Jesus Experiences The World

By: Brian Robertson

"No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket..."



For the first decades after Jesus' death, his sayings were kept alive in collections that were transmitted orally.

Some of these sayings remain relatively fresh, as in the Gospel of Thomas or in the collection of sayings that both Matthew and Luke had access to when writing their gospels.

It was left to Mark to tie together these with often awkward, rushed narrative events. Some, no doubt, were anecdotes that had been transmitted, just as the sayings had been pass on.

Paul, writing first, makes no mention of a virgin birth, a bodily resurrection or an empty tomb. These stories had simply not been invented at that point. Mark, writing next, also shows that by the year 75 there was still no widespread acceptance of either the "virgin birth" motif or the resurrection. (Mark ended at a point earlier than what is now in the New Testament, this we know by the earliest manuscripts)

So, in the absence of any real knowledge of Jesus' life, tales came to fill the vacuum. These include fanciful tales of Jesus as a child who brought clay birds to life and willed the death of a playmate -- or the miraculous birth, or the claims that he traveled to India.

So, what can we know of his experience? We can gather that this was a "spirit man" who had an intense awakening. He taught and spoke with such natural ease and certainty that those around him wondered how he came to be so learned. Yet Jesus' knowledge was not grounded in teachings, but in experience, an experience he offered to all.

Most likely in accordance with his traditions and surroundings, Jesus experienced the presence of the Divine as Father, but not the stern or judgmental Father that had been the accepted norm in his culture. Instead, he addressed his Father by the name, "Abba" which is more accurately translated as "Daddy" or "Poppa", a term not of rigid respect but of absolute, childlike love and adoration.

There is no doubt this experience of being a child of God contributed to some of his most telling words, as in, "Let the children come up to me, don't try to stop them. After all, God's domain is peopled with such as these...."

What followed, in bad Church politics and theology, was that Jesus became THE son of God. The Gospels developed far after his death and the Church performed a ventriloquist act on Jesus, putting their words into his mouth.

We can be certain, though, that Jesus' experience of the world around him was one of deep and almost painful compassion, a knowledge that beyond the social classes and divisions burned a unifying spark, that in the deepest soul of any person lay the christ-consciousness, the kingdom of heaven.

It must have been exceedingly difficult to teach what he felt and knew. Those around him were clamoring for a military-minded Messiah. Some were longing for the Kingdom of God to be lowered down from the heavens. Many wished for political revolution that would restore power to those who were ground under by tradition.

It was as if Jesus had to speak on different levels at the same time, as the best teachers can. Some of those who heard the parables understood as someone gets the punchline of a joke or a zen student receives satori from the impossibly absurd koan. Others took the poetry to be prose and merely shook their heads, baffled.

There is a story in Buddhism as to the origin of Zen -- the Buddha was to speak in front of a great crowd, but instead he held up a flower. Everything that needed to be said had been said, at least on one level. One man saw this, understood, and smiled. From that came the great zen tradition of transmission of enlightenment outside the scriptures.

It seems to me, sometimes, that there must have been those who encountered Jesus and who, by way of a look or an action, understood all he had to say at the core of their being.

In that way, the lessons of his experience continued in ways that could not be corrupted by politics or bad theology.