Volume 8 - Issue 12
December 2010
Other Articles

WHO WAS JESUS CHRIST

And what did He truly say and what He did not?

By Mr. John Behner

 

What brought me to our Lord’s physical presence 31 years ago was a search for the Truth, and this search has been a characteristic of my mental make up since I was very young. When I was in grade 7 there was an essay contest at our church in Southern California; the topic was “Who is God?” I would imagine that the church elders were trying to elicit answers pertaining to the divinity of Jesus. My essay however was titled ‘God is Energy!’ It is hard to believe, but I won second place and they gave me a war bond worth $25 as a prize. Of course God is also inertia, but I was just a kid looking for the Truth.

God is All – Activity and Inactivity!

 
Mr. John Behner
 

So what is the Truth? Jesus conveyed profound teachings in a way that illiterate people could easily understand and remember. For instance, this is the way Jesus beautifully put across to His listeners the same idea of God being movement and inertia.

“Jesus said, ‘If they say to you, 'Where have you come from?' say to them, 'We have come from the light, from the place where the light came into being by itself, established [itself], and appeared in their image.'

If they say to you, 'Is it you?' say, 'We are its children, and we are the chosen of the living Father.'

If they ask you, 'What is the evidence of your Father in you?' say to them, 'It is motion and rest.'" [Thomas #50]

So, what I had written as a child about God being energy was partially correct! When my wife and I heard about Sai Baba, she asked me if I had been living at the time of Christ, would I not have traveled to see and listen to Him? So wouldn’t it be logical to travel to India and see Sathya Sai Baba and hear Him to see for ourselves if what we had been told was true? That is how we came and discovered that what we had heard was true.

Jesus Christ – Who Was He?

Let me now share with you some observations made by Biblical scholars about just what Jesus Christ said and taught. First let us look at who Jesus Christ was according to Sathya Sai Baba.

 

Many years ago, in a discourse delivered to the students, Bhagavan Baba said, “Untruth, injustice, dishonesty, and disreputable conduct in the world create the circumstances for the advent of God or a divinely inspired saint or messiah. These incarnations are either Purna Avatars (total manifestions of the divine) or Amsa Avatars (partial manifestations) and this happens from time to time, not only in India, but in all countries... At first Jesus declared that He was a Messenger of God. Then he declared, ‘I am the son of God’; thereby he proclaimed his right to a share in all the qualities of God. When He aquired all the qualities of the Divine, He announced, ‘I and My father are One’.”

Baba further explained that each incarnation comes with those powers which are necessary to the time and place of their descent. Jesus has been recognized for over 2000 years as a Divine Master whose life was an example for all of us to follow.

How The Message of Jesus Has Been Convoluted

Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the USA and author of the American Declaration of Independence, wrote to his colleague John Adams, the 2nd president of the USA, and expressed his concern regarding the ‘corruption of Christianity’. He had cut up a version of the King James Bible and pasted phrases on different pages classifying them into those which he felt could be attributed to Jesus and those he was convinced were false. In his letter Jefferson states, “In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man, and that other portions are the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts as it is to pick out diamonds from a dunghill.”

 
 
Mr. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States
and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence

Indeed Jefferson was shocked and offended that the words of Jesus had been altered so much. All reputable scholars today recognize that the official gospels were compiled in Greek many decades after the Crucifixion of Jesus, by persons who had never heard Him speak or seen the original Aramaic. Furthermore, these reputable scholars agree that much of what Jesus was supposed to have said really originated in the teachings of the early church. What was actually the wisdom teachings of Jesus was replaced or obscured by teachings about Jesus. Jesus taught that the Lord, whom He referred to as the Father, not only existed, but that He loves everyone. He stated that to know Him, one must overcome egoism and attachment to the things of this world.

Jesus repeatedly emphasized ‘Kingdom of heaven is within you’. "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky’, then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

“When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty (meaning ignorance)." [Thomas #3]

 

Jesus used the metaphor of light to represent consciousness of His true identity “When thy eye is single thy whole body shall be full of light” [Luke 11:34]. Jesus was reportedly opposed and crucified by those who ruled the temple, the priests and the Pharisees. They saw Him as a threat to their privileged position. Jesus sought to liberate the Jews, not from the Romans, but from their fear and domination by the priests. He emphasized love and the inner experience or communion with God rather than the law of the old testament. Jesus was not merely a teacher or rabbi to His disciples, but a God-Man who remained an enigma to them.

