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Jesus' life and words

Life, Love and Law

Life, Love and Law: Chapter 2


God's Perfection and Prescription:
To love everyone the same

1. Jesus' message about God's perfection

Who is God? What defines Him best? Or, said differently, what constitutes God's perfection ? We only have one passage from Jesus on this important subject, in a excerpt of the Sermon on the Mount :

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.1

For Jesus, God's perfection lies in Him loving the just and the unjust equally, a perfection He exhibits when He makes His sun rise equally on the evil and the good or when He sends rain equally on the just and the unjust. We also must love equally our friends and our enemies. We are to love those who curse us, use us despitefully and persecute us because this is how God acts and so this is how His children must act.

The Greek word «teleios» (τέλειός) translated by «perfect» would be better translated by «finished», «accomplished», «matured». It refers to the quality of someone who is completely what she is meant to be. In other words, if we want to be as we are meant to be, as God is as He is meant to be, we have to love the same each and every human on this planet, good or evil.

The Greek verb «agapaô»(άγαπάω) translated by «love» means «treat as a friend, with affection», «love», «cherish». This Greek verb is not only used by Jesus to describe how to treat one's enemies. It is also used in the Septuagint to describe the love humans must have toward God, as in the great exhortation «Shema Israel» («Hear, O Israel» in Hebrew)2. It is also the Greek verb found in both verses 37 and 39 quoted below where Jesus answers the question «Master, which is the great commandment in the law?»3 by:

[37] Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [38] This is the first and great commandment. [39] And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.4

In verse 40, Jesus states that the foundation of the Law and the Prophets is love of God as found in the great exhortation, to which He adds in verse 39 a form of the «Golden Rule»: «Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself». He also says in verse 39 that love of neighbour is similar, alike to love of God. Loving your neighbour, the people that you actually have to live with due to the circumstances of life, is for Him the same as loving God.5

To recapitulate, God by His Very Self loves everyone the same: this is how He Is. We are to do likewise as children of God our Father. This message is what the Word was trying to get across in the Law and the Prophets - with limited success as we can find in the Septuagint many texts where God is said to treat sinners very differently than the righteous.

2. Jesus' message about God's love

Let us look at the equivalent passage of Luke's Gospel, passage which is part of his version of the Sermon on the Mount:6

[27] But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, [28] Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. [29] And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. [30] Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. [31] And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. [32] For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. [33] And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. [34] And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. [35] But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. [36] Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.7

Again the object of this sermon is to tell people how to behave as children of God and so how to behave as God behaves, as children copy their parents. So this text is about God's behaviour just like the one of Matthew's.

But, instead of saying to be perfect as your Father is perfect like in Matthew, Jesus says in verse 36 to be «merciful» like your Father is «merciful» according to this translation of the Greek word «oiktirmon» (οικτιρμον), which can also be translated as «compassionate». So the text could read to be compassionate as God is compassionate.

In verse 35, Jesus says that the Father is «kind» to the unthankful and the evil. The Greek word « chrestos» (χρεστος) translated as «kind» means «of service», «good», «devoted», «obliging», «willing to help», «attentive». So it seems to me that «kind» is not strong enough. God is actually of service to humans, whether good or bad. In verse 35, Jesus says that God is a servant, a devoted servant or, better still, an attentive father; and that He is so to everyone, including the unthankful and the evil.

Basically God acts towards everyone in the same way, with the same love and affection, without making any distinction. This is not to say that God does not know that some are good and others are bad, but that this in no way stops Him from loving everyone of His humans with all His heart.

If we are to love our enemies just like our friends, and act towards our enemies just as towards our friends, it follows that there is no difference for us between enemies and friends. That distinction exists only in the mind of others.

But let us go back to the text quoted. We are to do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who despitefully use us.8 This was also found in Matthew. But there is more: if hit on one cheek, we are to offer the other; if we are robbed by someone, we are to offer her more; we are to give whatever is asked to anyone without wanting it back.9

In other words, Jesus says that we must agree to be taken for a ride. We must reckon that all are entitled to everything we have as we are there for them, either to be hit, abused or stolen from. We are not to expect to get back what we lend.10 We are not to think that anyone owes us anything.

