Who the #$%^& is Jesus?

People sometimes forget that there are many views of Jesus...interpretations of his life, teachings and death.  I know in my Baptist past, we did not really emphasize Jesus life but rather his death.  It was viewed as an appeasement to an angry God who demanded full payment for our sins.  It was viewed in legal terms. 
There are those who view it as a ransom from Satan. 

How does the Gospel of Thomas view the life and death of Jesus?  I would point out first that the Gospel of Thomas is not a narrative and contains no narrative on his death.  It focuses primarily on his sayings. 

I am slowly being persuaded that the Gospel of Thomas while very possibly the earliest gospel (parts at least) was not meant to be thought of in a vacuum.  I am finding myself slowly (oh so very slowly) agreeing with the scholars who suggest that the Thomasines may have been a Christian community of contemplatives...whether as some form of ascetics (a religious order before its time?) or a religious community akin to the other churches at the time.  I think the Thomasines maybe had a simple Eucharist or agape feast, baptism, presbyters as these were parts of almost every early Christian group. 

So they would have known about the death of Jesus.  I even see an allusion to it in a saying where Jesus challenges his students to take up their cross.  So in a Thomasine worldview, why did Jesus come?  Who was he?  Did his death mean anything?    I think Jesus came as a wisdom teacher.  Spiritually speaking he saw himself being sent by God.  He also spoke at times as coming from God and as being divine himself.  But he challenges all of us to be what he is.  It wasn't just that God became man (in some way, incarnation? emanation?  a filling?  enlightenment?) but that he called man to become Divine.  If this is some form of Trinity then we are called into the very life of the Trinity.  If a Unity then called into the very life of the unity.  Jesus was a wisdom teacher, but not as one who just lectured...he was more of a teacher in an eastern aspect...He expected obedience and adherence to his words...but not as a matter of belief but a change of self to embody his words.  As a Zen teacher slowly guides the student into a new way of seeing and living, so to Jesus.  I heard the rabbis would do this too.  Jesus challenged his students to love the poor and outcast, and to see the light in every person.  Knowing what we do know about the cross from the other gospels, I would venture a bit of theological speculation that the Thomasines did not see the cross as a sacrifice or some payment made to God or ransom to the devil.  Rather the cross was joined with the rest of his life.  Just as Jesus revealed the emptiness and corruption of this worlds systems and powers, his death laid it open for all the world to see...  The kingdom is not found in having power or the right religion.  The kingdom is found in love laid bare.  A love for the outcast of the religious folks.  A love for those that the people in power see as useless.  He turns it all around....empty religion that excludes and divides is useless, the quest for power is idiotic...and thus the powers killed him.  Thus revealing their own emptiness and the fullness of the kingdom with Jesus.  We see this embodied again and again with folks such as Rosa Parks, Gandhi, MLKjr, Oscar Romero, and so many others.  Jesus revealed the light in humanity, and the darkness in the systems of the world.  Was he the only one?  Is he the only way one can see or know God?  Not in my opinion...but this same light that filled Jesus, fills others and shines in whatever name we give for goodness or God.


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