"'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me ...." (John 15:20-21)

"Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:20-21)

Is Jesus warning his followers?

Jesus is clarifying to his followers that those who sought to persecute Jesus will also seek to persecute his followers.

Jesus is speaking of those officials in the temple at the time, and those who followed them. Jesus is referring to the High Priest Caiaphus and those appointed temple priests under him who sought to silence Jesus.

They sought to silence Jesus because he was speaking the Truth, and this laid bare the falsehoods contained in the official temple teachings at the time. These put custom and ritual ahead of the purpose of the Prophets - love of God.

What does 'no servant is greater than his master' mean?

Certainly, this is a logical statement by Jesus. But he is saying this emphatically. Jesus is stressing that if his followers truly follow him, they will be persecuted just as he will be.

Jesus is inferring that his followers are essentially his servants if they continue to follow his teachings. This is a tradition that goes back thousands of years in Judean history. A student of a rabbi would be considered the teacher's servant.

This is not slavery mind you. The word "servant" here is based on voluntary service. Service that is given out of love and appreciation to the teacher. It is not that the teacher would take advantage of the student. One who did was not to be accepted as a true "master" - a spiritual master so to speak.

Who is 'the One'?

Jesus is referring to God. Furthermore, the phrase, "the One" illustrates that God is an individual. He is a person. God is not a vague force or a void. God is an individual who has a will, can be loved, and can send messengers. Only a person can send another person. Only a person can exchange love.

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. He also exchanged loving relationships with each of these messengers, as well as with Jesus.

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 institutional temple 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.

Did Jesus' teachings reflect the Prophets' teachings?

Some proclaim that Jesus' teachings were new - that he departed from the teachings of the Prophets and made God - the Father - more accessible and merciful.

This is not completely true. Jesus quoted the Prophets over and over in his teachings. This included quoting David, Isaiah, Samuel, Abraham, Moses and others. Why would he quote them over and over if he was teaching something new?

Certainly, Jesus' teachings were geared towards the society of that time - a more peaceful society of villages and towns. This contrasts the brutal conditions that existed during the time of Moses, Joshua and Samuel, as warring tribal fiefdoms battled for territory in a harsh environment.

As a result, there were lots of battles during the times of the Prophets. And Judeans had become nomadic due to their enslavement by the Egyptians and the subsequent battles as they sought a place to settle. Prophets had to sometimes take authority and communicate rules that provided for the survival of the whole population. The 'rule of law' was much harsher than what was needed during peaceful times.

But mistranslation and misinterpretation also played a large role in the misunderstandings related to the teachings of the Prophets.

For example, we find the instruction to "fear God" throughout those teachings. This was primarily translated from the Hebrew word יָרֵא (yare'). Yes, this word can mean "fear" in the right context. But it can also mean "to revere," and "to honor" and "to stand in awe of, be awed" according to the lexicon.

So who decided that the Prophets meant "fear God" instead of "honor God," "revere God" or "be in awe of God"?

These are the institutional scribes that were part of the temple system that Jesus is speaking of in John 15:20-21 above. They have made God out to be a brutal, vengeful God. They have made God out to be petty and jealous with their translations and interpretations of the ancient texts of the Prophets.

This is because their goal is to control their followers. They want to keep their followers in a state of fear that unless they follow them, they will have the wrath of God upon them.

Ironically, this is a similar strategy that was embarked upon by the Roman government as they took charge of the early Christian movement. They embraced the fear-mongering policies of the temple system that Jesus is criticizing here.

As a result, the Roman-Catholic empire (Holy Roman Empire) controlled Christianity with an iron fist for over 1,000 years. This included setting the standard interpretations of the teachings of Jesus and the Prophets.

This interpretation followed Paul's interpretations (Pauline theology) of Jesus' life, even though Paul's interpretations and philosophy contradicted the teachings of James and Peter, who were Jesus' real disciples. Paul pronounced himself an apostle of Jesus even though he had not heard Jesus' teachings from Jesus. 

Instead of doing the hard work of learning and following Jesus' teachings, Paul claimed to have had a vision of Jesus, and within days he was preaching to people. This vision of Jesus wasn't even a true vision. It was a flash of light and a voice according to Acts, and that flash of light wasn't seen by Paul's fellow travelers. How did Paul know the voice was Jesus' voice? He hadn't heard Jesus speak. So how do we know the voice wasn't someone else?

