Hallowed be thy name…
(Understanding God’s Identity)
Jesus establishes God as a heavenly father figure, but that’s not enough for most of us. Without a name, he seems lost in abstraction. Try as we might, we simply can’t bring him into view. There is only the vague presence of someone hovering around us—like the adult of a Charlie Brown Peanuts Special, always outside the frame, speaking in a strange indecipherable language. Jesus understands our predicament, but unlike Moses, who chiseled the Word to fit the hardness of our hearts,1 he isn’t going to bend the gospel around our weaknesses. He’ll allow for the idea that God has a name, but he isn’t about to tell us what it is.
Why the secrecy? Because Jesus understood that once God is given a name such as Yahweh or Elohim, it doesn’t take long before we start asking for special favors.2 Jesus, as we know, wanted to break the belief in a God that plays favorites. He wanted his followers to realize that in the Father’s eyes all races of people are equal: the gospel of Christ beating at the heart of all true religions. “He who is not against us are for us,”3 proclaimed the carpenter’s son. That includes Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, Jews, and others. What we label ourselves isn’t important as long as we follow Christ’s gospel of love, charity, and good works—as long as we climb the mountain and live up to our potential as God’s children.
Our journey though is hard and steep—especially at the beginning—which is why when churches offer a shortcut to the kingdom of heaven we are quick to accept. It’s quite comforting to think that Jesus did all the legwork, and that we can just coast into heaven on the belief that he is our savior. Unfortunately, Jesus never made such a claim. In fact, he makes it quite clear that he expects us to do our own walking, carrying our own crosses.4 The obstacles we face on the way are our responsibility to remove because, more often than not, they are of are own making.
One obstacle to the kingdom is our habit of seeking God from without rather than within. In Old Testament days, this habit regularly took the form of idol worship. Today it is much the same, except we’ve replaced the golden calf with images of Jesus of Nazareth—fetishizing his likeness in our churches, art work, books, and car ornaments.
We’ve fallen into this trap because Jesus, while being cagey about God’s name, says that salvation is to be found through his own “name”.5 As usual, we have to be careful of taking Jesus’s reported words too literally. It is clear that he never wanted to be personally honored for the things he did.6 Throughout the Gospels he shuns the ego–trip, cherishing anonymity over fame.7 He even goes so far as to tell the disciples not to call him “good,”8 while urging secrecy from those whom he heals.9
When Jesus talks of Christ, God, or the kingdom of heaven, he always speaks in metaphors and parables,10 expecting us to seek the deeper meaning. When Jesus says that he is the pathway to the Father,11 he is not talking as Jesus of Nazareth but as the Christ child who lives in us all. He is calling each of us to turn our attention inward, to reconnect with that child through the power of the Holy Spirit.12 What he is not doing, is asking us to bow down and praise him, or go through life as spiritual automatons asking, “What would Jesus do?” If we are to kneel before anyone it is our neighbor, so as to wash their feet and honor them as sons and daughters of the Lord.13
This teaching has always been a pretty hard one to…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- “Moses,” they said, “permitted a man to ‘draw up in writing a notice of separation and divorce his wife.’” 5 “It was owing to the hardness of your hearts,” said Jesus, “that Moses gave you this direction; 6 But, at the beginning of the Creation, God ‘made them male and female.’” – Mark 10:4-6 [↩]
- Then the mother of Zebediah’s sons came to him with her sons, bowing to the ground, and begging a favor. 21 “What is it that you want?” he asked. “I want you to say,” she replied, “that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right, and the other on your left.” – Matthew 20:20–21 [↩]
- Mark 9:40, Luke 9:50 [↩]
- If anyone wishes to walk in my steps, let them renounce self, take up their cross, and follow me. – Mark 8:34 [↩]
- And you will be hated by everyone on account of my name. Yet the one that endures to the end shall be saved.” – Matthew 10:22 [↩]
- Not that I am seeking honor for myself; there is one who is seeking my honor, and he decides. – John 8:50 [↩]
- “You are the Christ.” 30 On which Jesus charged them not to say this about him to anyone. – Mark 8:30 [↩]
- ““Why do you call me good?” answered Jesus. “No one is good but God. – Mark 10:18 [↩]
- Her parents were amazed, but Jesus impressed on them that they were not to tell anyone what had happened. – Luke 8:56 [↩]
- Of all this Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables; indeed to them he used never to speak at all except in parables. – Matthew 13:34 [↩]
- I am the door; you who go in through me will be safe, and you will go in and out and find pasture. – John 10:9 [↩]
