12 One Door-II
Today's sermon continues a study of the Good Shepherd as presented in the parable of Jesus in Chapter ten of the Gospel of John. This sermon will comment primarily on the authority given to Jesus, by God, to be the one and only portal into the Heavenly Kingdom.
"16. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
17. On this account the Father loveth me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received from my Father."
This is taken from Calvin's Commentary:
"16. And I have other sheep. Though some refer this indiscriminately to all, both Jews and Gentiles, who were not yet disciples of Christ, yet I have no doubt that he had in his eye the calling of the Gentiles. For he gives the appellation fold to the assemblage of the ancient people, by which they were separated from the other nations of the world, and united into one body as the heritage of God. The Jews had been adopted by God in such a manner, that he surrounded them with certain enclosures, which consisted of rites and ceremonies, that they might not be confounded with unbelievers, though the door of the fold was the gracious covenant of eternal life confirmed in Christ. For this reason he calls those sheep which had not the same mark, but belonged to a different class, other sheep In short, the meaning is, that the pastoral office of Christ is not confined within the limits of Judea, but is far more extensive.
Augustine's observation on this passage is undoubtedly true, that, as there are many wolves within the Church, so there are many sheep without But this is not applicable, in every respect, to the present passage, which relates to the outward aspect of the Church, because the Gentiles, who had been strangers for a time, were afterwards invited into the kingdom of God, along with the Jews. Yet I acknowledge that Augustine's statement applies in this respect, that Christ gives the name of sheep to unbelievers, who in themselves were the farthest possible from being entitled to be called sheep And not only does he point out, by this term, what they will be, but rather refers this to the secret election of God, because we are already God's sheep, before we are aware that He is our shepherd. In like manner, it is elsewhere said that we were enemies, when he loved us,
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
and for this reason Paul also says that we were known by God, before we knew him."
[Sidebar: This, as I have mentioned before, is the most astounding miracle of the Christ consciousness, i.e. that the Christ consciousness can take us all in, in a moment; that Jesus can love us all in a single impulse. This miracle is perhaps the prime motivation behind Jesus sacrifice. The fact that he knew us all before we were known ourselves, to ourselves, is the link between ourselves and him through his divine and infinite love. Thus the infinite love of Jesus, for us, is the motivation for his sacrifice; and it was the sacrifice which was the ceremonial act which sealed his relationship to us as Father, Brother, and Mediator between heaven and earth.]
"But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
"Them also I must bring. He means that the election of God will be secure, so that nothing of all that he wishes to be saved shall perish. For the secret purpose of God, by which men were ordained to life, is at length manifested in his own time by the calling, -- the effectual calling, when he regenerates by his Spirit, to be his sons, those who formerly were begotten of flesh and blood.
As to ceremonies, they are the middle wall of partition, which, Paul informs us, hath been thrown down.
"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,"
Thus, we have been associated with the Jews in the unity of the faith, as to the substance; and the ceremonies were abolished, that there might be nothing to prevent the Jews from stretching out their hand to us.
And there shall be one fold and one shepherd That is, that all the children of God may be gathered and united into one body; as we acknowledge that there is one holy universal Church, and there must be one body with one head.
There is one God, says Paul, one faith, one baptism. Therefore we ought to be one, as we are called into one hope,
"4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,"
By the obedience of one many were made righteous,
"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
[Sidebar: Notice that this scripture gets us closer to the crux of the matter by referring to the one act of obedience to the Will of the Father that redeemed Adam's original sin, and established the gateway between Heaven and Earth. The idea that a single act can have massive ramifications (Adam's fall) and that a single act (Jesus' sacrifice at Golgotha) can reverse those ramifications is the key to Jesus' authority as the One True Gatekeeper.
Furthermore, the implied Karmic balance is of supreme interest, since there has been much said about Jesus being the first and last Adam. If it were really true that a single act of disobedience brought the rule of Satan into the world, it is more than pleasingly symmetrical that a reincarnation of the same soul should expunge that infernal influence and open the way to Heavenly horizons.
