Was Jesus really talking about what his followers think he was talking about?
His followers seem to think he was trying to create a new moral religion.
But let's put things into perspective. There already was
a moralist religion in the country that Jesus lived in. There also was a very powerful state called Rome ruling over Israel. So Jesus lived in a time where there was not one but two
systems telling people how to live.
So let's examine this as a moral system, political revolt system, as religion, and as a spiritual philosophy.
As a moral system, Jesus's teachings kinda fall flat.
- Jesus taught people to passively rebel against authority. At one point, he tells people to find their tax money inside a fish. Put in modern terms, this would be like tossing squid and cod on top of IRS forms. You might technically pay taxes, but you are making it an unpleasant experience for the tax man.
- He also tells people not to worry about what to eat or what to wear. And to rich people, he tells them to sell all they have and give to the poor. This is more in line with the hippies and the checking out of the system of working or something. Goods aren't getting produced, but he's basically saying "no worries" to all of it.
- To the actual moral authorities like the Jewish leaders, he pointed out numerous issues with them, such as their making large offerings visibly (which were only a small portion of their wealth), or their love of being greeted at the market while widows and orphans suffered.
- To the sinners, he largely lets their sins slide. As a moral system, this doesn't make sense.
- Worse, any morals that he teaches are insane. Basically, let other people beat you up and take advantage of you. Love people who legit hate you. Don't even look at a woman, because this is considered adultery, and calling a person a fool is murder.
You could certainly make this case, actually. But...
- When asked point blank if people should pay taxes, he made an open-ended answer that people could interpret as "yes, obey the state and pay taxes" but Jews could also interpret as "you belong to God."
- In this same question, he actually put more pressure on the priesthood than the state, showing how they had the Roman coin that was supposed to be paid as a tax (Jesus did not). As a political revolutionary, he seemed less concerned with overthrowing
- In fact, one of the things that caused the Jews to sell him out (both Judas and the Pharisees) was that he wasn't trying to establish an earthly kingdom of God. In fact, the Jews begged for Barabbas's life instead of Jesus.
What about a religion? Well...
- Jesus never wrote any religious teachings. Everything about him was written by his fanboys. In fact, it would be fair to say that Jesus never wanted anyone to worship him.
- Jesus seemed content to follow Judaism, and observed many of the festivals and customs, only making reforms to things like diet and Sabbath.
- Most of his teachings seemed to be what would be defined as "spiritual but not religious." There were no dogmas, creeds, sacred books, views on afterlife, customs, norms, and so on. All of these came after Jesus died (and rose from the grave). In other words, Jesus completely didn't set about to teach a new religion.
Now that I told what Jesus didn't seem to be doing, what was he doing?
I personally think Jesus was trying to teach something that wasn't really a true religion, but a new way of looking at the world. Why was he teaching this? Well, precisely because both the temple and the state was oppressing regular people. So what was he really teaching? Well maybe...
- It seems like alot of the "turn the other cheek" stuff was less about morality, and more about how to get along in a very unfriendly world. This was during the height of two systems of rule, as I say, and people weren't any more moral but rather stressed to the point of almost wanting to kill each other. This could be translated into "give people what they want, because doing so robs them of a legitimate complaint against you."
- Secondly, Jesus spent far more energy teaching that the temple was, far from a spiritual place, actually incredibly materialistic, and that the system of paying for sins was a form of oppression. He downplays their kosher food laws, their Sabbath rules, and even their offering animals.
- Ultimately, Jesus taught political revolt Buddha-style. As in, don't worry about the things of this world because the spiritual world makes the physical world irrelevant.
- It seemed like Jesus's primary motive was not to get "followers" for some new religion but to find people of all sorts as friends. Kinda a nonconformity movement in a time when everyone was told what God or Rome expected of them.
What do you think? What was Jesus trying to tell people?