- And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you always—the Spirit of Truth. – John 14:16 [↩]
- If I, then—‘the Master’ and ‘the Teacher’—have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet; 15 For I have given you an example, so that you may do just as I have done to you.” – John 13:14–15 [↩]
But deliver us from evil…
(Overcoming Our Egos)
When pride is overcome, we cure a symptom of our separation from God not its root cause. We are like the frog born at the bottom of the well, who is unaware of the larger world that exists beyond the walls of his home. These walls are what psychologists have come to call the ego, and the well itself what Jesus (lacking our modern lingo) called the pit, where the fire (i.e. our desire) is never quenched.1 It is what some have called our “original sin”. Yet “sin” is the wrong word. For sins are connected to choices. And we did not choose to be placed in the well—although it is our choice whether or not we remain there.
The well is better described as our original condition. And Jesus’s entire ministry was about teaching others to overcome it. Asking us to abandon our egos though is a tough sell. Because while we know that egoism leads to pride, hate, violence, theft, adultery and every evil under the sun,2 we also believe that our egos define who we are. We think that if we lose our ego, we will lose our identity; and we are offended by those who suggest otherwise.
This offense that we take is registered in the Gospel of John during the story of the Last Supper—the last fellowship for Jesus before he crucifies his ego, abandons the well, and experiences full consciousness in Christ. At the dinner table, the disciples cry out against the “harsh doctrine” they are being taught.3 Their shock is not over the eating of the flesh and blood of the Son of Man (as those are just metaphors), but that in becoming “united” with Christ that they will lose their sense of self.
We, like the disciples, consider our egos as being solid and permanent. That is the devilish illusion. For if we look back upon our lives, we find that the person we identify as “me” changes as we grow. The middle–aged man or woman often looks with strange fascination toward the person they were at eighteen, just as the senior does toward their middle–aged self. Sometimes we cannot even believe the person we were yesterday!
These changes are all evidence of the Holy Spirit at work, as it pushes us to recognize the vast kingdom that exists outside the well in which we live. When we overcome the well, we don’t lose ourselves, but expand our realities of place and self to include joys and experiences that were beyond our imagination. We leave our ego identity behind to discover our soul’s identity,4 which is ever growing and limitless.
Our journey out of the well is symbolized by Jesus’s teaching of the cross, and the Gospel writers’ depiction of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Whether Jesus was actually crucified or not is a matter that can be left to personal belief. What is to be recognized is that even if Jesus were not crucified by the Romans, we would have had to do it ourselves for the sake of the gospel story. Because in order to understand the profound depth of Jesus’s renunciation of the ego, we need a crucifixion parable to guide us.
Parables are able to provoke that “aha” experience we get when…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- It would be better for you to enter the kingdom of God with only one eye, than to have both eyes and be thrown into the pit: 48 Where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. – Mark 9:47-48 [↩]
- For it is from within, out of the hearts of men, that there come evil thoughts: unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, 22 Greed, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, haughtiness, folly; 23 All these wicked things come from within, and do defile a man.” – Mark 7:21–23 [↩]
- On hearing it, many of his disciples said: “This is harsh doctrine! Who can bear to listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, aware that his disciples were murmuring about it, said to them: 62 “Does this offend you?” – John 6:60–62 [↩]
- He must become greater, and I less. 31 He who comes from above is above all others; but a child of earth is earthly, and his teaching is earthly, too. He who comes from heaven is above all others. – John 3:30–31 [↩]
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man who had been blind from his birth. 2 “Rabbi,” asked his disciples, “who was it that sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither the man nor the parents,” replied Jesus; “but he was born blind that the work of God should be made plain in him. 4 We must do the work of him who sent me, while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 Saying this, Jesus spat on the ground, made clay with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he said, “and wash your eyes in the pool of Siloam” (a word meaning ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed his eyes, and returned able to see.