Acting like God means acting in a way totally opposite to what today's experts consider healthy human behaviour. A Christian should act like a doormat, accepting to be used and abused, beaten and killed, raped and tortured without fighting back. This is how Christian martyrs lived for centuries as they understood this fact well. Why? Because that is how God acts, as He is the exact opposite of the Jewish God of war Jehovah Sabaoth that I portrayed in the third Chapter of my essay Christians and Scripture using selective excerpts from the Septuagint.

3. Jesus' «retreat» in the desert

Jesus, we are told in two of the Gospels, went into the desert to fast for forty days before He began His public life. He took some time out to figure out how to proceed with His mission. The three temptations that are mentioned encapsulate three of the options He had, examined and rejected as they would not bring Him «to perfection», would not make Him who He was meant to be.

I think it is very important to examine carefully these options and see why He rejected them. Or, put differently, why these options were from the Devil and thus, temptations.

But who is the Devil? The Greek word «diabolos» (διαβολος) translated by «devil» means «the one who breaks the bonds of unity», «to one who inspires hatred or envy». The related Greek word «diabolè» (διαβολη) means «division», «quarrel», «enmity», «aversion», «loathing», «repugnance», «accusation», «slander», «calumny». Here the Devil seems to refer to one individual, who is also referred to as «Satan» and as the «Prince of this world». The Greek word for «Satan» means «Enemy», «Opponent». The Greek term «archôn» (αρχον) for «Prince» means «chief» and derives from «archè» (αρχη) which means «beginning», «principle», «origin», «foundation», and then «command», «power», «authority». The Greek term «kosmou» (κοσμου) translated by «world» means «order», «good order», «order of the universe», «world», used in all its social, biological, economic and geological senses, as these are all ordered according to laws, either natural or social. «Kosmos» can thus quite accurately be translated by «world order». And, if we want to make the Devil a little less a Being and a little more a Principle, we could translate «Prince of this world» by «Foundation of this world order».

So we already have a certain knowledge of who the devil is. To add to this, Jesus gives him two attributes that permit us to understand even better who he is. Jesus retorts to some who were considering Him to be a devil:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.11

Jesus clearly states that the Devil is

1) a murderer, a human killer, from the beginning

2) a liar, incapable of telling the truth as he is the source of lies by fathering them.

The Devil is called a murderer from the beginning. What can that mean? Most probably that he is the inspiration of all murders, as the inspiration comes first, before the actual act. In other words, the Devil is the foundation of all violence that ends in the killing of humans. Our world order is, as we know, based on force: those who break the laws are punished against their will; some are killed. Our «world order» is based on brute force as this is the only way the state can impose its will on the individuals that it wants to control.

Jesus calls this foundation the source of all lies. He claims that this «world order», an «order» based on violence, is an illusion of order, an illusion of a life-giving universe. In fact, it only brings forth death. This world order is a pseudo (the Greek word for «lie» ) life-giving universe. Jesus came to tell us about the true life-giving universe, the Kingdom of God, based on love for all without exception, on the Golden Rule and non-violence.

This being determined, I will now examine the temptations in Matthew's version. The first one could be said to be that of self-sufficiency as the Devil suggests that Jesus can very easily feed Himself and so be of independent means:

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.12

Jesus is hungry after His fasting; so He is tempted to provide food for Himself, something I do when I am hungry. While I do, Jesus decided not to as He considered this action a temptation. Why? What about His answer? I have no problem with Him saying that bread is not enough to sustain a human life and that God's word is also required. But how does this stop Him from feeding Himself?

We know that Jesus ate and drank. Just like us, He needed food to stay alive; just like us, He got hungry and thirsty. So in what consists this temptation? What was basically wrong in Him doing a miracle to His own advantage, something that is never reported in the Gospels? It is as if He would not be true to Himself if He did so.

