The keys to spiritual life
Jesus is clarifying to his disciples his role as God's representative. He is also speaking of what it means to be a follower, and the basic reason for his coming persecution.
Reminding his disciples of their position as his disciples - meaning they're being his servants - is critical here: Humility and service is key to understanding not only the relationship between Jesus' disciples and Jesus: It is the key to understanding the relationship between Jesus and the Supreme Being.
Spiritual life requires love, humility and service. They are inseparable.
This is one of the reasons Jesus' close students were called disciples: Jesus instructed them, sometimes told them what to do, and disciplined them from time to time. This is the traditional role of the spiritual teacher. To train the students, which sometimes means humbling them - teaching them to understand their position.
Without humility, there can be no sincere spiritual progression. A student of a bonafide spiritual teacher must humble themselves before such a teacher. This prepares them for humbling themselves before God.
Today we find this relationship mostly lost amongst the sectarian seminary schools that train the teachers to supposedly represent Jesus. A person can just pay the tuition and pass the tests and write the papers - they do not need to devote themselves to their teacher and the Supreme Being. They do not need to humble themselves before their teachers. And their teachers - their professors - didn't humble themselves before their teachers either.
These professors are not bonafide spiritual teachers anyway. They are businessmen. They are paid to teach. They do not teach out of devotion. It is a fee-for-service system.
Their students thus do not gain access to the spiritual realm. This is the realm of devotion. It is the realm of humility. Passing the tests of humility and devotion have nothing to do with passing finals and paying tuition.
Jesus illustrates in his discussion the way the devotional system of spiritual training works. He says:
"If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." What does this mean?
In this system, the student submits themselves to the teacher, becoming the teacher's servant. In their service to their teacher, they go out and teach others what they received from their teacher. If the student is sincerely serving the teacher, a person who follows the student's teachings is also following the teachings of their teacher, and their teacher's teacher. This is a devotional succession.
Jesus showed us by example as he submitted himself before his teacher, John the Baptist. This is the symbolic meaning of baptism - the submission of the student to the teacher.
And Jesus taught precisely what John the Baptist taught. How do we know this? Consider these verses:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:1-2)After being baptized by John, Jesus began to teach the very same message:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)Jesus then told his disciples to preach this same message to others:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)While this expression "The kingdom of heaven is near" may not cover their entire teachings, it rightfully conveys the message of God's nearness - the ability to turn to the Supreme Being at any time and place. The ability to turn to God now.
Is it a coincidence that all three taught the same message? Think again. The fact that the Book of Matthew conveys all three (John, Jesus and Jesus' disciples) were teaching the same thing illustrates an important fact: Jesus was passing on the same message his teacher taught, and he asked his students to pass on that same message.
This illustrates the crux of Jesus' teachings. We also find that throughout Jesus' lectures he quoted the prophets before John the Baptist, such as Samuel, David, Moses and Abraham. These quotes illustrate that Jesus' teachings were consistent with the teachings of the prophets, inclusive of John the Baptist. He was teaching the same message, applied to that particular time and circumstance.
Furthermore, Jesus explains the common thread amongst those teachings: Their teachings are ultimately coming from the Supreme Being.
This is why Jesus' teachings are consistent with John's and David's and Moses'. Because those teachings are coming from the same person: God.
Jesus confirms this when he says to his disciples:
"They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me."
Jesus is clarifying the fact that he is representing the Supreme Being. Jesus is not God as many ecclesiastical sectarians like to speculate. Jesus clearly was sent by the Supreme Being. He was God's messenger: "the One who sent me" is a very clear statement, and it identifies two individuals: God (the Sender) and Jesus (the messenger).
Who is the One?
This is referring to God. Furthermore, the phrase, "the One" illustrates that God is a person. God is not a vague force or a void. God is an individual who can send people. Only a person can send another person.
And we find from the Old Testament that God also sent Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Eli, Samuel, David, Job, Ezekiel and others, to also teach to humanity on His behalf.
Why? Because the Supreme Being sends those who have submitted themselves to Him and who exchange a relationship with Him. And this submission is represented by their submission to the Supreme Being's representative.
Just consider how a president of a foreign country treats the ambassador sent by a president of another country they intend to maintain good relations with. They honor and respect him. They do not ignore the ambassador, even if they can call the president of the ambassador's country directly. Their honor and respect for the other president naturally extend to the trusted ambassador.
Isn't this how all messengers work? A great person will send a message through someone they trust. They will not send a message through just anyone, because just anyone might screw up the message.
In the same way, God sends His teachings through those who are devoted to Him. Those who He can trust to pass on those teachings without changing them.
Jesus is also illustrating in this discussion that the reason others persecuted him is that they didn't realize he was representing God. They didn't see Jesus' lofty position as God's representative.
Those Jewish officials and high priests who criticized Jesus and then had him arrested and brought him to trial were ignorant of his real position. Why? Because they did not know God. They did not have the spiritual vision to see Jesus' position. Thus they persecuted him out of their ignorance, and their enviousness.
Why do we continue to persecute Jesus?
And those who keep Jesus hanging on the cross to this day to suffer for their sins continue to persecute him. Out of ignorance, these people also do not see who Jesus is. They proclaim that Jesus is God and that God had to come down to the earth so He could suffer for their sins. How ridiculous is that? That God - the Supreme Being - must come down to earth to hang from a cross to save us?
That is simply hogwash. God never has to come under any rules of sacrifice. The Supreme Being is above all forms of sacrifice. He can save anyone He wants with a simple thought. He may be the object of sacrifice for others, granted: But that kind of sacrifice is called service. Devotional service.
Those who keep Jesus on the cross so they can imagine him suffering for their sins to relieve them of their selfish behavior are not being cleansed. We can tell that because they continue those activities. Purification means to change. It means to be cleansed of the self-centered desires that produce those activities.
Those who claim that Jesus died for their sins still must suffer the consequences of their self-centered activities. They are not relieved. A person who steals still has to go to jail to pay for their stealing, even if they might be wearing a cross around their neck. They will still have to pay the consequence for their activities.
Yet Jesus does have the ability to save us. By following his teachings. We can be cleansed by turning our life around. We can be cleansed by focusing our lives on the Supreme Being. Instead of being focused on me, myself and I, we can become focused on the Supreme Being and His representatives. That kind of focus has the ability to cleanse our consciousness - and purify our consciousness.
Jesus specifically directed his students - and all of us - on the nature of that change of consciousness:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)