The Revealing Findings of the Jesus Seminar

Doesn’t much of all this sound just like what we have been experiencing at the feet of our Lord Sathya Sai Baba? So when I discovered that a group of 150 Bible scholars named the Jesus Seminar, had studied all the 4 gospels as well as the gospel of Thomas which was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1945, and had reached an overwhelming agreement on what Christ said and what He didn’t, I had something to test their work with. I thought their findings had to be very similar to or congruent with the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba because these are ageless truths that have been given to us by Lord Krishna in the Gita, and by many God Men who have lived in different ages.

 
 
Dead Sea Scrolls - a collection of 972 documents, including texts
from the Hebrew Bible, discovered between 1946 and 1956

These Bible scholars came from different churches and research centers, including universities. They published their findings in 1993, 1998, and 1999, which has shed light on what truly was the message of Jesus Christ. Surprisingly, their conclusions were that the Gospel of Thomas, which is not included in the Bible is the most authentic text available. It contains 114 sayings of Jesus without commentary. Baba has told us that Mathew was a tax collector who visited the fishermen, and was the one who knew to write and therefore put down what Jesus said.

The Gospel of Thomas – Closest to Reality

The Gospel of Thomas, however as a gospel of wisdom, proclaims a distinctive message. Unlike the way Jesus is portrayed in some of the New Testament gospels, Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas performs no miracles, reveals no fulfillment of prophecy, announces no apocalyptic kingdom about to disrupt the world order, and dies for no one’s sins. But Jesus does reveal Himself in the following sayings:

Photo Credit:  Vivek Chugh

Jesus saw some babies nursing and said to His followers, “These babies are like those who enter the kingdom of heaven.” They said to him, “Then shall we enter the kingdom of heaven as babies?” Jesus said, “When you make the two into one, when you make the inner like the outer, and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make the male and the female into a single one so that the male will not be male and the female will not be female, then you will enter the kingdom.” [Thomas #22] What this means is that we must transcend the pairs of opposites.

 
Photo Credit: " Children's Bible", Scandinavia Publishing house
 

His followers said to Him, “Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of You.” He said, “You have disregarded the living one (the atma, the soul) who is in your presence and have spoken of the dead.” [Thomas #52] Here the living one is not Jesus, but the living presence which is in each one for which the light is a metaphor. But this is a good example of how Jesus spoke sometimes in riddles for those who were ready to listen.

His disciples questioned Him, “Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet should we observe?” Jesus said, “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven, for there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed and there is nothing covered that will remain undisclosed.” [Thomas #6] Very clearly Jesus is referring to the law of cause and effect and the importance of living a moral life.

The Most Potent Message of Jesus

Love is the basis of Jesus’ teachings which is evident in so many of His messages:

When I was still a boy, one of my aunts used to tell Bible stories to my sisters and I. I can remember questioning her as to how Lazarus could have been raised from the dead. I don’t know if I really believed the story until we came to know Swami.

My wife had the good fortune to be present during Dassera 1988, when Swami brought Brigadier Bose back to life; she saw this. Months later, when I was talking to Mr. Bose he told me something funny: “When I went back to my room after the miraculous incident, my wife told me that Swami had brought someone back from death, but she was not in a position to see who it was. I said, “Yes, that’s true, it was me!”

Authentic Sayings Found in All Gospels Including Thomas’

Many sayings thought to be legitimate appear not only in the Gospel of Thomas but also in the Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke. For example:

Timeless Tales With Deep Messages

The prodigal son and the good Samaritan are wonderful stories and are very likely tales that were told by Jesus.

The Story of the Prodigal Son

 
Photo Credit: " Children's Bible", Scandinavia Publishing house
 

“Once there was this man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, give me my share of the property which is coming to me. So the father divided up his estate between the two sons. Not too many days later the younger son gathered up all his things and left for a far away country where he squandered his possesions by living extravagantly. There came a famine to this land, so he hired himself out to care for some pigs. Then he realized that even the hired hands at his fathers home were better off than he was. So he repented and said to himself, ‘Father, I don’t deserve to be called a son of yours any longer, please treat me as one of your hired hands’. Thus he returned home.

“And when his father saw him coming, he ordered his slaves to quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him, gave sandals for his feet and a ring on his finger. ‘Fetch the fat calf and slaugher it for we are going to celebrate’ he said. When his older brother came in from the field and saw all the festivities, he asked what it was all about.