One other slight side issue springs to mind over the problem of the one church in the one baptism: that is simply that the apostle speaking in this passage is really not aware of the extent of the global population of the world at this time. It would have been much easier to think of one church in one baptism over the then known world, than it would have if the apostle had known about the vast continents of Earth that were not then even yet imagined. The entire world as we know it now was not even thought in this statement about the one church. Therefore the parochial aspect of the newly formed Christian cult could not have even begun to take in the immensity of the principle, “the One Catholic Church”.
As I've said before the authority of Jesus over the entire world is unquestioned in my mind, except for the language. Jesus came to establish a spiritual edifice, not a social or political entity. As I've said many times, the language in which we express Christian concepts may in another land and in another language sound un-Christian indeed, but this does not mean that the Catholic Church spread out over all time and space is not a spiritual reality; it does not mean that religious souls in China are not in fact praying to Jesus whether they know it or not. Hence the huge effort of the original Christians to read the good news in all lands might really have been as much an exercise in language training as it was spiritual training. Nevertheless involvement in the Christ impulse is an anomalous experience, and regardless of language we choose to express it in, the experience itself is anomalous, and cannot be mistaken for anything else. It's just a thought.]
Clarke's Commentary on John 10:2:
"He that entereth in by the door - Observe here the marks, qualities, and duties of a good pastor; The first mark is, that he has a lawful entrance into the ministry by the internal call of Christ, namely, by an impulse proceeding from his Spirit, upon considerations which respect only his glory, and upon motives which aim at nothing but the good of his Church, the salvation of souls, the doing the will of God, and the sacrificing himself entirely to his service, and to that of the meanest of his flock."
[Sidebar: As we get closer to the true significance of Jesus' sacrifice we will hear more and more about his love for us. His love for us is pure, unlike Satan's love for God which was tainted with narcissism. Jesus was quite canny in claiming the authority of the Christ, and yet always deflecting the attention away from Himself, either to the Father Who sent Him, or to the disciples whom He is sent to serve.]
Barnes' Notes on John 10:2:
"He that entereth by the door - This was the way in which a shepherd had access to his flock. In John 10:7 Jesus says he is the door. In this place he refers to those who by him - that is, in accordance with his spirit and law become ministers of religion. Is the shepherd of the sheep - Christ does not here refer to himself, for he is the way or door by which others enter; but he refers to all the ministers of the gospel who have access to the church by him. In the original, the article "the" is missing before the word shepherd - "is a shepherd." By his entering in this manner he shows that he is a shepherd one who cares for his flock, and does not come to kill and destroy."
[Sidebar: Emphasize, "Christ does not here refer to himself, for he is the way or door by which others enter." This is important, because, as Luther says, even though the Father and Son are One, "The Son is of the Father, but the Father is not of the Son."]
Another Luther comment on this scripture appears in his Sermon for the Second Sunday after Easter; John 10:11-16:
"1. Today's Gospel has been appointed, I think, for this Sunday because Christ announces in it that he will lay down his life for his sheep, that is, suffer and die; and yet he also shows, at the same time, that he will rise again, in that he says: "Other sheep I have; them also I must bring" etc. For if he is to be and remain a shepherd of his sheep, he must not remain in death, as he himself afterward explains and interprets, in plain words: "I have power to lay my life down, and I have power to take it again."
2. The Jews indeed heard this parable and sermon of Christ, but did not understand it at all, as the context declares. It sounded altogether too strange in their ears that he alone should be the true shepherd, and yet he was in the act of laying down his life for his sheep. What kind of a shepherd, think they, was this to be, who would die and give his life for the sheep? Can that be called guarding and keeping the sheep?
3. In like manner it was an intolerable doctrine to them that he said he had other sheep which were not of this fold, that is, did not belong to the nation which alone was called God's people. These also he would bring, and of these, although they were not of this fold, there should be one flock, under one shepherd, regardless of what became of their fold and their shepherding. They understood very well what he meant by shepherd and sheep (for it was a form of speech familiar and current among them, especially from the Scriptures), namely, that he claimed to be a man who would teach and govern the people. But because, as they consider it, he puts forth his claim so unreasonably, wishing to be the shepherd alone and yet saying that he will lay down his life for the sheep and that he has still other sheep which he will gather and make one flock--notwithstanding that they, the Jews, refuse to be his sheep--they are offended in him and say that he is mad and that the devil speaks through him. They, nevertheless, understood this much, that his meaning was that their shepherding--that is, their entire government which they had from Moses, the Law, the priesthood, circumcision, the service of God, all appointed for them by God himself--should become void and henceforth count for nothing, and that he would institute something entirely new, in which he would be all in all and rule supreme and would gather a new flock of both Jews and gentiles, just as he should find those who would cling to him recognizing no one else, whether Judaism and its government, glory and existence should abide, stand or fall.
