In mercy, and not sacrifice.
Not proud humilities of sense
And posturing of penitence,
But love's unforced obedience;
Christ dwells not afar,
But here, amidst the poor and blind,
The bound and suffering of our kind;
In works we do, in prayers we pray,
Life of our life, he lives today.
—John Greenlead Whittier
On a Sabbath day, nearly nineteen hundred years ago, in the city of Nazareth, a man, coarsely attired even for those days, was seen to enter the synagogue. Having inquired of an attendant, a book was handed to him, which he opened and read from the prophet Esaias: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Having read this, he closed the book and returned it to the minister. Then addressing the people, he said, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
Now, although many centuries have elapsed since that event, every civilized person living today knows who that man was. It is not the man Jesus, but his mission, that we are interested in—a mission that has been woefully misunderstood in the past. Who is better able to tell what that mission was than Jesus, who was "anointed of God" and filled with the very spirit of truth? Surely he, if any one, should be able to tell; and in the passage quoted he does tell in a few words, and in no uncertain way. His whole work is here made clear. He does not say that he came to found a new religion, or to promulgate a new creed or a new doctrine. No doubt he thought that the people of that time had enough of that sort of thing, as we have now.
Part of the mission of Jesus was to preach the gospel to the poor. Strictly speaking this may not mean those poor in worldly goods, but all those who feel their own unworthiness and who have a desire to attain to higher things. We might say those that are poor in spirit—hungry and thirsty for spiritual nourishment: to such Jesus was going to preach the gospel of Light and Truth.
"He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted." Truly, his mission was a blessed one—one that looms far above any whose aim is merely to give a new religion or an ethical code to the world. "To heal the broken-hearted!' How deep these words sink into the soul! Is it any wonder we cherish his utterances and his deeds when we see what loving compassion he entertained for all the wretched and sorrowing? The brokenhearted have found and will ever find comfort in his words and example.
But this does not mean that they must worship at the throne of personality. Jesus was so permeated by the spirit of love that it completely overshadowed the mere personality; and that is why he spoke as never man spake. "I speak not of myself," he says; "but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works."
It is not the spiritual part of our being that tells us we are other than sons of God: it is the blind worship of personality and form. It is just as necessary and expedient for us to discard the personal way of viewing the Christ as it was for the disciples of Jesus. The theological misconceptions concerning the life and mission of the "lowly Nazarene" arise from the stress laid upon the personal man and the lack of knowledge concerning the spirit that animated and controlled him. There is no ground whatever for believing that the personality of Jesus differed from that of other men. He himself made far less of that personality than we do of ours; for, as we see, he gives all honor and glory to the spirit of God. In this worship of personality we belittle the God we seek to worship and make ineffective the teachings of Jesus. We never find him declaring that God is a personality; but we hear him proclaiming that God is Spirit, and must be worshiped in spirit.
Besides healing the broken-hearted, Jesus was to set "the captives" free. Who were those that he was to be instrumental in freeing? Coming down to our own age, we find the same kind of captives that existed in his day. Riches, worldly honors, ambition to excel, desire to obtain the plaudits of men—these carry many captives. Jesus would release the men that sought after riches by pointing to the kingdom within. This would bring more abundant riches, which could not take wings and fly away but which would last eternally. He would show those seeking after worldly honors that they were but chasing a fleeting shadow that could in no way bring them permanent gain—that honors conferred on them from "on high" were the only lasting and true ones; and that the one seeking the plaudits of men would find after all that it was but vanity, and that the approval of God was far more to be desired.
Thus we find, by both word and example, he set the captives free.
The restoring of sight to the blind was also a part of the mission of Jesus. The people sat in darkness—in the region and shadow of death. But he brought a light that dispelled the clouds; the eyes that had so long been blinded from looking into the shadows and darkness were yet to see. Spiritual sight was never given to man to peer into the shadows and darkness, but that he might look up to the very heights whence cometh salvation. Looking heavenward, men lose sight of the unreal; death is not even a shadow. They see and know nothing save the great realities—Life, Love, and Truth—which are in all and are all.
Men have ever seemed more prone to dwell in the darkness than in the light. Shadow has seemed to contain more than substance, and thus they become blinded; for while in this state, they have no need of sight. So Jesus came to show that, even though they were blind, their eyes might yet be opened—the sight that had been dimmed might yet see clearly.