Perhaps a better look at the text Jesus quotes can help. Here is the complete verse of the text of Deuteronomy from which He quotes (His quote is in bold characters) :

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.13

The Greek verb «ekakôsen» (εκακωσεν) translated by «humbled» means «get in a bad shape», «mistreat», «put in a painful predicament», «make miserable» and the Greek verb «elimagchonèsen» (ελιμαγχονησεν) translated by «suffered to hunger» means «exhaust, wear out by hunger». So we see God making sure that His people's lives are totally miserable as they are famished. But why?

The text seems to mean that the Jewish people in the desert were required to put their total trust in God. They were humbled in the sense that they had been put by God in a position where they were totally incapable of looking after themselves, of saving themselves by feeding themselves. They were to trust that God would provide for them, and so He did, in His good time, after they had suffered the pangs of hunger. Just as the Jews in the desert had to rely entirely on God to keep them alive, Jesus had to rely entirely on His Father to keep Him alive. He had to act like humans are to act: that is, by total reliance on God their Father and not on their own actions.

Matthew's version concludes the whole episode with the verse: «Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.»14 In His good time, God His Father sends Jesus angels to feed Him.

We have looked at this text in the perspective of Jesus the man. But He is also the Son. From that perspective, the text implies that the Father can look after the Son and the Son can serve the Father, but the Son cannot serve Himself: this is against His very Being. Jesus is only for others, not for Himself. Using His divinity to His own personal human advantage is a contradiction of what He is: the One for Others. It is against divine nature. God is Love; not Self-Love, but Love of the Other.15

Jesus clearly understands that He must decide now, at the beginning of His ministry, to put His complete confidence in His Father, and not in Himself. He trusts that His Father will provide for Him; He knows that He does not have to worry about food and drink.

So He decides to live from hand-outs and not from the carpentry job He learned from Joseph. He has nowhere to live.16 He becomes nothing but a beggar as far as His contemporaries are concerned. He decides that all His time will be spent for the work His Father sent Him to do. He is to spend all His time trying to elucidate for people what His Father's Kingdom, the real life-giving order, is all about.

That this is so can be construed from the fact that this is what He asks from His disciples when He sends them preaching His message as reported in Matthew,17 Luke18 and Mark:

And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.19

The second temptation can be called that of the need to control:

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.20

Let us picture the scene: Jesus, on the Temple's pinnacle, in full view of the priests and the people. He wants to make a statement: God is on My side; believe in Me; My message is God's message. This said, to prove His statement, He throws Himself from His perch and God's angels come and take Him gracefully to a soft, dignified landing. That would have been a Hollywood entrance into public life if there ever was one! What a publicity stunt! Worth of the great prophets, like Moses and others, whose links to God were demonstrated by a great number of «special effects».

This is thus a seemingly acceptable way of doing things. It happened over and over in the history of the Jewish people if you believe the Septuagint. Surely Jesus' rôle in the history of salvation would justify such a startling beginning. But Jesus decided that this too was a non-starter.

Why? To begin with, Moses and the prophets never demanded that God provide them with «special effects». God decided to do so without their input. It would never have come to Moses' mind to ask for such a thing. He did point out to God that neither the Jewish people nor Pharaoh would believe him, but he did not venture to suggest some stunts to turn things around; God Himself came up with those according to the Septuagint.

But there is more if we look at the whole verse from which Jesus quotes (His quote again is in bold characters): «Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.»21 What happened in Massah? The Jewish people were in the desert. As we have seen in the previous quote from the book of Deuteronomy, the people had been fed with manna after they complained bitterly of being hungry. This should have shown them that God would provide them with what they needed. But they complained all the more that they were going to die of thirst. Again they did not believe in God's constant care for them. They had already lost their faith in God as their Saviour. They again did not believe that God would provide, and so demanded that they be brought right away to where water would be found.

Jesus knew He had a mission. He either could believe that His Father would provide so that He would attract some followers or He could force His hand by a stunt to make Himself famous by jumping from the pinnacle of the Temple and forcing His Father to rescue Him. This action would have been the one of someone who wants to control His destiny, not of someone who is there to serve His Father and just do His will in all humility. Jesus had to submit His will to His Father. By the way, the Arabic word «Islam» means «submission», and derives from the Arabic word «salaam» meaning «peace». In a religious context, it means a complete submission to the will of God,22 a total submission which naturally brings with it peace as there is no point in fretting.