8 Upon this his neighbors, and those who had formerly known him by sight as a beggar, exclaimed: “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 “Yes,” some said, “it is”; while others said: “No, but he is like him.” The man himself said: “I am he.”
10 “How did you get your sight, then?” they asked. 11 “The man whom they call Jesus,” he answered, “made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me: ‘Go to Siloam and wash your eyes.’ So I went and washed my eyes, and gained my sight.” 12 “Where is he?” they asked. I do not know,” he answered. 13 They then took the man, who had been blind, to the Pharisees.
14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and gave him his sight. 15 So the Pharisees also questioned the man as to how he had gained his sight. “He put clay on my eyes,” he answered, “and I washed them, and I can see.”
16 “The man cannot be from God,” said some of the Pharisees, “for he does not keep the Sabbath.” “How is it possible,” retorted others, “for a bad man to give signs like this?” 17 So there was a difference of opinion among them, and they again questioned the man; “What do you yourself say about him, for it is to you that he has given sight?”
18 The Jews, however, refused to believe that he had been blind and had gained his sight until they had called his parents and questioned them. 19 “Is this your son,” they asked, “who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he can see now?”
20 “We know that this is our son,” answered the parents, “and that he was born blind; 21 But how it is that he can see now we do not know; nor do we know who it was that gave him his sight. Ask him—he is old enough—he will tell you about himself.”
22 His parents spoke in this way because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that, if anyone should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, they should be expelled from their synagogues. 23 This was why his parents said: ‘He is old enough; ask him.’
24 So the Jews again called the man who had been blind, and said to him: “Give God the praise; we know that this is a bad man.” 25 “I know nothing about his being a bad man,” he replied; “one thing I do know, that although I was blind, now I can see.”
26 “What did he do to you?” they asked. “How did he give you your sight?” 27 “I told you just now,” he answered, “and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Surely you also do not want to become his disciples?”
28 “You are his disciple,” they retorted scornfully; “but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; but, as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
30 “Well,” the man replied, “this is very strange; you do not know where he comes from, and yet he has given me my sight! We know that God never listens to bad people, but, when we are god-fearing and do God’s will, God listens to us. 32 Since the world began, such a thing was never heard of as anyone giving sight to a person born blind. 33 If this man had not been from God, he could not have done anything at all.”
34 “You,” they retorted, “were born totally depraved; and are you trying to teach us?” So they expelled him.
35 Jesus heard of their having put him out; and, when he had found the man, he asked: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Tell me who he is, sir,” he replied, “so that I may believe in him.” 37 “Not only have you seen him,” said Jesus; “but it is he who is now speaking to you.”
38 “Then, sir, I do believe,” said the man, bowing to the ground before him; 39 And Jesus added: “It was to put men to the test that I came into this world, in order that those that cannot see should see, and that those that can see should become blind.”
40 Hearing this, some of the Pharisees who were with him said: “Then are we blind too?” 41 “If you had been blind,” replied Jesus, “you would have had no sin to answer for; but, as it is, you say, ‘We can see,’ so your sin remains.
To read the next chapter of the Book of John, please go to The Gospel of John – 10.
This Online New Testament Gospel of John is excerpted from the book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life (with New Century Gospels). Including over 200 bookmarked citations from the canonical Gospels, this Progressive Christian book appeals to the Unitarian spirit at the heart of all faiths.
Challenge your perceptions on the Gospel of Christ, Jesus’s parables, and the Kingdom of God by purchasing The Lord’s Prayer book today. Produced by LivingHour.org, a Thailand-based small press dedicated to publishing unique Learning Easy Thai Language Books, as well as works on progressive spirituality.