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  • : The blog of Frank Beswick. It deals with my interests in religious, philosophical spiritual matters and horticulture/self-reliance
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December 18 2011 1 18 /12 /December /2011 15:01




One queston that is seriously discussed by scholars is how the man Jesus came to be seen as divine. He was a prophet, as the Muslims think, but what is it that made him be seen as more than a prophet, but as the incarnation of the Son of God. I suggest that one overlooked factor in this process has been that Jesus was a source and occasion of religious experience. The basic religious experience is a sense of presence, as Beardsmore calls it, or of presence/power, in Buber's terminology. The presence that he possessed, I suggest, was disclosed not all the time, but in certain key moments and in encounter with him.Those who engaged with Jesus would, I believe, have sensed that there was something more about him.


How is this claim to be backed up? tTere are hints in Scripture that suggest that this might be the case. At the heart of it is Jesus' voice had impact on those whom he healed. In Mark chapter 2 we find the case of paralysed man. It seems likely that this man was suffering from hysterical paralysis generated by guilt. This condition is often caused by stress, and if he felt guilty then he might well have suffered psychosomatic consequences. Jesus not only knew the origin of the condition, but declared that the man's sins were forgiven. The voice of Jesus seemed to penetrate deep into the man's psyche and release the psychological chains. Similarly in the cure of Jairus' daughter, the girl, who was not dead but only  sleeping, had appeared clinically dead. Jesus' voice seemed to penetrate into the heart of her mind and effect the transformation.


After the disciples whom he met on the road to Emmaus [Luke 24] realized who he was they declared "Did not our hearts burn within us when he explained the Scripture." They seem to have regarded this ability to religiously inspire people was a characteristic of Jesus. He seemed to be a source of charismatic inspiration that gave an intense spiritual joy to those who listened to him


One important element in this suggestion is the transfiguration, Mark 9,2-20. Jesus was with three disciples on a  mountain when he they saw him transfigured by a brilliant light. This is a classic quasi-sensory experience, and a non-physical light seems to be very common in religious experiences. Interestingly, it seemed to emanate from Jesus, making him the source of light. There were other characteristics of this experience, the presence of Moses and Elijah and the cloud, which was always seen as a sign of divine presence. The voice of God designating Jesus as his Son is also very significant. The totality of the occasion marks Jesus as someone above the normal and of peculiar holiness and favour with God.


John's Gospel, which is not always totally historical when facts are concerned, hints that believers saw Jesus' glory, and this is common throughout the text. The glory of God is the Shekinah, God's presence, so the hint is that Jesus is the means by which God's glorious preence was known to humans. This is not the glory of the blazing theophany on Sinai, with thunder and lightning, but of the gentle breeze in the Elijah story, in which God is not present in the earthquake or the wind and fire, but in a quiet whispering breeze.[1 Kings 19,9-14.]


The religious experience that was Jesus carried on in the early church through the coming of the spirit, and believers sensed that in the shared eucharistic meal the Lord's presence was still there.It is this ongoing sense of presence power and the charismatic inspiration that Jesus brought that drove Christians to the realization of his unique status and has driven Christian theology forward from that time onwards



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