Today at meeting the information below was handed out during our adult discussion group called "Circle of Friends" that precedes our hour-long worship.  The facilitator asked that we suspend any preconceived notions regarding Jesus.  He asked that we consider how we might interpret the below verses in John if we entered reading them from the vantage point of assuming that Jesus was a mystic (as defined in the first line, Christian Mysticism, below).

We had one of the most amazing, eye-opening discussions - in part I suppose because most liberal Quakers hold mystics in such high esteem, and have no issue with a mystic's deep experience of God to the point where the lines between them and God are blurred within their minds - especially during their times of prayer, contemplation, and meditation. 

After this exercise and discussion, some in the group related to the person of Jesus for the first time, casting off religious dogma baggage that they had carried for years.

Once you do this same exercise reading the material below, I invite you to offer your feelings, observations, and thoughts.

Christian Mysticism: “The spiritual path of experiencing God directly within one's own self.”

To understand the spirit of Jesus’ reported words, it is helpful to grasp that he was what we term today “a mystic”.  He had a profound inner experience of God and he had a “knowing” with every fiber of his being. It wasn’t head knowledge - but experiential knowledge in which he invited his listeners to partake.  Like all mystics, Jesus introduced his listeners to his internal reality by using metaphorical expressions to represent his personal spiritual experience.  

John 10:31-38

31 The Jews picked up stones to throw at [Jesus]. 32 Jesus said to them, “Many good things have I shown you from My Father. For which of these things are you going to throw stones at Me?” 33 They said, “We are not going to throw stones at You for any good work. It is because of the way You talk against God. It is because You make Yourself to be God when You are only a man.” 34 Jesus said to them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 The Holy Writings were given to them and God called them gods. (The Word of God cannot be put aside.) 36 But God has set Me apart for Himself. He sent Me into the world. Then how can you say that I am speaking against God because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of My Father, do not believe Me. 38 But if I do them, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works that I do. Then you will know the Father is in Me and I am in Him.”

John 14:8-12,16-20

Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we ask.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time and you do not know Me yet? Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me? What I say to you, I do not say by My own power. The Father Who lives in Me does His work through Me.

11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me. Or else believe Me because of the things I do. 12 For sure, I tell you, whoever puts his trust in Me can do the things I am doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.

16  . . . I will ask My Father and He will give you another Helper. He will be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot receive Him. It does not see Him or know Him. You know Him because He lives with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you without help as children without parents. I will come to you. 19 In a little while the world will see Me no more. You will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 When that day comes, you will know that I am in My Father. You will know that you are in Me. You will know that I am in you.

John 17:20-23

Jesus prayed: 20 “I do not pray for these followers only. I pray for those who will put their trust in Me through the teaching they have heard. 21 May they all be as one, Father, as You are in Me and I am in You. May they belong to Us. Then the world will believe that You sent Me. 22 I gave them the honor You gave Me that they may be one as We are One. 23 I am in them and You are in Me so they may be one and be made perfect. Then the world may know that You sent Me and that You love them as You love Me.

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Replies to This Discussion

The accepted gospels of the Bible tell us very little about Jesus growing up.  We know he was able to hold forth among scholars at a young age.  Did he acknowledge any spiritual teachers?  What rabbis taught him Jewish scripture (Torah) I wonder.  We know he was tempted by the Devil, to whom he spoke in the first person, as a familiar (Matthew 4:10).  Sometimes we learn a lot from our enemies (another reason to love 'em I guess).

We know absolutely nothing about his childhood (or his birth, for that matter, except that there may well have been a scandal connected with it -- or equally likely, merely some posthumous scurrilous allegations raised later in response to Christian claims of virgin birth.)

We do know that his followers felt he belonged solidly within Jewish tradition and history -- and told stories intended to emphasize that, by allusion to stories from the Hebrew Bible and other sources. The hanging-out-with-Temple-scholars story would be a similar literally illustration of his youthful wisdom, much like a story Josephus told about himself.

There's no good reason why either the Devil or the Temple scholars should be considered Jesus' "enemies." The scholars would not have considered the oral Galilean version of the Torah authoritative  where it differed from their version; but a novel interpretation of a passage would not normally be considered cause for hostility. Satan, as 'Job' illustrates, was considered one of God's functionaries, charged with testing loyalties -- which Satan's questions in the Synoptic Gospel's stories would have done admirably well.

Good points.  One of the Bible translations of Matthew 4:10 is "Get out of here, Satan," Jesus told him. "For the Scriptures say, 'You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'" There he's telling off the Devil saying he's not one of his minions, a move consistent with Satan's being a high angel. Certainly I agree his relationship with the Temple scholars was non-adversarial (money changers a different story) in that he accepted the title of Rabbi himself (per John 13:13). We know he himself wanted friends more than minions; fawning sycophants were not his cup of tea (John 15:15).  His speaking with the Devil in familiar terms might indicate a "knowing wisdom" vis-a-vis an old friend, a projection even (if not enemy nor servant exactly).

The Jews seem to have gotten the name from the word for a Persian secret police agent... not when they first put their books into writing, but when many of their scriptures were approaching their final drafts, when Jerusalem was a theocracy under Persian rule.

Yes, I do find some corroborating narrative regarding that theory as to the etymology of "Satan":

Thanks for the insights!


Forrest Curo said:

The Jews seem to have gotten the name from the word for a Persian secret police agent... not when they first put their books into writing, but when many of their scriptures were approaching their final drafts, when Jerusalem was a theocracy under Persian rule.


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