And forgive us our trespasses…
(Removing Our Hindrances Part II)
We’ve just described our journey toward a life in Christ as a rising. But the act of “rising” (such as rising above petty arguments and concerns) can sometimes get us into trouble, especially we Christians. The reason is that when we rise toward our divinity, we often look down on others with a misguided sense of superiority.1 Jesus condones none of that. He knocks us off our pedestals by insisting that we wash the feet of others if we are to have any part of him.2
To keep us grounded Jesus also teaches that our rebirth in Christ is owed to both spirit and water.3 This lesson is one that’s largely been forgotten. Most Christians today see water simply as an accoutrement to the ritual of baptism, forgetting that the performance of rituals was something that Jesus only grudgingly accepted—for he knew how often they become codified into new forms of idolatry.
We can see such idolatry in the way the Pharisees rigidly held to their laws of the Sabbath.4 When it came to baptism, Jesus saw it as something which needed to be done for the sake of the community, rather than for himself—telling John the Baptist they must suffer the task so as to “satisfy every claim of religion.”5 In other words, Jesus allowed himself to be baptized to fulfill the religious expectations of Israel, so that their minds would remain open to receiving the gospel of Christ.
That the heavens are said to have literally opened up during Jesus’s baptism, with the Holy Spirit descending on his head like a dove,6 does not mean that we are magically turned into Christians during this ritual. Instead, these metaphors are used to illustrate water’s essential role in our spiritual transformation.
To understand why Jesus says that our rebirth in Christ is owed to water, we must look at water as a parable, or character in a story. Water’s narrative is that it likes to follow the path of least resistance. Likewise, the Holy Spirit seeks the path of least resistance as we remove the hindrances7 that block Christ from entering our lives.
Throughout Christendom this teaching has been driven under ground by a litany of ignoble wars, fire and brimstone preachers, and overzealous missionaries. But no person has ever been led to Christ through violence, threats, or intimidation, only by experiencing the Holy Spirit as it flows effortlessly from the souls of others.
How easily we forget Jesus’s admonition to turn the other cheek; to not resist wrongs; to give our possessions to those who want to sue us; and walk two miles with those who compel us to go but one.8 In other words, to pass through this life like water.
Rather than accept the path of least resistance, we often strike out on the course of greatest resistance, confusing the lesser path with one of weakness. What we fail to recognize (but what Jesus was well aware of) is that water has another defining characteristic. It has the dammed up potential to flow forward with great force, when its hindrances are pulled away, forever altering the landscape below the break. Likewise, the Holy Spirit has tremendous power to transform lives, to create a holy current that will carry along others and make us true “fishers of men,” As Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew—casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 “Come and follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 The two men left their nets at once and followed him.9 if we but remove the obstacles in its path.
When we pray “forgive us our trespasses” we are beginning…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- Speaking to people who were satisfied that they were religious, and who regarded everyone else with scorn, Jesus told this parable. – Luke 18:9 [↩]
- 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 [↩]
- “In truth I tell you,” answered Jesus, “unless you owe your birth to water and spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. – John 3:5 [↩]
- Jesus walked through the corn-fields one Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and began to pick some ears of wheat and eat them. 2 But, when the Pharisees saw this, they said: “Look! your disciples are doing what it is not allowable to do on a Sabbath!” 3 “Have not you read,” replied Jesus, “what David did, when he and his companions were hungry. 4 How he went into the house of God, and how they ate the consecrated bread, though it was not allowable for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests? 5 And have not you read in the law that, on the Sabbath, the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are not guilty? 6 Here, however, I tell you, there is something greater than the temple! 7 And had you learned the meaning of the words: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned those who are not guilty. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:1–8 [↩]
- Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to see John and be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent him. “It is I,” he said, “who need to be baptized by you; and yet you come to me?” 15 “Suffer it be so for the present,” Jesus answered, “since it is fitting for us thus to satisfy every claim of religion.” – Mark 3:1315 [↩]
- Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent apart, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. – Mark 1:9-10 [↩]
- Blessed are those who find no hindrance in me. – Luke 7:23 [↩]
- I, however, say to you that you must not resist wrongs; but, if others should strike you on the right cheek, turn the other to them also; 40 And, when people want to go to law with you to take your coat, let them have your cloak as well; 41 And, if anyone compels you to go one mile, go two miles with them. – Matthew 5:39–41 [↩]
- Matthew 4:18-20 [↩]
Before the Passover festival began, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave the world and go to the Father. He had loved those who were his own in the world, and he loved them to the last. 2 The devil had already put the thought of betraying Jesus into the mind of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon;
3 And at supper, Jesus—although knowing that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was to return to God—4 Rose from his place, and, taking off his upper garments, tied a towel round his waist. 5 He then poured some water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel which was tied round him.
