Strain Of An Eternal Gospel
On the 25th of this month we will be celebrating the advent of the Blessed Messiah, the birth Anniversary of Jesus, for it is generally accepted that He saw the light of the day in the eighth year before the Christian calendar began. Incidentally, modern historians and paleographic experts are inclined to believe that Jesus was born sometime in the month of October rather than in the night of December 25, but reason we have none to wrangle over this dispute, because it is hardly that traditional beliefs change and our concern is only with the life and teachings of the Christ.
How can mortal thought and finite language describe the glory of such a one who was far above the flesh with so profound, fathomless, immutable and yet so humane, loving and compassionate a personality that it is difficult even to imagine that once he had actually breathed this air and trodden over this earth?
A Revolutionary Doctrine
The doctrine of Jesus was surely one of the most powerful revolutionary forces to galvanise human thought. He lived far ahead of his time, so that the world of the day utterly failed to appreciate the real significance of his teaching and considered him to be a dangerous blasphemer. No wonder then that the Jewish Pharisees found their only redress in arresting and prosecuting this noble, relentless and redoubtable crusader at the Jerusalem court of Pilate, the Roman magistrate, who finally decided to get rid of him by a barbarously slow execution upon the cross, so that a religious uprising with consequent political complications might be nipped in the bud.
One of the earliest and most enlightened prophets of spiritual socialism, baptised by John while he was about thirty and preaching in the Aramaic tongue in Judea during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Jesus Christ was first to advocate in that part of the world the necessity to shed racial and class bigotry and to identify oneself as a common member of the vast family of mankind where everyone was a child of God with equal rights and opportunities to live in peace and to seek Him.
When selfishness and greed were nothing to be ashamed of, it was Jesus who emphasised the necessity of equal distribution of wealth, practical sympathy and loving considerateness for the fellowmen and the strangers alike, of abandoning vengeance and reprisal through forgiveness and charity, to love one's neighbour as one's own self for the obvious reason that there might be no disunity and disharmony, and, on the whole, to encounter evil by good, because if evil was to be met by evil there would be no end of it.
Christ's Concept of God
In the Hebrew world, Jesus was first to bring a healthier and more rational concept of God. The Jews believed that God had agreed to a bargain with Father Abraham, deciding their fate arbitrarily and yet reserving special privileges for them over other tribesmen in His own kingdom. This idea was revolting to Christ, and he boldly spoke out that God had nothing to do with one man's comfort and another's suffering, that He was a loving Father to all mankind, claiming no favourites absolutely: impartial, kind and merciful, and knowable through the cleansing of the human nature.
In Palestine, when Jesus lived, tribal loyalties and distinctions were rigidly observed, and, as is the case even in our own time, one race looked upon another with contempt and despise and tried to glorify themselves above all. Jesus could not bear this and sought to break up all differentiation through the gospel of universal brotherhood and all-inclusive love. This was one of the reasons, together with his unchangeable conviction in the common fatherhood of God, that outraged the sectarian patriotic fervour of his own people and the preferential, divine hierarchy of the priestcraft. He could neither reconcile himself that there were to be accumulated private property, reserved considerations, justification for earthly pride or for indiscriminate satiation of base impulses, continuation of traditional habits which sought to set up barriers between men and atonement for one's misdeeds through monetary dividends. What was the result? Jesus had to be a martyr.
His religion of the Messiah was the religion of heart, built on the edifice of love. He said that the kingdom of God was not to be found in this material world of fraud and deceit but in the hearts of good people who had transformed their lower nature. Thus, first of all, Jesus advocated an inner purification and he applied this doctrine on a social basis through his commandments in which he asked not to be promiscuous, not to steal, not to kill, not to bear false witness, not to hate and cavil, and not to defraud. But he went further and said if one really wanted to enter the Kingdom of God, he had to renounce earthly riches and vanities. So strong was his reaction to the privileged wealthy class, knowing fully well how corrupting was the influence of gold, that he proclaimed, It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for the rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,' and to a seeker who wanted to inherit the eternal life, he said. Ye cannot serve God and mammon; for either ye will hate one and love the other, or else ye will hold to the one and despise the other. Renounce everything, take the cross and follow me.'
Christ had an immense conviction about the sacredness of what he taught, emphatic as he was in his Sermon on the Mount that Blessed are they that hungered and thirsted after righteousness, for they shall be filled; blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; and blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God.'
He believed in the law of Cause and Effect, for he remarked Whatever man soweth that shall he also reap.' Many have wrongly accused him of being unduly exuberant in his promises for a future blessedness in heaven. On the contrary, he concerned himself more with the present than with the distant future, since he asked people to live the day well in goodness and in the service of God, and take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.'
Jesus revealed a profound respect for the public sentiment when he said the voice of the people is the voice of God.' He had an utter repugnance for religious insincerity, for he was very particular in advising When thou prayeth thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that may be seen of men; but thou, when prayeth, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.'
If Jesus Appears Today
It is extremely doubtful if by chance Christ happened to appear in this world again whether people would really listen to him even at this time, in spite of the tremendous proselytising by the unending trails of zealous missionaries, and, after all, whether the West itself, the very home of Christianity, would be willing to change its ways from so tantalising a glamour of materialism and its myriads of vested commercial and industrial interests, no doubt all meant for the greater and wider comforts of the fellow-men, but nonetheless resulting in an insatiable whetting of epicurean tendencies and the headiness of power politics. At any rate, Jesus might most likely find himself a stranger if he happened to be in the aisle of a Synod. Besides, nearly half of Europe and two thirds of Asia will decidedly refuse him entry visa, and more than eight hundred millions of people will be debarred from access to him. And yet, the world has no other go but to listen to and practise the teaching of the Christ if it is to save itself from recurrent global conflagrations, inevitable slaughter of great masses of innocent people, unmitigable suffering, and systematic demoralisation.
The pealing of Christmas bells brings us a wistful ray of hope and a languid expectation that the spirit of the Messiah might one day resurrect in all its glory in the hearts of men and women all over the world, and particularly within those that are at the helms of the world and governments.
May the grace of Holy Christ be upon us all!