A Spiritual Interpretation of the Gospels
As taught by:
Unity School for Religious Studies
Unity Village, MO 64065
I. MAJOR POINTS
- Metaphysical meaning of crucifixion.
- Metaphysical significance of each of Jesus' statements during the crucifixion.
- Matt. 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 11
- Your Hope of Glory 251-258
- Metaphysical Bible Dictionary under heading "Golgotha"
- Why should we not view Jesus' crucifixion as a tragedy?
- What was the nature of the forgiveness Jesus expressed from the cross?
- Metaphysically, what do the two thieves symbolize? Explain.
- How did Jesus demonstrate the power of affirmation (and asking) even while on the cross?
- From your own metaphysical understanding, give an interpretation of the statement, "It is finished."
- What is the spiritual significance of Jesus' final statement in Luke, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!"?
Metaphysically we do not view the crucifixion of Jesus as a tragedy but as a step toward a great victory. And Jesus assured us that the same victory illustrated in His story can be attained by us.
During His crucifixion Jesus gave us seven statements. These statements are contained in scattered form among all four Gospels. In this course we have listed these statements in the same order as used in the writings of Charles Fillmore, and also by Elizabeth Sand Turner in her book Your Hope of Glory.
Each of the seven statements made by Jesus should be considered as a continuation of His teachings and like all His teachings, especially appropriate for us today. They are a unique form of highly condensed metaphysical teaching, almost a kind of verbal "shorthand." But for those "with eyes to see," they contain a significant spiritual meaning.
The crucifixion itself symbolizes a process of crossing out, or eliminating that which is no longer needful for our continued unfoldment. What has fulfilled its purpose in us must be either lifted to a higher level of expression in consciousness, or let go of completely. Jesus' crucifixion illustrates both these meanings.
The seven statements by Jesus from the cross verbalize seven great realizations of Truth which are necessary for our continued spiritual growth and unfoldment.
(1) "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
Inner forgiveness is the mightiest of spiritual acts. Without it, nothing in the nature of real spiritual progress can be achieved. Jesus made this the first of His seven statements because of its primary importance.
It is significant that He does not claim to be doing the forgiving. He acknowledges God as the only forgiving power. Human beings would be wise to do the same. We should try to realize that it really is not MY forgiveness, or YOUR forgiveness, but it is the forgiving love of God.
It makes it much easier to forgive when we realize that it is not something personal which I must "cook up" for myself. All I do is consent. I consent to let the forgiving power of God simply be directed through me in behalf of others--others who need such forgiveness.
"For they know not what they do." If people knew, REALLY KNEW what they were doing when doing something wrong, they simply would not go through with it. Behind all offenses there is a lack of understanding. Even a person who thinks he knows what he is doing when he harms another actually does not.
(2) "... today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)
What is Paradise? Where is it? Jesus knew, and He told us about it many times in His teachings. Basically, Paradise is a name given to a here-and-now consciousness of oneness with God. Where is oneness with God? It is here. When is oneness with God? It is now.
Jesus spoke these words to one of the thieves being crucified with Him. Charles Fillmore wrote that these two thieves symbolize past and future. Memories of the past can rob us. Anxiety about the future can rob us. But spiritual awareness (Jesus) never robs us, but rather gives us strength and protection.
The thief to whom Jesus spoke represents the future. What does spiritual awareness in us (Jesus) say about our future? Does it tell us to fear it? Does it urge us to protect ourself from it? No. Spiritual awareness says to our future, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
In other words, spiritual awareness says we can bring our concern for our future into our here-and-now consciousness of oneness with God. We need not project ourself into the future, but rather bring all thoughts about the future into "Paradise." Paradise is our oneness with God, and it is here, it is now, it is forever.
(3) "Woman, behold your son! ... Behold, your mother!" (John 19:26, 27)
These words were spoken to Mary and, according to tradition, to the disciple John. Literally, Mary and John were not mother and son. But Jesus was speaking from a level of the highest understanding concerning the Truth of human relationships. One of the greatest realizations that can come to a person is the realization of his true relationship to every other human being in the human family. Whatever biological ties may exist, the metaphysical ties are stronger and more important. In Spirit we are each others' mother, brother, and sister. To realize this and to accept this will guarantee great steps forward in spiritual unfoldment.
(4) "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)
Jesus is here once again teaching by making of Himself an example. Notice, this statement is a question. Jesus was probably not asking that question for His own sake, because He knew the Truth that was the real answer. But He spoke the question to show us what is often in our own hearts as we seek to follow Him. The question states a wondering in us as to why we are feeling separated from God. Even when we know better, the feeling may creep over us before we are even fully aware of it. We wonder why we once again feel that God has forsaken us. We ask why. There is nothing very abnormal about this. It happens to the best of persons.
(5) "I thirst." (John 19:28)
This is an affirmation of a need. It is an asking. The statement was immediately followed by the meeting of that need. Jesus was given a sponge soaked with a mixture of vinegar and gall or myrrh, a soothing drink.
Jesus had previously taught, "... ask, and you will receive." (John 16:24) Here He gives us an example of practicing what He preached. There are times when a person finds himself in a situation where things look hopeless. During such times he will feel an overpowering "thirsting after righteousness." What should he then do? Jesus said, "... ask, and you will receive." "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matt. 5:6) With God, no situation is hopeless, for God is mightier than circumstances. Jesus is the sublime example. He affirms (asks) "I thirst," and He receives His drink.
(6) "It is finished." (John 19:30)
Everything that happens in a person's life is part of a cycle of learning, growing, and unfolding. Each event, each experience, each relationship, each victory, each defeat—all are factors in a great over-all pattern of evolution.
One of the most difficult lessons many persons have to learn is to recognize when something has fulfilled its role in our life and is now to be seen as "finished business." Some persons never seem to learn to recognize that some things are finished. This pertains to other persons, possessions, jobs, pleasures, etc. But it especially pertains to cycles of experience in our learning process in life.
If we have to go through certain difficult or painful experiences, we should try to learn the lessons they contain as quickly as possible. When we feel we have seen the lesson, then it is wise to say as Jesus said, "It is finished." Hold no grudges, nurse no hurt feelings, carry no unhappy memories. If it is finished, let it go. It has done its work. Greater good is now in store, and we let the past bury the past. It is finished.
(7) "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)
In the beginning—God. In every ending—God. God is our all in all. Jesus had gone through a complete cycle in which He had accomplished exactly what He had come here to do. He had brought that cycle to a climax in the symbolism of the drama of the crucifixion. The words He chooses to verbalize that climax are in the statement which is the apotheosis: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit."
People often wonder, "What is going to happen to me next?" If we will follow the example of Jesus we can know that we can safely place ourselves, our lives, our bodies, our future in God's hands. We are not taking any risks when we do this. God is completely dependable, because God cannot be changed.
When Jesus gives us His example of commending His whole spirit into God's hands He is once again demonstrating His own teachings. God is the answer to everything. God is the meaning behind everything. God is the only "fate" in store for His children. And God is absolute good.