4. He makes matters still worse by saying, "I am the good shepherd," whereby he draws the people entirely to himself. He means to say, Dismiss the teachers and rulers you have, and take me for your shepherd. The very best of them, those who teach and profess Moses and the Law, he calls hirelings, who are to be forsaken and not listened to; without considering that other multitude, the thieves and murderers, that is, those who teach against God's Word and are public persecutors. Hereby he well deserves that they should execute him without sentence and grate, as a public-accursed blasphemer against God, God's Law and God's people.
5. Without doubt, the great lords, high priests, Pharisees, scribes and all that belonged to their spiritual government, defiantly boasted and bragged against all this: We sit in the true office and priestly estate, ordained not by Moses, but by God himself through Moses. How dare you, rebellious scoundrel, open your mouth before all the people and boast against God's ordinance and commandment, that you are the shepherd and you alone? You are not even of priestly lineage, of those to whom God, through Moses, committed this charge and whom he commanded the people to hear. And when did God, publicly before all the people, speak to you as he spake to Moses? Who are you, or where do you come from, that you dare, of your own authority, to utter such things and to apply to yourself alone all that has been said and commanded concerning the office of shepherd, thereby exalting yourself above and against Moses, the Law of God, the priesthood and all authority? Is not this both rebellious usurpation of the government and the crown by the whole people, and also blasphemy and sin against the divine Majesty?
6. To say, "I am the good shepherd," what else is it but to say: To me alone they must hearken, the whole flock of sheep. That is, the entire nation belongs to me alone. I alone am its shepherd, and the only good shepherd, who saves the sheep. You, however, are but hirelings, that care not for the sheep, seeking only your own in them and letting them perish in time of danger. In one word, this is to make the people revolt from them and to tell the people that they have no good shepherd or preacher who is faithfully-minded towards them or is able to save them and to whom they ought to give ear. "For my sheep," says he, "hear not the voice of a stranger." But he tells them, if they cling to him, they shall be saved.
7. Moreover, he not only says that he alone is the shepherd of these sheep, but that he also has another flock and people, who are not under the government of Moses but are altogether outside of this fold. These, also, are to cling to him, and all shall be alike to him, gentiles as Jews, and Jews as gentiles. This is now the most offensive thing of all, that he makes nothing of God's people and puts them, with their Law, priesthood and everything else, on a level with the gentiles, and the gentiles on a level with them, so that neither is better, of more importance or has more than the other. In short, it is equivalent to saying that all Moses instituted and ordained in the priesthood, temple and service of God is to come to an end and to pass away; that now there is a new priesthood and government, and a new shepherd has arisen, whose alone the flock is to be and who is to do all. This surely is knocking the bottom out of the barrel and taking the head off from all Judaism, depriving it of all its glory. Hereby he simply bids them to yield up their shepherdhood, to hear him alone and to suffer him to be all in all."[Sidebar: From these remarks, it will be not be surprising as to why Luther is such a hero for me. He might be said to be the first great American Christian. Certainly, the democratic spirit that runs through these remarks concerning the authority of the church, and the ultimate authority of Jesus as the one door truth, is truly reminiscent of the good old American individualism. As I've said before, I am responsive and respectful of great teachers, but I would never substitute the authority of their spiritual experience for my own personal experience; therefore, the authority of the Pope, and the authority of church leaders would never ever become my ultimate guide in directing my faith toward a focal point. To me, Jesus is always the ultimate focal point, and through him all the details of belief, catechism, authority, and ceremony are made transparent.]