6 When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said: “You, Master! Are you going to wash my feet?” 7 “You do not understand now what I am doing,” replied Jesus, “but you will learn by and by.” 8 “You shall never wash my feet!” exclaimed Peter.
“Unless I wash you,” answered Jesus, “you have nothing in common with me.” 9 “Then, Master, not my feet only,” exclaimed Simon Peter, “but also my hands and my head.” 10 “He who has bathed,” replied Jesus, “has no need to wash, unless it be his feet, but is altogether clean; and you,” he said to the disciples, “are clean, yet not all of you.”
11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said: ‘You are not all clean.’ 12 When he had washed their feet, and had put on his upper garments and taken his place, he spoke to them again. “Do you understand what I have been doing to you?” he asked. 13 “You yourselves call me ‘the Teacher’ and ‘the Master’, and you are right, for I am both. 14 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.”
16 “In truth I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor yet a messenger than the man who sends him. 17 Now that you know these things, happy are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking about all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but this is in fulfillment of the words of scripture: ‘He that is eating my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 For the future I shall tell you of things before they take place, so that, when they take place, you may believe that I am what I am.”
20 “In truth I say that you who receives anyone that I send receives me; and you who receives me receives him who sent me.” 21 After saying this, Jesus was much troubled, and said solemnly: “In truth I tell you that it is one of you who will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, wondering whom he meant.
23 Next to Jesus, in the place on his right hand, was one of his disciples, whom he loved. 24 So Simon Peter made signs to that disciple, and whispered: “Tell me who it is that he means.” 25 Being in this position, that disciple leant back on Jesus’ shoulder, and asked him: “Who is it, Master?”
26 “It is the one,” answered Jesus, “to whom I shall give a piece of bread after dipping it in the dish.” And, when Jesus had dipped the bread, he took it and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot; 27 And it was then, after he had received it, that Satan took possession of him. So Jesus said to him: “Do at once what you are going to do.” 28 But no one at table understood why he said this to Judas. 29 Some thought that, as Judas kept the purse, Jesus meant that he was to buy some things needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.
30 After taking the piece of bread, Judas went out immediately; and it was night. 31 When Judas had gone out, Jesus said: “Now the Son of Man has been exalted, and God has been exalted through him; 32 And God will exalt him with himself—yes, he will exalt him forthwith.”
33 “My children, I am to be with you but a little while longer. You will look for me; and what I said to the Jews—’You cannot come where I am going’—I now say to you. 34 I give you a new commandment: love one another; love one another as I have loved you. 35 It is by this that everyone will recognize you as my disciples—by your loving one another.”
36 “Where are you going, Master?” asked Peter. “I am going where you cannot now follow me,” answered Jesus, “but you shall follow me later.” 37 “Why cannot I follow you now, Master?” asked Peter. “I will lay down my life for you.” 38 “Will you lay down your life for me?” replied Jesus. “In truth I tell you, the cock will not crow till you have disowned me three times.”
To read the next chapter of the Book of John, please go to The Gospel of John – 14.
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.
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