What Did Jesus Teach?

 

William Milford Correll, C.S.B., of Cleveland, Ohio

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

While driving from town to town on my lecture tours I've often noticed various bumper stickers. Perhaps you've seen them too. "Jesus Saves"; "Jesus is Coming"; "Let Jesus come into your life." These are just one of the many indications of a renewed interest in Jesus' teachings. Undoubtedly there's a hunger for spiritual nourishment, a thirst after something more than the materialism of our day.

Jesus was the embodiment of God's great love for mankind. He taught eternal truths and then demonstrated the law of God in healing and regeneration. He showed us how to solve problems both individual and collective in our current society. We can all agree that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."1

Jesus' example − his teaching and saving ministry − is right at the root of all religious experience in the Christian world. It's essential to look deeply into Jesus' demonstration of man's oneness with God to see what this teaches us about the nature of God and the opportunity to realize the healing power of divine Love in our present experience.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, was so thoroughly convinced of the central theme of Jesus' example, his atonement for sin, his healing of disease, his evident oneness with the Father, that she included the following tenet as one of the basic teachings of this Science. It's given in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. "We acknowledge Jesus' atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man's unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower; and we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the Galilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death."2

So let's review some of Jesus' instruction relating to the unity of being embodied in God and man, Father and son, Cause and effect. Just what did Jesus mean when he said, "I and my Father are one"?3

 

"I and my Father are one"

Sometimes this saying is construed to mean that Jesus is God. But a thorough research of the Gospels shows that he constantly referred to himself as the Son of God. In fact, in more than one hundred instances in the Gospel of John he spoke of God as his Father. When he said "I and my Father are one" he was simply indicating that he recognized just one Being, one Mind, that he was in complete harmony with God, at one with Truth and Love.

We can illustrate this fact in different ways that apply to our daily experience. For example, take a musician who loves his music. You can see in his performance that he loves the music and lives with it − he's at one with it − he feels it. His attitude and actions reflect the spirit of the music. You recognize the unity of the performer with his subject.

But this oneness doesn't imply sameness. The musician isn't the music. So God and man aren't the same. God and man are one in being as divine Principle and idea, Father and son, Cause and effect. But man is not God and God is not man. There's a distinctness and yet they're one in being, one in essence.

 

Jesus Reflected God's Power

It was Jesus' perception of his oneness with God, his complete harmony with his Father, that enabled him to heal so effectively. But he didn't limit this healing power to his own time or his own personality. He was the example for all men in all ages. He taught that each one of us is, in reality, the child of God and that each one can prove his unity with the Father. He taught that God is omnipresent and eternal, that He's available in every circumstance. He turned men to God as the source of all healing power and not to himself personally. In fact he said, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."4

This is where Christian Science points out the distinction between Jesus, the man, the messenger, and Christ, the message of salvation which comforts and heals. It's true that Jesus embodied or expressed the Christ so thoroughly and proved it so consistently that he was called Christ Jesus. But the Christ, this true idea of man's oneness with God, is available here and now. It's available throughout all time as the healing power of God. Each one of us can come to realize the Christ present in our experience, proving our unity with our divine Principle, Love.

Let's review one of Jesus' healings and give a present day example of healing that in some measure follows that of the Master. You may recall that many people were gathered at the pool of Bethesda − people who were sick in one way or another. There was a belief that at a certain season the water was troubled and then the first one to step in the pool would be healed of his difficulty. Now one man there was paralyzed, he couldn't move, and every time the water was troubled someone else stepped in before him. Jesus said to this man, "Wilt thou be made whole?" And the man explained his situation, evidently feeling he was a victim of circumstance. Jesus said, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked."5 The Christ, revealing man's oneness with God, good, was proved to be the master of the situation. The belief that man was separated from God, the source of health, power, and intelligence, was replaced by the fact of man's eternal unity with divine Love.

Let me tell you of a similar experience in our present day, perhaps not so dramatic and immediate, but nonetheless a definite instance of the coming of Christ to meet the human need for healing. A man had gone to a Veterans hospital because he was suffering from severe pains in his back. After X-rays he was told that a disk in his spine had disintegrated. He was unable to raise himself from his bed and was constantly under drugs and sedation to counteract pain. Three doctors projected permanent disability.