Wesley's Notes on John 10:3:
"To him the door keeper openeth - Christ is considered as the shepherd, John 10:11. As the door in the first and following verse s. And as it is not unworthy of Christ to be styled the door, by which both the sheep and the true pastor enter, so neither is it unworthy of God the Father to be styled the door keeper. And the sheep hear his voice - The circumstances that follow, exactly agree with the customs of the ancient eastern shepherds. They called their sheep by name, went before them and the sheep followed them. So real Christians hear, listen to, understand, and obey the voice of the shepherd whom Christ hath sent. And he counteth them his own, dearer than any friend or brother: calleth, advises, directs each by name, and leadeth them out, in the paths of righteousness, beside the waters of comfort."
Clarke's Commentary on John 10:7:
"I am the door of the sheep - It is through me only that a man can have a lawful entrance into the ministry; and it is through me alone that mankind can be saved. Instead of, I am the door, the Sahidic version reads, I am the shepherd; but this reading is found in no other version, nor in any MS. It is evidently a mistake of the scribe."
[Sidebar: then confusion between the terms door and Shepherd is not a trivial one. In my thinking on this subject I keep coming back to the global significance of Jesus, the mediator between God and man. I keep imagining the Christ consciousness spread out over the entire collective unconscious of the world, leading into and drawing from every human mind its essential thought patterns and feeling emanations. It is such an overwhelming miracle to contemplate-- the wideness of the Christ consciousness, the inclusiveness of the Christ consciousness.
It is mind-boggling, and yet it is so easy to believe in, so easy to accept; since Jesus knows me so well, He must also know you; after that initial leap it becomes a matter of quantity, not quality. The Shepherd's voice is known by his sheep; It calls out, to all mankind, the same gentle seduction; all men in all languages hear this voice--and that is because it is not the language of the mind, but the language of the heart; and we understand that all men's hearts are equal before God. Thus, the Shepherd and the door are the same and yet different. The Shepherd calls, and the door embraces and enfolds the sheep. This may be a subtle distinction but it is a beautiful cosmic motion to contemplate from afar. And as it is an even more beautiful cosmic experience to take into one's life.
There's one more thing. What is it that gives the Shepherd's voice the power to penetrate the minds of all human beings. The source of this power, this authority, can only be thought of as coming from the sacrifice which Jesus, alone of all men in all times, made at a crucial point in history –an event which had never-ending consequences. Jesus bought and paid for this authority with His carnal life. We must never lose sight of the fact that it was Jesus’ blood, shed on Golgotha, that forged the link between Heaven and Earth. Our freedom to live in Heavenly light was purchased for the price of a magnificent death.]
Clarke's Commentary on John 10:11:
"I am the good shepherd - Whose character is the very reverse of that which has already been described. In John 10:7, John 10:9, our Lord had called himself the door of the sheep, as being the sole way to glory, and entrance into eternal life; here he changes the thought, and calls himself the shepherd, because of what he was to do for them that believe in him, in order to prepare them for eternal glory. Giveth his life for the sheep - That is, gives up his soul as a sacrifice to save them from eternal death. Some will have the phrase here only to mean hazarding his life in order to protect others; but the 15th, 17th, and 18th verses, as well as the whole tenor of the new covenant, sufficiently prove that the first sense is that in which our Lord's words should be understood."
Barnes' Notes on John 10:11:
"The good shepherd - The faithful and true shepherd, willing to do all that is necessary to defend and save the flock. Giveth his life - A shepherd that regarded his flock would hazard his own life to defend them. When the wolf comes, he would still remain to protect them. To give his life, here, means the same as not to fly, or to forsake his flock; to be willing to expose his life, if necessary, to defend them. Compare Judges 12:3; "I put my life in my hands and passed over," etc.; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21. See John 10:15. The Messiah was often predicted under the character of a shepherd.
Barnes' Notes on John 10:14:
"Know my sheep - Know my people, or my church. The word "know" here is used in the sense of affectionate regard or love. It implies such a knowledge of their wants, their dangers, and their characters, as to result in a deep interest in their welfare. Thus the word "knoweth," in John 10:15, is in John 10:17 explained by the word "loveth." Jesus knows the hearts, the dangers, and the wants of his people, and his kindness as their shepherd prompts him to defend and aid them. Am known of mine - That is, he is known and loved as their Saviour and Friend. They have seen their sins, and dangers: and wants; they have felt their need of a Saviour; they have come to him, and they have found him and his doctrines to be such as they need, and they have loved him. And as a flock follows and obeys its kind shepherd, so they follow and obey him who leads them beside the still waters, and makes them to lie down in green pastures."