And he "set at liberty" the "bruised." Who were they? The people going to the temples and the synagogues asking for bread, while the priests and Levites were giving them stones—feeding them on that which could never satisfy the hungry soul. The soul can never be content with the things of this world. Creed, form, and ostentation may satisfy the outer man, but never the inner. These things but bruise and torment; and the man or woman that is in any way bound to them will be bruised—is captive in the fullest sense of the word. The captivity and the bruising will continue until the spirit of truth sets the weary ones free. The Truth alone can make us free; therefore, until people see spiritually they will be bruised.
Everything transpiring in the world about us is but a type of things occurring in the invisible world of thoughts and ideas. The outer form, or symbol, is nothing more than the manifestation of these thoughts and ideas. Everything expressed in the visible world has its ideal, or counterpart, in the invisible. If we can see no further than the form of things, how is it possible for us to arrive at the true solution of any of the great problems that confront us? If we view the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus from an external or literal point of view, in what way is it going to profit us?
Let no false views cloud the mind. It is not what we believe concerning what we see disclosed in the letter that saves us. By submitting our finite wills to the divine will—by understanding our relation to the Source of all life—life and immortality are disclosed to our view. Let us not deceive ourselves with the vain belief that through what we term intellect we are able to fathom and understand the spiritual truths of our being. The spirit of God must first quicken the understanding before these things can be made plain. The interpretation of spiritual things must come through spiritual channels before we can truly and clearly see.
Still another thing Jesus was to do: "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." That is, to show the people that God was not to be sought after at certain times or seasons, but that now is the day of salvation; that they need not wait seven years before the year of rest should come.
To preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the broken-hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord: this, then, is the sum and substance of the mission of Jesus.
Some would add a great many things that Jesus never taught. They would have us fall down and worship the man; they would have us believe that it is through the shedding of his material blood that we are saved. Now, let us understand this word shedding aright. The shedding of his blood was the casting off of the old nature—of something no longer useful. This is the true meaning. It is the new life that is disclosed. It is this passage from death unto life that should bring joy and peace into our lives; because we know that, if one soul has died to a knowledge of earthly things and lived to a knowledge of heavenly things, then that which has come to pass in the development of that soul, according to the eternal and unchanging law of God, must come to pass in the development of all souls.
This is the great and glorious hope that should thrill the breast of all mankind: that through man came the resurrection from the dead. Man died when his personal will asserted its supremacy—when he was guided by his lower instincts and animal propensities; and man arose from the dead when he cast off these things and acknowledged the will of God as being the supreme and only will that he should recognize or obey.
So it is written that the first Adam was made a living soul, but the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Thus we see how vain is the belief that the shedding of the material blood of Jesus can advance us spiritually. Vain indeed are the commandments of men concerning this. The Christ within alone can save—can set us free. Jesus of Nazareth points out the way—he preaches the gospel of deliverance; but within is the deliverer that can enlighten every man that cometh into the world. The heir of God, the joint heir with Christ, the son of God, is to be found within our own souls. The I Am—the God in the soul of man—is the resurrection and the life eternal.
There are other men that would take away from this mission of Jesus. They try to show that he was a fanatic, a disturber of the peace; that his teachings are contrary to common sense—as these men view common sense. With this class it is hard to have patience.
We all know that God has a mission for every soul to perform. My brother or my sister, have you truly found out what that mission is? Are you living for self, or are you advancing heavenward by living and doing for others? Is your mission to heal the sick, to preach deliverance to the captives, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord? Whatever it is, throw your whole soul into it. Do not go about it in a half-hearted way. Make every thought, word, and deed count. What the world needs today is practical, not theoretical, Christianity. The world is weary of the theoretical that is never put into action. Theories may be grand and true; but of what avail are they when not put to practical use? Would the teachings of Jesus have made a lasting impression on the world if he had failed in any way to live as he taught?
We find people today that talk with reverence of the Sermon on the Mount and the good it has accomplished. Yet they are very far from adapting or applying the great principles contained therein. In reality the Sermon might as well never have been spoken, so far as they are concerned; for they do not receive any real or lasting good from it.
Of what use are all the philosophies and religions of the world if not put into practical use? "Be not deceived; God is not mocked." We may deceive men with our outward professions of religion; we may observe every rite and form; we may talk like angels of light; but God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. He judges our every thought; to Him we all render our account; and we shall find that mere pretension is a coin not current in God's realm. How can we expect to reap where we have not sown?
It is unmistakably true that we, each and all, have a mission; and no matter whether it be high or low, in the eyes of the world, we know that with God there is neither high nor low. God requires only that each shall carry on his mission in this world according to his degree of spiritual unfoldment; and having done this faithfully, the "still, small voice," speaking from within, says: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
More from Charles Brodie Patterson
- Canadian New Thought author
- Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917