Sunday, April 20, 2014
Today is Easter for the Christian faith, a time of renewal as exemplified by the story of Jesus the Christ. The word "Easter" is not Christian but older than that and refers to the Mother Goddess Eostre of the Saxon people who lived in Northern Europe. Her name means spring. This goddess had a rabbit or hare for a companion, who magically laid colored eggs. This is one of those examples of how new faiths mingled with the previous faiths and took on some of their beliefs and customs.
It wasn't until about 30 years after Jesus' death that someone started writing down his story and it was 100 years before the story took on a definite form with details that everyone agreed upon. Reading and writing were not common in those days. How would your story be told 100 years from now? Each group who followed the teachings of Jesus told and interpreted the story in different ways. Even today the story is interpreted differently among Christians. But one thing about the story of Jesus' life and death have held true for all these centuries and that is the symbolic meanings in the story.
Let's look at the end of the story and the symbols we find there. After a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus the Christ and the Twelve Disciples celebrate a Passover dinner in the Upper Room. The name "Jesus" in Hebrew means "whose help Jehovah is." Christ is the "divine-idea man," that complete and magnificent pattern of our highest possibilities on the higher spiritual planes. Jesus the Christ represents God's divine idea coming into expression, the manifestation of intelligence, life, love, substance and strength. This is the point of Jesus' story. He told us over and over that we are all that divine-idea expressing and the Christ Light dwells in each of us.
The Twelve Disciples represent the twelve soul qualities that we have within us which are our responsibility to learn and express in our lives. John, for example, is Love; Andrew is Spiritual Strength; Peter is Faith; and Judas is Choice. I listed the Disciples and their qualities on the Weekly Spiritual Practice sheets for you to think about and integrate into your own lives.
Jerusalem, the Holy City, represents the place of the sacred heart where the union of the lower selves is consummated with the Higher Self. The spiritual Jerusalem is that place of unconditional love and peace, a place where we become whole, complete and perfect. Why did Jesus return to Jerusalem? He was ready for his ultimate and complete alignment and awakening into God.
The Upper Room is that higher state of mind that we immerse ourselves in when we think spiritual thoughts. With all these symbols, we know that this story is about renewal, spiritual renewal and the uplifting of our spiritual consciousness into God.
Why is Judas here at this moment in Jesus' life? You may remember it was Judas in the story who betrayed Jesus to the soldiers who arrested him. When we understand that Judas represents Choice, we can see more clearly. Now Choice can often bring us limitation that is we choose to limit ourselves. Judas - Choice is the foundation of all the twelve spiritual qualities and Judas in the story shows us there are consequences to every choice we make. Judas is a part of Jesus and he makes the choice to return to Jerusalem knowing the consequences. But Jesus the Christ rises above these consequences because they are nothing compared to the reality of what is happening to Jesus on the inner spiritual planes.
Jesus the man is becoming the full expression of Jesus the Christ. What a glorious message for us! We too are meant to become the full expression of God. We too can merge with the Christ Light. And we don't have to suffer those same consequences for we create our own through our choices.
After supper, Jesus takes his disciples with him to go to the Mount of Olives to the garden of Gethsemane and tells them to wait for him. He takes Peter, James and John, Faith, Love and Reason, with him while he goes off to pray. Any time a mountain is mentioned in a story it signifies going to a higher spiritual place. Gethsemane is that garden of the soul, where all the inner experiences are lived rather than just expressed. This is the inner place where we feel our experiences, that deep, deep place we all go where we use our Faith, Love and Reason to work through our challenges. The other qualities must rest in silence so we can work out the Truth. So the higher aspects of our heart and mind come together to reason out the Truth as they came together for Jesus that fateful night.
In living his inner experiences, knowing that he has already chosen certain consequences, Jesus tells the three disciples to wait for him and to pray and he goes further into the Garden, deeper into the inner world, beyond faith, beyond reason and even beyond love to something greater. While he is gone the three disciples fall asleep because Jesus does not need them now. He prays, "Abba, my father, take away the cup but only according to thy will." Jesus called God – Abba, my Father. The word "AB" means the center of spiritual life. It is an intimate expression representing a true and personal relationship with God. It is this intimate relationship with God that is one of Jesus' most profound teachings. Jesus is claiming his sonship with God, emphasizing for us that we are all Children of God.
The cup is "the receptacle of the spirit." Jesus is not saying to God to take the consequences away, but to remove his perceptions of the importance of everything material so that his spirit can go free. At the end of each of our lives we must release all that is of the physical world, our homes, our loved ones, all our possession, including our physical body, so that our spirits can soar again.
At the end of his meditation and prayers Jesus simply says, "It is finished." This is the true pivotal point of the story. Jesus recognizes at that moment that he is indeed a spiritual being and that nothing, not even death, can change this Truth. And he seals this Truth within him and releases his life back to God. "It is finished." I know who I really am down to every part of my being, heart, mind and soul. This is the moment of joy, of great happiness. This is the celebration – the celebration of Truth – the renewal, the inspiration for us all to realize the Truth that we are indeed spiritual beings created in Love.
To further explain this point, the story goes on. It doesn't have to continue, but some of us need to hear the Truth in different ways. Jesus returns to the three disciples who have fallen asleep and says, "Could you not keep awake even for one hour? This happens not once but three times. When we find something happening more than once in a story, we are to pay attention. The story tells us that the physical body cannot go where the spiritual body travels. Our physical senses fall asleep.
The consequences play out and Jesus is arrested, imprisoned and executed. I'm not going into the details of the consequences but they are also filled with symbolism to bring home the point of the story. I do want to talk for just a moment about the cross since it is a powerful symbol in this story. The cross has four points representing the four points of nature, the Four Elements, the Four Directions. It has a horizontal bar signifying the material or physical world and time and a vertical bar signifying the spiritual world. We always stand at the point where the two bars meet, the point of choice. The cross in the story represents our freedom to choose either the material world or the spiritual world as we stand on this Tree of Life. This cross of choice is reflected in our own bodies for if we stand like this, our bodies form a cross. We are reminded every moment that we are to choose.
Jesus' body is taken down from the cross and put in a rock tomb. After three days, Mary Magdalena, Mary, Jesus' mother, and Joanna, bring back spices and linens with which to wrap the body as was the custom in that time. When the body disintegrates the bones are taken and buried. Why the number three? Three is a sacred number of completion. Why women at this point in the story and why these particular three women? They represent the three aspects of Love in Jesus' life and Love is the point of Jesus' story from the very beginning. But when the women arrive, the rock door to the tomb has been rolled back and the tomb is empty. The tomb represents a portal through which we all must go to realize the Truth that we are spiritual beings.
There are two angels or "men in shining garments" standing by the tomb and they say to the women, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen." The women fall down on their faces in fear until they hear the words, "He is risen." They get up from the ground and run to tell the other eleven disciples the news. Later in the story Jesus appears to his disciples in his spiritual body to verify this holy miracle and to tell them it is possible for them to achieve the same.
This story of Jesus is an incredible story of Love and how to achieve our true purpose. It is a wonderful story of hope but when we focus only on the sorrow, we miss the Truth of the story. Perhaps the story is told in this way so that those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear can find their way to the Truth. Others will experience the story in a different way until one day we will all see the Truth.
Easter is a time of renewal. The story of Jesus is about a life of renewal, it's about developing that intimate relationship with God, and realizing that there is only Love and that Love is expressed through our true spiritual identity.. May you be awakened and renewed within your Christ spirit.