So Jesus decided that He had to submit Himself to His Father, thus finding peace. His Father would provide. He did not need to worry, He did not need stunts.

Jesus could have spread His message very successfully by a way founded on this world order; this way constitutes His third temptation:

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.23

The key to success in this world is to embrace this world's order. It means to worship the principles of power, conquest, ambition or, in theological terms, Satan, the principle («prince») of this world order. Alexander conquered most of the world and imposed on it his Hellenic background. Jesus could have conquered the whole world and bring His religion to its subjugated peoples. But Jesus decided that this was to be avoided like the plague. Why?

Many times in history have Christians successfully used the method mentioned above. As their armies conquered such and such a new territory, their missionaries were able to bring Christianity to the indigenous population. Those subjugated people decided that the God their victors introduced had to be more powerful than theirs. The defeated population understood that refusal of this religion was as dangerous as rebellion against their new overlords as the penalty for non-conversion was Hell according to its preachers.

Country rulers often decided the religion of their people. The Roman Emperors ordered the definition of Christian dogmas through Church Councils to ensure the cohesiveness of their State by imposing uniform social, political and religious institutions on the peoples under their dominion.

What Jesus considers unacceptable has been done by Christians on many occasions. Why was it intolerable to Jesus? It is certain that the principle on which the State is based is violence, that is the threat of punishment for those who violate its decrees. In no State can we count on the absolute absence of crime, on love for each other and the pursuit of the common good. So we need laws and police forces to protect the social and political order as well as armies to protect the State from others which might be bent on attacking it. So by «necessity» the State is based on violence. This world order cannot but be founded on violence. And this foundation, this basic principle, is what is encapsulated in the «person» of Satan, the Prince of this world. Satan (as all human societies for that matter) knows for sure (though, as we have seen, this is a lie) that violence is the only way to create order out of chaos.

But Jesus does not want to live a life based on violence. He thus cannot in any way find support in and so worship this world order. This interpretation, it seems to me, is in agreement with Jesus' solution to His last temptation, another verse from Deuteronomy (the text He quotes is in bold characters):

Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.24

Jesus decides to dedicate Himself completely to His Father, putting all His eggs in one basket, refusing to play by the rules of our world, refusing to please any authority. Mind you, He is not the only one to have done so. He is the first to acknowledge that so did the prophets. This is why they ended up the way they did; and this is why He knows that He will get the same treatment.

Jesus understands clearly that His Father is One who loves each and everyone of His humans without limit or conditions. As He has to keep completely to His Father's game plan, He must base His whole life on love and resist the temptation of violence.

4. Jesus' reaction to violence

Let us now go right at the end of Jesus' life and see if, when the crunch came, He lived by the rules He had set for Himself. Here we have the litmus test. Here we see if Jesus meant what He said.

All the Gospel writers put a huge emphasis on Jesus' last few days on earth, which implies that they considered them of the greatest importance. This is quite surprising when you consider that it is the story of the disciples' treason and of their beloved leader's sufferings and ignominious death. Not a story to make someone good publicity!

In all four Gospels an incident is reported to have occured the night Jesus was arrested. The incident is the cutting off of the ear of a man in the police party by one of Jesus' followers. Mark's report is «And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.»;25 Matthews' is «And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.»;26 Luke's is «When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear»;27 and, finally, John's is «Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.»28

What happened then is somewhat different according to the source. Jesus' reaction according to John was «Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?»29 Luke's report is: «And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him».30 Mark's report says: «And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.»31 Finally, Matthews' report is: «Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?»32

All the gospels report that no more blows were given by Jesus' supporters. Furthermore, in three instances there is an explanation: Jesus told his supporter to stop fighting. In Luke's account, the injury is reversed by Jesus: the ear is put back in place. In John's account, He tells why the fighting must stop: «the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?»

Mark, who does not mention Jesus telling his followers to stop fighting, reports Jesus saying: «Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled». And Matthew has Jesus adding as an explanation to why His bellicose follower must stop fighting: «for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?»

