9 May 2012, 5:22pm
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[holy daze] the great commission

But, to get back to the calendar — what was that appearance to the disciples three weeks after Easter all about? I found this way-more-useful-than-that-pdf source, a gospel harmony on Wikipedia, which calls that particular appearance “the Great Commission” and places it in all four canon gospels. The chart includes only a few short verses from each gospel, but I’m gonna include the whole appearance, though I am pretty sure these are not all exactly the same three-weeks-after-Easter appearance. In one of them, Thomas and maybe some other disciples are missing. But anyway. These are from the New International Version, from an app I installed on my phone that makes it way easier to carry around the collected Word, if you will.

Matthew 28:16-20 –

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:14-18 —

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them, “Go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes it and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Luke 24:36-49 (Wikipedia says 44-49) –

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

John 20:18-23 (Wikipedia says 21-23) –

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they say the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Whew! My favorite of these is John, probably because it is easily and beautifully interpreted metaphorically. Here’s the interpretation I want to make: Jesus wasn’t sent by God only to show humanity that God shares their suffering and joy (i.e. is human as well as divine) but to show humanity that they are divine as well as human. As Jesus was sent by and is a part of God, so humanity is a part of divinity. We as humans create our own salvation, create the kingdom of God on earth, by forgiving one another of our sins. This rings true for me, because I know that relationships without forgiveness do not thrive (hell is other people) and that the best relationships give life its meaning and are, dare I say, heavenly.

We all make terrible mistakes. Maybe we all sin? I am beginning to see how a belief in sin and sin nature, rather than a heavy guilty yoke, can be an ego-killing blessing with the right perspective on it. First step is admitting you have a problem, right?

I’ve been listening to a podcast called Revealing World Religions, specifically the 2-hour-long segment on Christianity (though I look forward to listening to the others, too). It’s a remarkably thorough and balanced presentation of the religion’s history and practices. Anyway, I learned that three of the four canon gospels were written from essentially the same source material and are called the “synoptic gospels” — Mark, Matthew, and Luke. John stands apart and was written last.

I’ve also just barely started reading Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions, which my partner very sweetly bought for me when I told him about this project. One thing that struck me in what I’ve read so far of the Christianity chapter is this statement about a fading era of skepticism with regard to the historical Jesus: “We [knew] almost nothing about him; and of the little we know, what is most certain is that he was wrong — this last referred to his putative belief that the world would quickly come to an end” (page 318). Of course, as far as geological time is concerned, the 2000 years that have passed since Jesus’s life are but a blip — “the end is near” is relative. And I gather that whether Jesus meant when he spoke about the coming kingdom of God that judgment was coming or that we would work to create heaven on earth is somewhat up for debate — I am not the only one who’s interpreted his words the way I did above.

But, well, I guess that either way he was wrong — raise your hand if you’re feeling like you’re living in the kingdom of God! There is a lot wrong with the world. But I suppose that on my best days, I do feel that I am living in the kingdom of God. And to practice forgiveness, love, trust, and respect — all things I find there, on those best days — that is a commission I can get behind.

[this entry was originally published on may 9th, 2012, at holy daze.]

[...] have much to do with Pentecost, but I did get a little thrill from hearing it after writing this about John’s version of the Great [...]



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