Theology by Assumption

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Have we listened to Yeshua any differently from the Israelite High Priest,  Sanhedrin, or Pontius Pilate? Or has our view of Yeshua been dependent more upon the assumptions of what we want him to be, rather than what he himself said he was?

Mark 14:53-62          53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation 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: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Listening Carefully to Mark 14:53-62

Yeshua* was taken to the Sanhedrin, which was acting like a grand jury — trying to find a charge that would stick when they presented Yeshua* to Pilate for trial. All kinds of witnesses came with false testimony, but nothing that would be determinative. Much of the testimony of the witnesses showed internal disagreements. And most of it, even if true, would not provide the Sanhedrin with the charge of a capital offense worthy of the death penalty. The high priest then turned to Yeshua*, “You have heard the testimony, what do you have to say for yourself?” Yeshua* remained silent. Finally, in desperation, the high priest asked the only question that could lead to a charge of high treason, “Are you the Messiah?” Yeshua* responded to this question, “I am the truly Human Being* [Son of Man*] who brings to you the only Power that truly counts — the power to be fully Human, to integrate darkness and light within the Self, to become whole, to move toward integrity, to be genuinely compassionate and just, to be intimately connected with the inner God-process. Such power brings heaven to earth and clouds the vision of those whose security is the Domination* System. The blessing of the Human Being* [Son of the Blessed One] is genuine vision for the hearts and minds of the people whose lives have been marginalized by the political, social, financial, and religious Domination* Systems.”

The high priest assumed this meant “Yes” — that is, that Yeshua* was claiming to be the Messiah, filling all the hopes of Israel. When presented with the Sanhedrin’s case against Yeshua*, Pilate assumed that this meant “Yes” — Yeshua* was claiming to be the “King of the Jews” (high treason, indeed!). The church in its subsequent historical and theological development has assumed that this meant “Yes” — proof that Yeshua* is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world (that is, the divine Messiah). And we all know what happens when we assume.

The radical nature of Yeshua’s teachings — that we all can have access to the dynamic messianic* power that was available to him — was too much for the Sanhedrin, too much for the Romans, too much for the church. So… we have projected upon him our desire to be saved from meaninglessness. We want Yeshua* (and God) to do for us what he taught that we can do for ourselves.

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