A “messianic” Mission, Not a Messiah

Razor WireMark 1:12-13          12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Luke 4:15-19      15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me  to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind,  to let the oppressed go free, 19   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

[Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Razor wire” by Greg Chiasson is licensed under CC BY 2.0Text Added.]

Reflecting on the Inauguration of Yeshua’s Mission

When Yeshua* ascended out of the baptismal waters of the Jordan, he did so with a profound sense of an insistence in the name of God. Perhaps. What had been external for Israel (the messianic* hope had become the expectation of a Messiah who would “save” Israel) now had become an internal dynamic process (a personal calling, a vocational possibility requiring a response). What was unclear as Yeshua* left the baptismal waters was the shape of that calling. What was the meaning of the affirmation of Yeshua* as “beloved?” as “son?” of “well pleased?” A quantum shift had happened… Yeshua* found himself half-way across a bridge that he would have to build in order for him to complete his journey… building the bridge as he walked across it. That bridge spanned human consciousness and divine mystery.

Whether Yeshua* was “driven” (Mark) or “led” (Matthew and Luke) into the wilderness, whether this experience was a symbolic inner journey or a real trip into wilderness territory, it was clear that this experience was transformative — that is, Yeshua’s* Self (the deep center that managed his conscious and unconscious make-up) was altered. He would never be the same again. His calling, his messianic vocation, was shaped. (Note: “messianic* vocation” is quite different from “Messiah”).

The wilderness experience was one of contentious inner struggle, temptation, and choice — all leading to discernment and decisions about the nature of Yeshua’s* response to that inner calling. As such, he was confronted with three seductive options: curator of a prosperity gospel, consummate public servant, and/or virtuoso charmer and magician. A fourth option (John’s expectation of an apocalyptic rebel) had been rejected by the nature of Yeshua’s* experience of the God-process during his baptism. These options arose as Yeshua contended with the God-process*. That contentious engagement was not unlike that of Job’s with The Satan — not the evil one, but the part of the God-process* which, in freedom, raises all the possibilities (both good and bad). These options were the various hopes that Israel had projected onto the awaited Messiah. In his struggles, Yeshua discerns that he is called to a different vocation — likely messianic*, but not to fulfill Israel’s hope for the Messiah. Instead of the hoped-for Messiah, Yeshua chooses to extend what he had experienced in baptism — namely, direct inner engagement with the divine mystery, first-hand personal access to the God-process*, ability to perceive that unheard inner voice that call us into dynamic inter-relationship with God, self, and others.

The synchronicity of Isaiah being read in the synagogue when Yeshua* is asked to read and preach, helps cement Yeshua’s new calling. The messianic vocation to which Yeshua* responds is akin to that of the prophets — namely, to remind people that God invites the challenge of inner transformation and justice. Yeshua* will not foment a political revolution or by herald an apocalyptic incursion of God’s power to rid the world of evil. It is to every-day situations and people that Yeshua* will address himself — inviting people to find God within and then, having encountered and engaged the divine mystery within themselves, to reach out to others (especially the poor, distressed, and suffering). The reaching out is the practical definition of the Commonwealth* of peace and justice. In short, Yeshua’s* mission is to tell the story of his transformation and invite people to experience a messianic* transformation within ourselves. The mystics and the Eastern Church call that process “divinization.”

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4 Replies to “A “messianic” Mission, Not a Messiah”

  1. I appreciate the concepts of the “God-process” and “Messianic vocation.” John’s Gospel points to this when Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will do the works that I do, and, in fact, will do greater works than these,…’ (John 14:12). Again Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…” (John 15:16).

    The important piece, for me, is that the divine impulse within us, which is a part of us, is tied to the Spirit of Jesus. Our “divinization” is the result of the mystery of Jesus’ own incarnation, in which his divinity remained an essential aspect of his personhood. Our response to the God-process, realized in our living out our Messianic vocation, is continually fueled by the divine impulse of the Spirit living within us.

    1. Chuck, I am saying something slightly different from you — namely, that same divinity that was “an essential part of his personhood” is also an essential part of your personhood and mine. Jesus is not a supernatural divine being to be worshiped, but a supranatural Human Being who realized the divine within more fully than the rest of us do. He serves as a catalyst that “excites” the God-process within. Francois du Toit put it this way, “Jesus did not come as an example for humanity, but as an example of what we are. Our authentic design is vindicated.”

      1. Thanks, Bart. I agree with your further explanation, to a point. I do believe Jesus’ full humanity/full divinity is a reflection of his supernatural/transcendent essence. To my mind, the divinity and “otherness” of Jesus is essential to my understanding of Jesus being worthy of my worship while at the same time being in intimate relationship with me and with others through the Holy
        Spirit.

        1. And so, we disagree. Of course, our disagreement doesn’t interfere with our search for the perfect cast on the perfect river!

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