If we are created in the image of God, and if, metaphorically, our bite from the apple of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was just an intended and natural part of our awakening and growing up as humans, then there really was no utterly damning fall of humanity and there is no such thing as blanket original sin. Ergo, there is no universal need for atonement – least of all blood atonement, the topic for another day. But popular Christianity has made that the whole point of Jesus and the Bible. So if not that, then what? Who is Jesus?
This is just plain painful. There is so much clutter in American Christianity. Jesus, in the current culture, is more likely to be associated with the right to carry a gun than he is with the feeding of the five thousand and certainly than he is with the elevation of women or social outcasts and religious minorities (the lepers and Samaritans in his day). There are hot air balloons in the shape of Jesus and portraits of Jesus that have changed to fit popular perceptions and religious movements of all kinds, from tough guy to Jesus freak. “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I’ve got my plastic Jesus . . . .” WWJD indeed!
Son of God? The common title for a king. Son of Man? The common title for what? Second person of the Trinity? An entirely human concept created by a council to satisfy certain theological and political needs.
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” You will recall that, word for word, the same was said of Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam several thousand years before Christ. What does it mean?
Let’s keep it simple. The net effect of getting rid of the fall and focusing on our creation in the image of God is that it elevates the view of humanity – something up from worm to more, say, human. Jesus himself, over and over, said that when we act like children of God, we are children of God. And the people that he recognizes as brothers and sisters are not the ones that say to him, “Lord, Lord.” They are the ones that breathe the breath of God, that choose willingness over willfulness, that have become in action and spirit the instruments of peace and healing that they were created to be.
And when we strip away the clutter we have piled on Jesus, he is, surprise surprise, a child of God. Hmmm. . . . Jesus a child of God. You and I, children of God. Have I just demeaned Jesus? Have I just blasphemed by making us into little gods? From the age old perspective of the fall and blood atonement – the perspective that can only see the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – indeed I have. But sit with this for a little, and listen to the voice of Jesus without the static of the ages. Consider honoring the poor man by just, for once, honoring his call to grow up and, as he chose so consistently, to do the will of God. Be the brother or sister this good man suggested you are.
What does it mean to be the way, the truth and the life? Let me suggest that it simply means to be the path that leads from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to the Tree of Life. It means to shine a light of truth and recognition on the shock and fear, attachments and repulsions of our awakening to the experience, possibilities and limitations of our humanity. And then it means to extend the call and to offer to walk side-by-side on the path that leads away from the temptation and delusion of willful control over these things, and toward willing and active participation in the eternal creative goodness for which we were intended.
Jesus is, indeed, the way, the truth and the life. So are you and I when we choose to join the path before us to the Tree of Life. Who is divine? Who is a human? Those are questions of the judging realm of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is neither elevation nor diminution under the Tree of Life. There is only openness and action in the spirit of willingness. Follow the path. Be the path.
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