He had some knowledge of Christian Science and through a Christian Science friend he was encouraged to begin to think about the nature of God as omnipresent good, the only creative power. He reasoned that man as the creation of God must be good, he must reflect the nature and power of God. He must be at one with God. He began to pray earnestly for divine guidance. He prayed in terms of Mrs. Eddy's poem, "Shepherd, show me how to go."

The drugs had been discontinued because the doctors feared addiction. Through deep prayer during sleepless nights he sought his way to freedom. He began to realize that true freedom could be found only in a conscious awareness of God as the source of his true being. After a night of prayer he began to support himself with parallel bars and to take a few steps, declaring to himself. "I am truly spiritual, not material. I am not a quitter. I am worthy of God's love." After lunch he repeated this procedure and was able to walk a few steps without pain. Full strength had returned to his muscles, which had atrophied during the four months he'd been on his back. He let go of the rails and walked full stride. The pain had ceased. This was the sign of God's presence he'd been seeking.

Although the symptoms returned the next day he wasn't discouraged. He was granted a release from the hospital, and from then on with the help of a Christian Science practitioner he was able to counteract every discouraging argument with the truth of spiritual being. Complete freedom was progressively attained. He now walks free and stands completely erect and has boundless gratitude for his deliverance.6

 

The Nature of God

What did Jesus teach us about the nature of God both in his words and in his works? The first impression we have is that God is divine Love, unchanging, compassionate, universal, infinite Love. Jesus used the example of the shepherd, who carries the lambs, guides the sheep, seeks out those that are lost, feeds the hungry, comforts the fearful. He spoke of the Love that forgives seventy times seven, goes the second mile, redeems the sinner, and binds up the broken-hearted. And he also demonstrated the power that stills the storm, drives the moneychangers out of the temple, and raises the dead.

He indicated that God is ever-present, all-powerful, infinite. God is the only creative power and God is absolute good. Jesus referred to God as divine Truth, infinite Spirit. And in his oneness with God he expressed the power of Truth over error, the power of Love over hate, the power of Life over death. He knew that it wasn't God's purpose that man be sick, that he be disabled, that he be entangled in sin, or that he should die. In his healing works he was actively carrying out the will of God. He came to prove that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and that God is governing His universe and man. He commanded his followers, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give."7 And it should be noted that Jesus depended completely upon spiritual power. He didn't use material means for healing.

 

The Unreality of Evil

If the one great Cause or Principle of existence is God, good, perfect Love, then man made in God's likeness must be perfect, whole, complete. Instead of thinking of man as a sinner, fallen from grace, Jesus looked upon man as the child of God. Right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount he said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."8 He evidently drew a distinction between the mortal concept of man and man made in God's image, the real man. In his healing works he separated the evil from the individual and cast it out. He impersonalized sin and disease and designated them as works of the devil. It becomes clear then that God never causes evil in any form either as sickness or sin. And if God, the only Cause, doesn't create it, then it's not real. This fact of the power and reality of God, good, and the unreality of evil is a fundamental truth in the practice of Christian Science healing.

 

Mrs. Eddy's Discovery

It was Jesus' clear teachings that laid the foundation for Mrs. Eddy's discovery of Christian Science. All her life she was a deep student of theology as applied to Christian healing, and spent long hours in pondering Jesus' works. Even as a small child she was keenly aware of the pure nature of God as good. When she was about to join the church of her parents she was asked to accept the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination and the eternal damnation of all unbelievers. She could never concede that God would condemn anyone eternally, but believed that all could find their way to redemption and salvation. It was a touching scene when the young girl of seventeen stood her ground against that theology. Finally the minister let her join without subscribing to that doctrine.

When the Bible defined God as divine Love, unchanging and universal, to her this included a compassion that was always available. Later in her life after she'd experienced many years of suffering and ill health, she began to see that it wasn't God's will that man be sick any more than it was His will that man be a sinner. This was apparent in Jesus' works. She saw that everything that Jesus did was scientific, that is, it was based on law; that God, divine Love, is the creative, governing Principle; that if one understands the nature of God and lives in close accord with this Principle he can demonstrate the power of God to heal. This is what Jesus required of his followers. Mrs. Eddy herself was healed through this new understanding and then she began to heal others.