So here we are have this leitmotiv : «the scriptures must be fulfilled» which was examined in the second Chapter of Christians and Scripture. We saw then that it referred to the fact that the Scriptures needed correction so as to fully represent God's reality.

5. Jesus' revelation of God through His passion and crucifixion

So in what way does this episode show the real nature of God? Jesus says that He must drink the cup that the Father has given Him. What is this cup? The sufferings and the death that are to come. He is to face torture, shame, to be beaten to a pulp by these savages in uniform which were Roman soldiers, men who loathed the Jews and so loved to beat them up. Crucifixion is no piece of cake either: it is one of the most painful and shameful types of executions available.

But in what way does that fate fulfill the scriptures? Why does He need to die an ignominious death, totally powerless in the hands of His enemies, letting them use Him for their own agendas (Pilate, to show the Jews the result of trying to defy his forces; the Jewish religious classes, to get rid of a trouble-maker, someone who was getting too popular, who was being a reproach to their way of thinking and living). Jesus was to be disposed of as any enemy is, without a second thought. The state must go on. Organized religion must go on. The non-conformists must be taught a lesson they will not soon forget. Jesus was another of many examples necessary to protect the world order, an order based on force and violence.

But that begs the question. Why did He have to go through this? Why is this needed to «fulfill the scriptures»? The Septuagint gives many images of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and as any reader can tell, those images do not form a coherent whole. As I showed in Chapter three of my essay Christians and Scripture, one of those images is that of a god of war called Jehovah Sabaoth who gets his kicks by crushing the Israelites' enemies. This god is like a Roman imperator, living for his victories and relishing in the destruction of his enemies, the plundering of their goods, and the taking of their wifes and children as slaves. A god who insists on total obedience from his people just like a Roman general insists on total obedience from his soldiers. In both cases, disobedience is immediately punished by death as an example to others. A powerful and implacable brute of a god who has favorites and enemies, boasts of his successes and exacts vengeance to the full.

Now here we have God-made-man, the Expression of God, submitting Himself to the kind of world order exemplified by the image of Jehovah Sabaoth just given and accepting all this brutality without lifting a little finger to save Himself. Here we have God Himself being bullied by Roman soldiers, made fun by them and the Jewish religious classes and mob and hanged to die, naked, after having been beaten up by brutes33 and whipped.34

This God does nothing to save Himself or to assert His power. He does not fight back. It is not that He could not theoretically do so or that He could not have found a way to just get out of there. No; He has to go through this: it is the Father's will. Because God is not He who lords over others. No, God is the One who serves others. He does not act violently; He is the One who suffers violence: He is the Suffering Servant.

This is the message that corrects the image of God given much too often in the Septuagint. Jesus, the Expression of God, now exorcises this image of the God of war, the God who condemns, the God who crushes those who cross Him. He, God Incarnate, dies on the cross like a criminal to express clearly that He is a God of non-violence, a God of Love, of Service. This way, He shows that His Kingdom (that is, His set of ways, of action, His set of priorities, His regime of government) is not of this world order.

This world order is based on power,35 injustice, death. God's kingdom is an order of unconditional love. Indeed, if His kingdom was of this world order, He would have had His soldiers fighting for His freedom;36 this is made very clear in John's Gospel where words to that effect are said by Jesus to Pontius Pilate:

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.37

Jesus then states categorically that He was born to show the truth about Who God is:

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.38

This is what He showed by His Blessed Passion and Death! The point I am trying to make comes out beautifully in Luke's report of Jesus on the cross. You have the soldiers and the Jewish rulers taunting Him:

And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.39

This is the voice of the present world order: show your power, save yourself.40 If God really loves you as you claim, He will save you; if He does not, you are surely a phoney and deserve death for making a false claim. The proof of God's love in this world order is success, power, riches. The proof He does not is defeat, powerlessness, poverty. We see clearly that their God is the God of this world order, a God that is still worshipped and glorified everywhere. The God who gives success, fame, power and riches to his faithful adherents and crushes their enemies.41

Then you have the Voice of God saying from the cross, while being derided and mocked by those who enjoy seeing Him suffering and slowly dying: «Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.»42 He, the Expression of God, cannot but forgive these humans for what they are doing to Him because He loves them unconditionally.

