Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more

The real message of Jesus

25 October 2020

The real message of Jesus in the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew & Luke) was very similar to that of the prophets down the ages - take God more seriously, get away from mere Torah-focused ritual obedience and make God king in their lives. Paul at first thought this naïve and even blasphemy, but then had a total conversion and promoted Jesus to the level of God. Far from accepting Jesus as a radical prophet in the ancient line, Paul became a radical, progressive Jew and forsook all his past belief and began demanding a complete reversal of his former faith. He set out a new and radical approach to Judaism, severing the ties to the "old" religion and developing a completely new one. Paul "invented" the new People of God.

It was Paul who applied Jewish atonement theology to the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus was a self-defensive act of both religious and political leaders who opposed any attempt to undermine their power and status - nothing more and nothing less. Jesus was yet another prophet calling on the people to repent of their self-centredness and their inability to put their faith into becoming a light to the nations, which was their ancient calling from the time of Abraham. Paul made Jesus a divine figure, effectively promoting him out of the reach of ordinary mortals. Jesus was now an object of adoration and the means of eternal salvation, rather than the example of a God-centred life which was his focus throughout his brief public ministry.

The Church in all its many brands still retains at its heart this belief in the divinity of Jesus and in his salvific sacrifice on the cross. Authentic Christianity is seen as promoting this theology and focusing life and worship on the divine Son of God. To be a Christian in today's world is more a matter of Jesus-focused belief (orthodoxy) than a matter of Jesus-inspired living (orthopraxis).

What the world needs now is a Church that stands for justice and peace, that challenges every effort of the rich and powerful to feed their greed, that seeks first the welfare of the poor and weak, that seeks to act out in practice the love and generosity which was at the heart of Jesus own vision of how things should be. The Church is not the Sunday club of the faithful: it is the community of people who have caught the vision of how we may change the world.

25 October 2020

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