Wesley's Notes on John 10:14:
"I know my sheep - With a tender regard and special care: and am known of mine - With a holy confidence and affection."Clarke's Commentary on John 10:18:
"I have power - Or, authority, εξουσιαν. Our Lord speaks of himself here as man, or the Messiah, as being God's messenger, and sent upon earth to fulfill the Divine will, in dying and rising again for the salvation of men. This commandment have I received - That is, I act according to the Divine commandment in executing these things, and giving you this information."Barnes' Notes on John 10:18:
"No man taketh it from me - That is, no one could take it by force, or unless I was willing to yield myself into his hands. He had power to preserve his life, as he showed by so often escaping from the Pharisees; he voluntarily went up to Jerusalem, knowing that he would die; he knew the approach of Judas to betray him; and he expressly told Pilate at his bar that he could have no power at all against him except it were given him by his Father, John 19:11. Jesus had a right to lay down his life for the good of people. The patriot dies for his country on the field of battle; the merchant exposes his life for gain; and the Son of God had a right to put himself in the way of danger and of death, when a dying world needed such an atoning sacrifice. This shows the special love of Jesus. His death was voluntary. His coming was voluntary - the fruit of love. His death was the fruit of love. He was permitted to choose the time and mode of his death. He did. He chose the most painful, lingering, ignominious manner of death then known to man, and thus showed his love.
I have power - This word often means authority. It includes all necessary power in the case, and the commission or authority of his Father to do it. Power to take it again - This shows that he was divine. A dead man has no power to raise himself from the grave. And as Jesus had this power after he was deceased, it proves that there was some other nature than that which had expired, to which the term "I" might be still applied. None but God can raise the dead; and as Jesus had this power over his own body it proves that he was divine. This commandment - My Father has appointed this, and commissioned me to do it."
[Sidebar: One of the primary conclusions of last week's sermon came from the excerpt we read from Kafka's The Trial: the conclusion was that for each of us there has been exclusively created the one door by which we may enter; we, ourselves, are our own personal one door, and Jesus, as mediator between Heaven and Earth, stands before that door. Jesus is the advocate between our lower and higher selves, and, just as we discussed before, concerning the final day of judgment: on that day we will stand before Jesus, and His Presence will evoke in us our own sense of virtue or guilt, and we will save or condemn ourselves, rightly, through the admissions of our own conscience.
Jesus is the one door because we ourselves, in the Christ Consciousness, are the one door. We are our own one door. Now, the idea that Jesus may lay down his life and then take it up again, is central to the whole idea of freedom which allows us to choose the open door or not. There will be much said in today's sermon about the ultimate bottom line of our career on earth-- the ultimate bottom line of our spiritual awakening into higher dimensions; and that bottom line is intimately linked to Jesus' statement that he has the freedom to choose or not to choose; indeed, this the very freedom that we must exercise ultimately in choosing the one door.
John 10:7-18 International Bible Lesson Commentary:
"No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
"When Jesus died on the cross, the devil or wolves in sheep’s clothing did not take Jesus’ life from Him in the sense of being a victor over Him in death. Roman soldiers hanged Jesus on the cross to murder him, so they needed to be forgiven for their sin, and Jesus prayed they would be forgiven by His Father. But Jesus chose the exact moment of His death (when His atoning sacrifice was finished). Jesus also chose the exact moment to rise from the dead on the first resurrection Sunday. Because His Father commanded Him to do these things, Jesus chose His moment of death and the moment of His resurrection. By doing so, Jesus was obedient to His Father and not disobedient. Jesus obeyed His Father when He chose to remain on the cross and allowed himself to be mocked when some sneered, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42)."