 
  Photo Credit: " Children's Bible", Scandinavia Publishing house

The servants told him that his brother had come home and his father had indeed slaughtered the fat calf to celebrate. The older one was angry, and did not want to come inside. His father went outside to reason with him. ‘My child, you are always by my side. Everything that is mine is yours. But we just have to celebrate and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life, he was lost and now he is found.’” [Luke 15/11-32]

This is a story of forgiveness, and demonstrates an important truth. Each of us have made many errors in our lives, and yet Baba welcomes us back and only asks us not to repeat our mistakes. Just imagine how many of us have been saved from eternal damnation. It reminds me of my paternal grandfather who was a pastor in the free methodist church. In 1934, it was prohibited for pastors to go to the newly invented movies. But my grandpa out of curiosity decided to watch a Walt Disney movie of Snow White. At the age of 68 he was removed from the church and denied any pension for this terrible error. But Swami, unlike the church must have forgiven him.

The Story of the Good Samaritan

The story of the good samaritan is another fasinating anecdote. “There was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell victim to robbers. He was stripped, beaten and left half dead. Within a short time a priest traveling that same way saw him lying by the road, and went out of his way to avoid him. Similarly a Levite came by and went across the road in avoidance. But then a Samaritan came by and was moved with empathy. He washed his wounds and cared for him by hoisting him on his own animal and taking him to an inn to look after him.

“The next day he gave the inn keeper two silver coins and said please look after his needs, and if there is any difference in the account I will pay you when I come back this way.” [Luke 10/30-35]

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This parable overthrows the difference between us and them, since at that time the injured man needed care and it was not important what his religion or background was. The Samaritans were looked upon by those who lived in Jerusalem as being outsiders not worth bothering about. This compares with Baba’s teaching that the whole humanity is one family.

Being a Good Samaritan – A Personal Story

Baba has given us all opportunities to be good samaritans. Once I had the chance to do such a thing. In 1984, we were traveling in a taxi from Madurai to Kodai Kanal. Two boys on a bicycle lost their balance in front of the taxi and we hit them even though the driver tried to avoid the accident. They were injured, but fortunately we had some vibhuthi which we applied it on their wounds.

We then put them in the taxi, and the driver went straight to a rural hospital. We waited while the doctor sowed up the wounds, and the family members of the two boys arrived. When we went outside, our taxi and its good samaritan driver had dissappeared. We were informed that the driver had been taken to jail, and the taxi was also impounded by the police. We went to the police station and could get our suitcases from the taxi, but could not see the driver. When we got to Kodai kanal, we wrote a letter to the judge explaining everything, and asking for the driver to be released and given recognition for exemplary conduct. We were later told that the judge read our letter in court and dismissed the good-hearted taxi driver.

What Jesus Did Not Say

 

I don’t want to conclude without mentioning something about which Jesus did not say. There was an overwhelming consensus among the scholars of the Jesus Seminar that the text of the Gospel of John, the Epistles of Paul, the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation contained only few words that could be attributed to Jesus. Most of them rather were likely to be the words of early church evangelists who taught that the person of Jesus was the message and that one needed to accept Him as one’s savior in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

According to Elaine Pagels in her book Beyond Belief the Book of John was written by an unknown scholar, probably in Ephesus, at the end of the first century, in order to refute the Gospel of Thomas. Thomas’ gospel encourages one not so much to believe in Jesus, as to seek to know God through one’s own divinely given capacity. While John asks the reader to believe in Jesus to have his sins forgiven. This was a compelling argument for the establishment of the Church as it does not require any spiritual discipline. John’s gospel also differs from Mathew, Mark and Luke in many ways, especially in the final days. John also calls Jesus, Lord and God, titles which Jesus did not give to Himself in the other gospels. Only John presents a critical portrait of Thomas, and has invented the character “doubting Thomas”.

The Real Bible and Its Message Revealed by Baba

Our exposition would not be complete without mentioning what Baba stated at the time of materializing the miniature Bible on Christmas morning in 1996. He said:

In this message, Baba has made two important points:

  • The life of Jesus was different than what we know about Him in the Bible.
  • Respect for all faiths was seen by the authors of this Bible as an important part of understanding the teachings of Jesus, who showed His followers how to love everyone.

So the next time we read the Bible or listen to someone quoting Jesus, we can use the touchstone of Baba’s teachings to verify the Truth.

In the end this is my prayer to Baba. “Dear Swami, my gratitude is overflowing for having given us all an opportunity to see so much of what Jesus really taught reflected in all of Your teachings, and we pray that each of us may be able to put at least one of these lessons into practice.” Jai Sai Ram.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are of the author and lie outside the traditional view of Christianity held by some churches. The intention of this article is only to share a new and enlightened way of understanding this magnificant religion and to provide food for thought to all lovers of God as we celebrate this holy festival of Christmas.

 

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