As Truth unfolded to her she demonstrated the power to heal to a remarkable degree, and this shows forth the moral and spiritual stature of the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Let me tell you of a particular instance of healing. In 1906 and 1907 there was a concerted attempt by a group of newspaper men to denounce her as a fraud. At the time there was definite skepticism about spiritual healing. New York newsmen had come to Concord, New Hampshire, where she was living at the time. When Mrs. Eddy became aware of this she had one of her students telephone them at the hotel where they were gathered and ask to speak to the head man of the group. This man was troubled by a throat infection (said to be cancerous) and was unable to speak. He refused to come to the phone. But Mrs. Eddy insisted that the communication be with him, and finally he reluctantly picked up the receiver. After listening to her communication he turned from the telephone and found that he was healed. He could speak plainly. All the reporters stood there and looked at each other with startled expressions. They soon packed their bags and left for home. They could say nothing against her from that time on.9

She was fulfilling Jesus' command to love your enemies. This ability to heal through spiritual understanding shows, as nothing else can, the purity and integrity of her character.

Now, some may say that when Christian Science claims that evil is unreal that this is just a cop-out, an unwillingness to face evil and to cope with it. But just the opposite − it's the way, the only way, you can overcome evil. We must find out and prove that it is unreal, that it has no divine authority. God never caused it and there's no real law to support it. If one is troubled by a mistake in mathematics this is due to a lack of understanding of the facts. The mistake seems very real, but the only way to get free from it is to find out that it has no basis in fact, no standing or place in the science of mathematics.

All suffering comes from believing something that isn't true according to the nature of God, Spirit, and His creation. Sometimes the question is asked, "Just where does Jesus say that evil is unreal?" Well, he said it in a variety of ways. One time he called the devil, or evil, a liar and the father of it. He taught that the truth makes free − free from what? From evil, error, sin, disease. Evil is a falsehood. It's unreal. The fact that Jesus destroyed evil in so many instances by healing sickness and sin shows that evil is unreal. Mrs. Eddy says, "Jesus established what he said by demonstration, thus making his acts of higher importance than his words."10 He said that he was doing the will of God. He came to fulfill the law.

He never said that we should endure evil, either as disease or sin. A dramatic incident occurred when the disciples had returned after a healing mission in which they had had good success in proving the unreality of evil. Jesus said, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."11 This could easily be interpreted that evil is unreal, that it fell from heaven or reality.  He rejoiced that his disciples were beginning to see the unreality of evil.

 

Individual Responsibility

In order to realize our freedom from evil and our oneness with God as Jesus taught, we must interpret Jesus' instructions correctly. A common teaching is that Jesus did it all for us, that he atoned for our sins and that leaves us free from all effort to overcome the errors of mortal sense. This teaching says that Jesus died for us and this cancels out our sin or our responsibility. But the Master taught us to follow in his footsteps, to do the works that he did. He concluded several of his teaching parables with the command, "Go and do thou likewise." He emphasized works.

Mrs. Eddy says, "Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man's oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. His mission was both individual and collective. He did life's work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals, − to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility."12

This brings up one of the current trends in our society, namely the tendency to avoid individual responsibility. Let me ask you, "Have you ever been tempted to avoid responsibility? Have you ever been tempted to blame someone else when actually the fault was yours?" There's the story of the man who was late for work and when asked why, he answered, "Oh, the bus left without me!"

This same error may take on a more philosophical turn. There are many ways in which people seek for a scapegoat. In primitive societies sometimes one person, perhaps a king or high government official, would be blamed for everything wrong and even burned at the stake so that the people would be rid of their troubles. Some individuals have even tried to interpret Jesus' mission in this way! It's the philosophy of vicarious suffering and it's called substitutional atonement.

There are other ways that people use to try to escape. They may resort to alcohol or drugs. They may attempt to excuse wrong conduct by saying, "Oh, I couldn't help myself. It's in my genes" or "It's in my horoscope or the stars." Some people consider themselves victims of circumstances, like the man at the pool of Bethesda, and then they conclude that none of it is their fault. It may be fate, luck, chance, or any one of a number of excuses for bad fortune. It's recently been termed a "no fault theology."

Jesus never taught such a theology. In spite of all the difficulties that he encountered he taught and proved that man is never a victim of circumstances. There's always a way out. Even at the time preceding the crucifixion he wasn't captured, he gave himself up. He purposefully went through the ordeal to prove the presence and reality of God, good, and the actual unreality of evil. He showed the way − he's our example.