The idea that Jesus had power to lay down his life where and when he chose, brings into question a sideline which has been much discussed among certainly New Age philosophers and more traditional Christians as well; that is the question of Judas. Even in the many will be versions of the crucifixion the part of Jesus is very often played in different ways. One of my favorite interpretations is the cutest was actually in league with Jesus as to the precise scheduling of his sacrificial crucifixion. It is not hard to interpret the words do what you must do quickly demesne Judas it's now time to put this final phase of the plan into operation. It's not unreasonable to think that Judas worked with the Christ organization to theatrical eyes the whole crucifixion event, not it is not trivial that that crucifixion took place at Passover the most sacred of Jewish holidays. So just as occasionally we are tempted to see Satan as a obedient servant of God, who coincidentally performs heinous, atrocious crimes against humanity, so it is not impossible to imagine Judas in a similar role as an obedient servant of Jesus. The question of it if this interpretation has any validity at all it calls into question the reason for Judas is hanging himself after is it was all over. Perhaps he did feel guilty perhaps he was doing it against Jesus wishes or perhaps the vision of his great love beloved Rabbi hanging suffering on the tree was too much for him and he succumbed under the weight of responsibility. Nevertheless it is a point which we will never know the truth until we enter the kingdom and talk to Jesus himself about it.
As you well know, my quest for a broad-minded inclusive theology has led me to Steiner, who often has mind-expanding insights into the broader global resonance of Christian events. Of all Steiner's writings it is his writing on the crucifixion of Jesus, and the significance of Jesus' taking responsibility for Original Sin that is the most fascinating and illuminating. However, in order to get at Steiner's interpretation of the crucifixion, we must first take in two principles which he insists are a part of the cosmic plan and they include the so-called Satanic and the Ahrimanic consciousness here in a nutshell is what these two things are
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"The anthroposophical view is that good is found in the balance between two polar, generally evil influences on world and human evolution. Two spiritual adversaries endeavour to tempt and corrupt humanity: these are often described through their mythological embodiments, Lucifer and his counterpart Ahriman, which have both positive and negative aspects. Lucifer is the light spirit, which "plays on human pride and offers the delusion of divinity", but also motivates creativity and spirituality; Ahriman is the dark spirit, which tempts human beings to "...deny [their] link with divinity and to live entirely on the material plane", but also stimulates intellectuality and technology. Both figures exert a negative effect on humanity when their influence becomes misplaced or one-sided, yet their influences are necessary for human freedom to unfold."
It will immediately be apparent that the Satanic and Ahrimanic concepts of Steiner are very much like the William Blake theory of Contraries. Blake was very willing to accept activities of a wild and tempestuous nature (which indeed have a Satanic tang to them) as being actually virtuous expressions of an intellectual essence. Also, the Ahrimanic propulsion toward technology can be attributed to a large majority of the advances made in science in the Western tradition. Thus, it may be thought that the Satanic consciousness has a sort of an Eastern religion bias, while the Ahrimanic has a sort of Western civilization bias.
The following is from Steiner's:
The Gospel of St. John: The cosmic significance of the Mystery of Golgotha. The conquest of death through the expulsion of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence.
"Instead of the mirage of the senses, man should see everywhere and in everything about him the divine Father-principle to which he and all things belong. Thus the divine Father-principle does not show itself in its true form; by reason of the diminution of man's powers, of which we have spoken, it appears veiled in the great illusion or maya.
What is interwoven in this great illusion? Among all the facts which we apprehend, we are struck by one of especially fundamental nature — namely, Death. We must reflect that the outer things which present themselves to our senses are of a truth the Father-principle; they express the divine spiritual Father-element. And since death is interwoven in the whole world of sense, we look upon it as something belonging to the divine spiritual Father-element. Man's development having been such as it was, the divine Father-principle appears to him enveloped in many a veil, and last of all is the veil of death. What, therefore, must man seek behind death, as behind all sense-perceptions? He must seek the Father, the cosmic Father! As man must learn to say of everything: ‘It is in truth the Father!’, so he must learn to say: ‘Death is the Father!’ Why does the image of the Father appear to us distorted and disfigured to the extent of appearing as the illusion of death? Because the Lucifer-Ahrimanic principle is intermingled with our whole life. By what means, therefore, was it necessary to lead man from a deceptive, false view to a true conception of death?