Based only on this supposed voice telling Paul to stop persecuting Jesus, Paul decides he is now Jesus' true apostle. Despite the fact that his teachings disagree with Jesus' own teachings and those of his disciples.

Paul was a Roman, and the Romans liked his version. It was easy for Romans to follow. They could continue with their materialistic lives and just have their sins washed off as a result of Jesus' crucifixion. This is quite ironic since it was the Romans that crucified Jesus.

Despite Jesus' clear teachings, the Roman-Catholic doctrine, driven by the Nicene Creed and Pauline theology was indoctrinated into Christianity. The Nicene Creed was enforced by Emperor Constantine, who gathered bishops from around the early Christian world and had them agree to a doctrine acceptable to Constantine.

Then Constantine appointed Eusebius to assemble an official set of books and translate them into Latin. This became the first official Bible.

For nearly 1,000 years, it was illegal for a common person to own or read one of these official Bibles. They could only be read by priests. Furthermore, every other form of scripture was banned - and the Romans would burn down libraries of homeowners and philosophers in order to control the doctrine.

And anyone teachings something contrary to the Nicene Creed would be burned at the stake for being a "heretic."

Is this the same as brainwashing? 

Or we might call it indoctrination. Whatever we call it, the Romans successfully cemented their control over the region for centuries. And even when the Roman Empire collapsed, their surrogate Roman Catholic church continued its dominance of Europe and the Mediterranean for another 1,000 years.

This continued strength was supported by the Eastern Roman Empire until the 14th Century. Today this effort to control people around the world continues as the Vatican. It is only recently becoming known how much political power and abuse the Vatican wielded over the past few centuries.

Yes, there are many secrets to the power of the Roman Catholic institution. The bottom line is power. It is authority. Maintaining authority through force.

This is what the Romans did. And this is what the temple institution of Jesus' time did.

Is this doctrine consistent with Jesus' teachings?

This doctrine of easy atonement was continued by most other Christian sects. They might not have taken all the rituals of drinking "Jesus' blood" in the form of wine and "eating Jesus' body" in the form of crackers. But they adhered to the notion that Jesus' suffering paid for their sins.

First, Jesus never taught this abhorrent philosophy. He taught love of God and worshipping God in order to come to a point of having a change of heart (being reborn). That is what purifies someone.

Secondly, Jesus taught that sinning has consequences. Absent a change of heart, each of us must suffer the consequences of our behavior. This is what Jesus taught to someone he had healed:
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)
Jesus was teaching the man that he would have to suffer the consequences of his sins. This means that sins have consequences.

We see this all around us. When we harm someone, it comes back to us. Either right away or in the future. If not in this life, in another life.

This is also the point of the question asked by his disciples:
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
This means that Jesus taught that a person's sins could cause consequences in the next life.

Jesus' teachings defined spiritual life as requiring love, humility and service. If we examine the teachings of each of the Prophets, we find them consistent in this respect.

Without humility, there can be no spiritual progression. We must humble ourselves before God and this is not consistent with seeking power and authority over other people.

Today we find increasingly lost among the institutional sects and their seminary schools. As for the latter, a person can pay the tuition and pass the tests without having to devote themselves to the Supreme Being.

As a result, many leave the seminary without being devoted to God. Most become businessmen. They are paid to teach. They do not teach out of devotion. It is a fee-for-service system.

As a result, they cannot 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."
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? The Book of Matthew conveys that John, Jesus and Jesus' disciples were teaching the same thing. And Jesus regularly quoted the Prophets and teachers of the past such as David, Isaiah and Moses. 

This illustrates an important fact: Jesus was passing on the same message of the Prophets that his teacher John taught, and Jesus asked his own followers to pass on that same message.

This illustrates the crux of Jesus' teachings. The fact that Jesus often quoted Isaiah, David and Moses illustrates that Jesus' teachings were consistent with the teachings of the lineage of teachers before him, inclusive of John the Baptist. He was teaching the same message, applied to a 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. This means Jesus is stating that he 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).

Why do we continue to persecute Jesus?

Those who keep images and art of Jesus hanging on the cross to suffer for their sins continue to persecute him. They primarily see Jesus as someone who has suffered for them.

Could a doctrine be more ridiculous? That God - the Supreme Being - must come down to earth to hang from a cross to save us from our own sins - our own decisions to harm others?

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. 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)