That love is made manifest again when He says to the murderer crucified with Him who asks to be in His kingdom «Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.»43 God wants everyone with Him as He loves everyone whatever they have done.

6. The various images of God

So Jesus lived the last day of His life the way He urged in His sermon on the Mount. He did not fight back. He prayed for His persecutors. He loved those who considered Him their enemy. He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by showing Who God Is. No wonder that day is called «Good Friday». May the name of Jesus («the LORD saves» indeed!) be blessed for evermore! The image of our blessed God nailed to the cross is indeed the most powerful symbol to remind us Roman Catholics Christians who God really Is. Jesus came to perfection on Good Friday. There and then He perfectly showed to all who God really Is.

There are many possible images of gods. One is gods very much like us but stronger, much more powerful: the gods found in the Iliad and the Aeneid. These gods are not more just than we are. No, they can be bought, cajoled. They are just like the very important people in this world, who can make or break countries and peoples. The Jehovah Sabaoth I described in Chapter three of my essay Christians and Scripture fits in this category except he is said to be all-powerful and the only real god.

Another image is of a just god, who makes sure that the good are rewarded and the bad, punished. A god of integrity, who judges according to the facts, who cannot be bought or cajoled. This is the god mostly found in the Septuagint. This is the god of the scribes and the Pharisees and of too many Christians but is not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, there is the God who Serves, loves, suffers with those who suffer and cannot condemn as He is Love. He is also found in the Septuagint, sometimes mixed with the previous image, sometimes alone. He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is expressed by Jesus in His life and death. And that is Good News indeed!

1 Matthew 5:44-48

2 «Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.» (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

3 Matthew 22:36

4 Matthew 22:37-40

5 a fact succinctly echoed by the writer of John's first Epistle who calls that neighbour «brother»: «And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.» (1 John 4:21)

6 this Sermon is only found in Matthew's and Luke's Gospels

7 Luke 6:27-36

8 Luke 6:27-8

9 Luke 6:29

10 Luke 6:34

11 John 8:44

12 Matthew 4:1-4 (also Luke 4:1-4)

13 Deuteronomy 8:3

14 Matthew 4:11 (not mentioned in Luke)

15 This is why God is Trinity: to be God-for-Others, He has to be more than one perfect Person. Being perfect Love, this Love of Others means an unbreakable Unity of His Persons. God as Love is Father; from Whom comes forth the Son as the Person for the Father to love and Who, also perfect Love, loves Him perfectly in return. From this Unity of perfect Love between these two Persons comes forth this Person Who is their Unity, their Spirit of Love: the Holy Spirit. This is why God as Love has to be Three in One.

16 «And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.» (Luke 9:58)

17 Matthew 10:5-20

18 Luke 9:1-6

19 Mark 6:8-9

20 Matthew 4:5-7 (also Luke 4:9-12)

21 Deuteronomy 6:16

22 Slightly modified from an islamic web site

23 Matthew 4:8-10 (also Luke 4:5-8)

24 Deuteronomy 10:20-21

25 Mark 14:47

26 Matthew 26:51

27 Luke 22:49-50

28John 18:10

29 John 18:11

30 Luke 22:52

31 Mark 14:47-48

32 Matthew 26:52-54

33 «Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.» (Matthew 27:27-31)

34 «And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.» (Mark 15:15)

35 «La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure.» (The reason of the strongest is always the best) Jean de la Fontaine, Fables, i. 10 Le loup et l'agneau

36 «Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?» (Matthew 26:53)

37 John 18:36

38 John 18:37

39 Luke 23:35-6

40 From Matthew: «Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.» (Matthew 26:41-43) and from Mark: «Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.» (Mark 15:31-32)

41 A God too often preached among Christians and definitely found in most of the Septuagint.

42 Luke 23:34

43 Luke 23:43

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 6th, 2004

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