It was necessary that man should be enlightened regarding death on the strength of facts. Something was necessary from which man could learn that whatever he felt and knew concerning death, all that he had been able to effect under the impulse of his conception of death was false. An event was to happen whereby the true form of death was made clearly perceptible to him; the false form was to be extinguished and replaced by the true form.
This was the mission of Christ upon earth: by His Deed to substitute the true form for the false form of death."
[Sidebar: There is another factor that Steiner dwells on elsewhere, and which I insert here: it is the factor of ceremony: in another place, Steiner makes much of the ceremony of shedding Jesus's blood. We often place too little emphasis on formality. When I took over the Director of Worship position at Basin Bible Church, I made sure to include a certain amount of ritual into our proceedings, just to make sure that the mornings where solemnized somewhat by the enactment of some traditional Christian rites.
In my concerts, the ritual of performance is enforced to elevate the event into more than an informal, trivial entertainment. Likewise, the ceremonial shedding of blood at Golgotha was the rite that necessarily created a transcendent relationship between Jesus and the whole of the Earth and her people. The heart and the commitment were already there, but without the blood, the relationship was not physicalized, spirit was not made flesh. We need to remind ourselves, every day, to notice how it is we, personally, bear the spirit of the Christ into the world as a living being.
Back to Steiner:]
"Now this Being did arrive upon earth, as we have seen, and did conquer Lucifer and Ahriman precisely at the right moment; He removed the cause of the presence of death in the world. Hence that Being was necessarily one who had nothing to do with any causes of death whatever among men. He must have had no part in anything that had been effected by Lucifer, and later by Ahriman, or which had been accomplished by individual men on earth in consequence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence; in other words, He must have had no part in anything that had made man guilty and had caused him to fall into sin. For had that Being been subject to all these causes, there would have been grounds for the death which He suffered. But a death such as His, a groundless death, taken upon Himself by a Being without sin, an altogether guiltless death could alone annihilate all death due to guilt.
An innocent Being, therefore, was to suffer and become united with death. Having yielded Himself up to death, He brought into human life those forces which gradually and by degrees create for man the knowledge of the true nature of death — that is, the knowledge that death, as it appears in the world of sense, is devoid of truth, and that, if it came, it was for the sake of life in the spiritual world; indeed, it provides precisely the foundation for this life."
I think there can be no lower bottom line than death. As Carlos Castaneda says, the warrior's constant companion and final enemy is Death. Indeed, Castaneda has many pertinent things to say about death:
Journey to Ixtlan:
"Death is our eternal companion. It is always to our left, an arm's length behind us. Death is the only wise adviser that a warrior has. Whenever he feels that everything is going wrong and he's about to be annihilated,he can turn to his death and ask if that is so. His death will tell him that he is wrong, that nothing really matters outside its touch. His death will tell him, ?I haven't touched you yet.'
“In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”
Don Juan: the Sorcerer:
“To seek freedom is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out there. Freedom to dissolve; to lift off; to be like the flame of a candle, which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle.”
Journey to Ixtlan:
“The dying sun will glow on you without burning, as it has done today. The wind will be soft and mellow and your hilltop will tremble. As you reach the end of your dance you will look at the sun, for you will never see it again in waking or in dreaming, and then your death will point to the south. To the vastness.”
And as we search for reasons to justify Jesus' authority over man, His authority at claiming the role of mediator between God and man is the ultimate answer. His death forged the link between God and Man, and His death has, thereby, become the model for our death.
If there is anything all we human beings have in common: it is that we all die, that we all know we are going to die, and that we all have complex feelings about dying. Faith in Jesus is surrendering our doubts about death to the veil of unknowing, and, through faith, accepting death as the ultimate blessing bestowed on us by the Shepherd, Who brings us through that open door the, one and final entry into the Kingdom.
Let us pray: Jesus, you know that behind all our words of faith and trust, we still tremble with fear of the unknown. Please allay our fears, and lend us, each day, a glimpse of the glory you have in store for us. Now, we see through a dark glass, but reassure us that, by entering into your love, your grace will bestow on us the clarity, peace of mind, the serenity, and the acceptance--the kind of knowingness which will soften the edge on our fear of death, and invite us into your outstretched loving arms. Amen.