Jesus was ahead of his time, and a child of his time, at the same time. Aren’t we all. Nobody falls far from the tree. Everyone is limited in his, in her, understanding by the way things have been understood up to that point. We can only see so far ahead. For example, Jesus saw slavery as it was seen in his day. He would not have thought that the world was round. We would have to explain to him the implications his words about “the least of these” have for homosexual rights. And, while he granted women more of a place in society than any thinker of the times, Women’s Lib would be hard for him to swallow. After all, Martha did do the serving, not one of the boys. There is always a limit as to how visionary we can be. The most any generation can do is open up the possibilities for the next generation. No one can see all there is to see, or see all of the implications of what he, what she, does see. We can only see a little at a time, and move slowly into our grasp of the All.
Jesus had some very good things to say. Things that will not be surpassed in the long future of speaking. “You have heard it said, but I say unto you,” is probably the most important thing he said. That opens the way to deciding for ourselves how our lives ought to be lived. With the freedom of choosing our path comes the responsibility of being right, but we learn about being right over time. “But I say unto you, ‘Oops. Never mind,’” is one of the things we learn to say. And, there is no safety in letting someone else choose our path for us. What we have heard said can be just as wrong as anything we might say. Jesus opens the way to having a way—to living out of our own sense of how life ought to be lived.
Jesus also died in the service of his own integrity, in the service of his sense of how life ought to be lived. Integrity will do that to you. It’s better, he would say, to have a live soul and a dead body than a live body and a dead soul. He lived among the soulless, and knew what he was talking about. Hook up to your own heart, he would say, and live wide open until they shut you down. But not, he would add, at the expense of others. Live with compassion for all people, and don’t think you are better than anyone just because you are willing to risk your life in living your life. The last will be first, you know, so don’t be putting yourself at the head of the line, even in your own mind.
Jesus was a rare mix of vision and mercy, of justice and love. And, he had a strong sense of how life would be in a kingdom with God on the throne. He lived in the kingdom of Rome as a citizen of the kingdom of God, and said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” It is the blurring of the kingdoms, the mixing of the kingdoms, the merger of the kingdoms—it is at the point of contact between the kingdoms that the Christ comes into being.
“Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Both words mean “the Anointed One.” That is, “the one who will be king.” Specifically, “the one who will be king in the new kingdom that God is preparing for Israel after the order of the old kingdom of David.” Jesus understood the new kingdom to be nothing like the old kingdom of David. Jesus was indeed the Christ of a brand new order. “My kingdom is not of this world.” The new king will not rule a political entity. The new kingdom will not have political, or geographical, boundaries. The new kingdom will be like yeast in the dough, like seeds in the earth. Everyone will be “the Christ” in that kingdom. No hierarchy. No pecking order. If you see something that needs doing, you do it, or arrange to have it done, and you love your neighbor as yourself. No waiting for “the King” to do for you what is to be done, or, even, to tell you what that is. You see, you do. It’s simple, and seeing is everything. “Whoever has eyes to see, let him, let her, see!”
And, it is not difficult, seeing. It is only a matter of looking. It is like a man finding a pearl and selling everything he has to buy the pearl; or like a man finding a treasure in a field, and selling everything he has to buy the field. Or, like fishermen sorting out a haul of fish, keeping the ones fit for selling or eating, and throwing the rest aside. Anybody can see the value of a pearl. Anybody can see the value of a treasure. Anybody can sort a net full of fish. Anyone can see what needs to be done. We only have to open our eyes.
In the new kingdom, people will live with their eyes open, and do what needs to be done. Jesus leads the way, and calls us to follow him, to follow his lead, to follow his example, by opening our own eyes, stepping into our own lives, and doing what needs to be done. Living at the cusp between the kingdoms, we become the Christ, doing things here, in this world, as they would be done there, in that one. There is nothing beyond us about that.
So, our task, as citizens of the new kingdom, the new order—our role as the Christs, the anointed ones, of the kingdom of God—is simply to do in each moment what needs to be done there. It’s like this. When you are standing in line at the post office waiting to buy stamps, or mail a package, do it the way it ought to be done. Stand in line really well. Do that moment, handle that experience, as well as it can be done. Bring your best to bear on that moment.Don’t lose yourself in the grandiose. Ending poverty. Stopping the war. Coming up with a solution to homelessness, and AIDS, and genocide. Wake up to the immediate. Come alive in the here-and-now. Make standing in this line the best performance of your life. See what needs doing right here, right now, and do it. The kingdom comes in moments just like this one. And, living as we do at the cusp between the kingdoms, we herald the new order and champion the cause of right-thinking, right-doing, right-seeing, right-being, right-here, right-now. That’s really all there is to it. We make it difficult because, otherwise, it’s too hard.