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 [↩]
Gospel of Matthew 23
Then Jesus speaking to the crowds and to his disciples, said: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees now occupy the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore practice and lay to heart everything that they preach but do not copy their works, for they do not follow what they preach. 4 While they make up heavy loads and pile them on other men’s shoulder’s they decline, themselves, to lift a finger to move them. 5 All their actions are done to attract attention. They widen their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and like to have the place of honor at dinner, and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted in the markets with respect, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by everybody.”
8 “But do not allow yourselves to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master, Christ, and all you are brothers and sisters. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father, for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Nor must you allow yourselves to be called ‘leaders,’ for you have only one leader, the Christ. 11 Those who would be the greatest among you must be your servant. 12 Whoever shall exalt themselves will be humbled, and whoever shall humble themselves will be exalted.”
13 “But woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You turn the key of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you do not go in yourselves, nor yet allow those who try to go in to do so. 14 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You destroy widow’s houses, even while pretending to make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.”
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You scour land and sea to make a single convert, and, when he or she is gained, you make them twice as deserving of the pit as you are yourselves. 16 Woe to you, you blind guides! You say, ‘if any swear by the temple, it counts for nothing; but, if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, their oaths are binding’! 17 Fools that you are and blind! Which is the more important? The gold? Or the temple which has given sacredness to the gold?”
18 “You say, too, ‘If any swear by the altar, their oaths count for nothing, but, if anyone swears by the offering placed on it, their oaths are binding’! 19 Blind indeed! Which is the more important? The offering? Or the altar which gives sacredness to the offering? 20 Therefore anyone, swearing by the altar, swears by it and by all that is on it, 21 And anyone, swearing by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it, 22 While anyone, swearing by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him who sits upon it.”
To continue reading Chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew, please click on page 2 below.
Gospel of Mark 9
“I tell you,” he added, “that some of those who are standing here will not know death till they have seen the kingdom of God come in power.” 2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain alone by themselves. There his appearance was transformed before their eyes, 3 And his clothes became of a more dazzling white than any bleacher in the world could make them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them, in company with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.
5 “Rabbi,” said Peter, interposing, “it is good to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, because they were much afraid. 7 Then a cloud came down and enveloped them; and from the cloud there came a voice: “This is my beloved Son; him you must hear.” 8 And suddenly, on looking round, they saw that there was now no one with them but Jesus alone.
9 As they were going down the mountain-side, Jesus cautioned them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, till after the Son of Man should have risen again from the dead. 10 They seized upon these words and discussed with one another what this ‘rising from the dead’ meant. 11 “How is it,” they asked Jesus, “that our teachers of the law say that Elijah has to come first?”
12 “Elijah does indeed come first,” answered Jesus, “and re-establish everything; and does not scripture speak, with regard to the Son of Man, of his undergoing much suffering and being utterly despised? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and people have treated him just as they pleased, as scripture says of him.”
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a great crowd round them, and some teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 But, as soon as they saw Jesus, all the people, in great astonishment, ran up and greeted him. 16 “What are you arguing about with them?” Jesus asked. 17 “Teacher,” answered a man in the crowd, “I brought my son to see you, as he has a dumb spirit in him; 18 And, wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth, and he is pining away. I asked your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they failed.”
19 “O faithless generation!” exclaimed Jesus. “How long must I be with you? how long must I have patience with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 They brought him to Jesus; but no sooner did the boy see him than the spirit threw him into convulsions; and he fell on the ground, and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has he been like this?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.
22 “From his childhood,” he answered; “and it has often thrown him into fire and into water to put an end to his life; but, if you can possibly do anything, take pity on us, and help us!” 23 Why say ‘possibly’?” Jesus replied. “Everything is possible for one who has faith.” 24 The boy’s father immediately cried out: “I have faith; help my want of faith!”
Learn how to pray like Jesus prayed.
To continue reading Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Mark and how the first must be last, please click on page 2 below.