meaning. Perhaps surface mind is saying “Please, they knew exactly what they were doing.” Now I’m going to try to forgive them anyway because it’s the right thing to do. However, I’m not going to ever believe they didn’t know what they were doing (whoever they might be).
We can see the Jesus statement of “forgive them for they know not what they do” from a different perspective. Our critics or so-called enemies are really our best friends in disguise. Such people push us to new levels of being and make us do things we wouldn’t likely do without their assistance. Such people make us pray when we don’t want to or when we don’t have the spiritual discipline to do it on our own.
An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
At such moments, those people who seem to be against us don’t know what they’re doing. They’re actually making us become so large for God and access dimensions of our being that we would not be able to touch without their help. In fact, if they really knew how it was going to be so good for us, they wouldn’t do it. So we forgive them, for they didn’t really know what they were doing. They are supporting our own resurrection process and helping our life become fully supported by Spirit. We realize there is only God, and we don’t need anything else.
The now moment is what counts
To further augment our own resurrection and ascension process, there are additional things Jesus the Christ said on the cross. There were two thieves on either side of him, who represent the past and the future. One thief is living in the past when he says to Jesus, “I know I deserve what I’m getting because I know I’ve done a lot of negative things. However, you don’t deserve this, Jesus.” He identified with all the negative things he had done in the past. The other thief said to Jesus, “What’s going to happen to us after this experience?” This thief was lost in the future
However, Jesus being between the two thieves represents the vortex of creativity where heaven is revealed on earth. It represents the here and now. Jesus said “Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
Jesus is saying a couple of things to us. First, it is not the past that determines our current experience; it is our thought about the past determining our current experience. That’s because a thought cannot be in the past. If we have any thoughts moving through our mind—and we constantly do—they are right now affecting every aspect of our being—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Right now we’re either getting younger or aging, depending on what we’re giving our attention to. It’s not the past doing this; it’s our present thinking about the past that is affecting our life. Because we have the ability to name things, we can name it all good, even if we cannot see the good in it right now. When we do that, our life begins to immediately change because as within, so without.
Crosses above Lee Abbey The crosses (representing the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves) are used by the Lee Abbey community that owns the land for their Good Friday drama, but they appear to be left in place throughout the year. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Then there are those who hang out in the future worrying about what’s going to happen. They’re concerned about whether their plans are going to work out and projecting their thoughts about the future. But that thought of worry and doubt is in the now moment and becomes the experience they’d been worried about. Our present thinking is simply a sneak preview of our upcoming experiences. If we want to get an idea of what life is going be like, we simply have to look at what we’re thinking about right now.
By saying, “Now thou shalt be with me in paradise,” Jesus is seeking to bring our attention to the present moment. It is in the present moment that the Christ presence returns. When we realize that the Christ is not a person, but that part of God in all of us, we become fully aware that Jesus, the man, is not coming back. The Christ presence is within us and returns when we allow it to be the activity of our awareness. When we do, we live with awareness: That which is within us is greater than that which is in the world.
Pontius Pilate as a symbol of external circumstances
In the Easter story, Jesus and his experience with Pontius Pilate has a very symbolic meaning for us. When we read about the characters in the Bible, they represent something in or about us. The greatest value of the story is its spiritual rather than its historical significance—although there is history in it.
Pontius Pilate symbolizes the external circumstances that at times seem to be overwhelming. Pilate thinks he has power over Jesus and asks him several
An original card from the tarot deck of Jean Dodal of Lyon, a classic "Marseilles" deck. The deck dates from 1701-1715. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
questions. However, Jesus’ response is essentially that the power does not lie with Pontius Pilate, but with God. It didn’t matter what Pontius Pilate did, and ultimately he decided he didn’t want to be bothered, so washed his hands of the whole deal. Jesus in that moment was demonstrating that no situation, circumstance, or external authority figures had any power over him.
In your own life, you may be facing some kind of Pontius Pilate. There may be someone in your life who thinks they can control or manipulate you. You may have a boss who thinks he or she has the final say-so about your prosperity or happiness. People think that if they are in or out of your life, your joy is dependent upon them. You may have allowed them to think that. There may be all kinds of Pontius Pilates running around thinking that they have the final word on your life.
But having fully devoted yourself to God, you’ll say and do what you will; it does not matter. Whatever happens will pull the highest and best out of me because I’m going to sacrifice my littleness so my authentic Self will come through. A new birth is about to take place.
The message for our time
The entire universe is asking that we be our true selves. To do so, we must go within to that which is real, indestructible, has never been born, and can never die. Jesus talked about that when he said “call no one on earth your father.” There is but one Presence, and that Presence is within you. When our attention is on it, it begins to express as our life—our real life.
When we look at our world, we see the seeming betrayals. They are the modern-day crucifixion experiences—man’s inhumanity to man, wars and rumors of war, economic breakdowns, and the challenges we face across the planet. At times we may think it’s beyond hope and it will never get better.
However, it was for this purpose we were born. God transforms our world a little at a time by means of us. God needs us to shine God’s light to make this world a better place. When we let our light shine, we will rise above any crucifixion experience and the entire world will celebrate the Easter of our hearts and we will rise.
Easter is not merely the celebration of the life of Jesus. He reminds us that we are capable of doing even greater things than he did. We love and celebrate the master teacher by practicing his principles, living his teachings, and following his example. When we do, our life shines and glorifies the power, the presence, and the love of God. All of us emanate from that loving presence. When that is our self-concept, we will be able to say as Jesus did, “When you see me, you see the presence that sent me,” and you will experience Easter every day of your life.
Easter eggs (Photo credit: StSaling)