November 4, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 2:23-25.
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.
I have come to understand that Jesus understood our human nature more than anyone ever has or will. Perhaps because he has been the only complete, whole person who had no secrets from himself or his Father. What does that mean? Sanford in The Kingdom Within has an insightful explanation of what this wholeness of Jesus entailed. He writes, “Looked at psychologically, the Gospels reveal the personality of a whole person. It is apparent that we have here in Jesus of Nazareth the paradigm of the whole person, the prototype of all human development, a truly individual person, and therefore someone unique….The personality and the teachings of Jesus are not inherited from the collective spirit of his time, but stand out in contrast to it….It seems that Jesus acquired his insights from a direct contact with a numinous power; that is, from God….Jesus’ personality and teachings are unique and not historically conditioned because they do not stem from a human source but are rooted in his consciousness of the inner world, through which comes his awareness of the holy God whom the prophets before him knew in part. From this came his individual consciousness, which eventually destroyed the collective, formalized religious structure of his time.” That’s why he did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong in Eternal Life: A New Vision, provides an overview of the development of man’s self-consciousness, which distinguishes us from all other living things. He writes, “With the advent of self-consciousness it became the nature of human beings to live in the constancy of anxiety and fear. Self-conscious creatures could no longer inhabit a one-dimensional present, as simply conscious creatures appeared to do. As today’s descendants of those early humans recognize, it takes enormous courage to be human. Self-consciousness places our emotional lives into the eternal status of perpetual overload.”
Why is that? He posits, “I would like to suggest that every human being does replicate the human journey of living things from consciousness into self-consciousness, and we do tend to relive the stages of human development and share in the traditional human struggles in search of meaning.” That reminds me of Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who was No. 119,104 in the concentration camp at Auschwitz and who wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning that he came to this realization in that experience, “The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
We each relive all the stages of human development in becoming self-conscious. We each struggle to find meaning and purpose in our lives. The secret that Frankl discovered is no secret at all. Jesus revealed to us that our salvation is through God’s love and in loving one another as we do ourselves. Loving one another seems to be the hard part, but loving ourselves comes first. We can’t really love God unless we love ourselves and love one another. They go hand in hand. Jesus showed us that the only way we can possibly hope to do that is to strive for wholeness, which only comes through self-consciousness and living in constant awareness of and direct contact with God. Wholeness means the good and the bad, the light and the dark, the strength and the weakness, the love and the hate that is inside all of us.
Jesus was fully human, but God led him through all the stages of human development and perfected him to become a complete, whole person — a self-conscious person who knew himself completely. When God had so prepared him, Jesus was ready to begin his mission. He was given God’s power to perform signs; he was able to understand human nature; he was able to love unconditionally because he trusted God unconditionally. He taught us by his life and his death that salvation lies in love — love of God, love of ourselves, and love of one another. That is where our search for meaning inevitably leads. Everything else is a dead end.