Jesus: A Lost Figure of History


The figure and teachings of Jesus are too often broken down, adapted, and then shaped to fit people’s own particular needs and desires. Who was the real, walking, talking, preaching Jesus and what lessons can we take from him today?


The Nazarene rabbi who wandered the shores of northern Galilee is lost forever as a walking, talking man. He could have taught for as little as 18 months, the scholars tell us, or as long as three years, as tradition believes. He had brothers and sisters. We know their names, or at least a couple of Gospels mention them. We don’t know why he didn’t go to Jerusalem for Passover except one fatal time. His relationship with Mary Magdalene could have been of primary importance, if the Gnostic Gospels are right.

The reason that this lost figure of history, mentioned only once in passing aside from in the Bible, has been adapted to so many uses, good and bad, is that a second Jesus emerged after the Crucifixion. This was the Jesus of theology, whose teachings became the basis for the Church. Religions have their own agendas. Every teaching in the New Testament has been modified over the course of two thousand years, quite often to suit the purposes of the time. If people today pick and choose among these teachings, they have ample precedent.

Still, that doesn’t solve the dilemma of someone inspired by Jesus who sincerely wants to walk in his footsteps. I was inspired as a child in an Indian school run by Christian brothers from Ireland. But as I grew up and saw the near impossibility of being like Jesus or becoming what he wanted me to be, I came to a new conclusion.

There is a third Jesus, who isn’t the historical rabbi or the creation of theology. This Jesus is a teacher and guide to a higher state of consciousness. The Gospels describe a man who had reached enlightenment, or if that term sounds too Eastern, a man who had become one with God. His fervent wish was to show his disciples how to rise to the same level. That is why he told them “You are the light of the world,” just as he said of himself, “I am the light of the world.” When he performed miracles, Jesus made sure that he told his disciples that they would do works as great as his, and greater.

So the answer to any question about the “real” Jesus is to look within and step onto the path that leads to God consciousness. Every great spiritual teacher has indicated that this is the only way to truth and freedom. Jesus is the teacher in this lineage who has the most prestige in the West, and for that I am glad, particularly at Christmas time.

Deepak Chopra is the President of the Alliance for A New Humanity.

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