He taught us to face the responsibility for our thoughts and acts and to overcome evil with good. In the parable of the talents he showed us that we'll reap as we've sown and that those who produce or face up to their tasks will have the rewards of fruitage. Jesus was tender, compassionate, and kind, but he was exact in his theology. He expressed divine Principle. He uncovered hypocrisy without equivocation. He denounced sin. Each one has to face up to demonstrating the truth in his experience. There are no excuses in the long run.

One of the teachings of Christian Science is that each one makes his own decisions and each one bears his own responsibility. No one decides for another. There's no coercion in Christian Science. In the practice of this Science the practitioner doesn't make decisions for his patients. That isn't the prerogative of the practitioner. Through prayer each one decides his own course of action, and he should be free to do so. If this action is in accord with the teachings of this Science then the practitioner can help the patient. But each one decides his own course. And in the case of a child's illness the responsible parent makes the decisions.

 

"Watch and Pray"

To demonstrate responsibility we're told we must watch our thinking − that is, what we accept into our consciousness. In all ways thought is the essence of experience. Jesus instructed his disciples, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation."13

Let me tell you of the experience of a friend of mine. He'd been healed through Christian Science of the smoking habit. Then one day as he passed by a place where cigars were sold he felt a strong urge to buy and smoke one. He didn't yield to this urge and he didn't think too much about the incident. Then some time later he passed the place again and felt the same strong urge. Now he stopped to consider what was happening. He knew that cigars had no value, nor any desirable qualities to attract him, and he knew that this desire was no part of his true nature as the spiritual likeness of God. Then he realized that what he felt was the effect of the same carnal mind that was influencing those who produced, advertised, and sold the cigars.

Any false influence of this nature is named "animal magnetism" in Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy says, "Animal magnetism, in its ascending steps of evil, entices its victim by unseen, silent arguments. Reversing the modes of good, in their silent allurements to health and holiness, it impels mortal mind into error of thought, and tempts into the committal of acts foreign to the natural inclinations."14 Seeing what was tempting him, my friend vigorously declared to himself that no false belief had any power to influence, delude, or entice him. He realized that there's just one Mind, one God. From that time on he was free from any desire to buy or smoke cigars.

Now just consider the implications here − the areas of influence that may be a temptation in our daily round. There's much advertising of disease. And this can become very aggressive at times, along with the many remedies that are suggested. Advertising on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, is a prime element in contagion. People accept and identify with something that they'd never accept if they knew better. Just think of the ways that immorality is being promoted and the liability of being "taken in" if you don't know how to defend yourself. Is it any wonder that Jesus said, "Watch and pray"?

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was telling his followers of the blessings that follow right motives, right thinking. He emphasized love, purity, meekness, unselfishness. The key to harmony and health is to reflect divine Truth and Love, to have the Mind of Christ. This is why the fact of one God, one Mind, is of such decisive importance in our daily affairs. When applied, it rules out hate, malice, envy, lust, and hence destroys the ills that stem from these errors.

To worship one God is to have one Mind, and that Mind is pure Good. That Mind isn't conscious of sin, disease, death. These errors don't exist in the divine Mind, and to worship God with all the heart and soul and mind is to find that these errors are not in our consciousness. They're excluded by the allness of God, the one divine Principle. The fact that there's only one God, one Mind, destroys the belief in any other mind, any evil or carnal mind.

Bodily conditions are actually states of thought made manifest. As we come to see the unreality of evil, we'll reject the symptoms of sin and disease, deny the evidence of the senses, and realize the presence and power of God, good. We're instructed by Jesus' actions as well as by his words when he rebuked the devil, rebuked the fever, rejected the evidence of disease and death. With a conscious sense of the love of God and of the power of that Love he destroyed fear. The right idea of man's relationship to God is the Christ, and the Christ reveals man's oneness with God, with all good. Thus the rejection of error and the affirmation of truth may be seen as a scientific method of establishing the facts of Being and realizing the harmony of God's government.

 

Oneness with God

You see, if an individual is at one with worldly thought, the carnal mind, then he feels separated from God, and this is the condition of sin and disease. But if he's at one with Truth and Love, if he acknowledges just one Mind, infinite Spirit, then he realizes he's separated from error, and this is the condition of healing and salvation.

Let's refer back to that quote we used earlier, "I and my Father are one." This oneness of being is the end result of effective prayer. When we understand God as infinite Good, ever-present Love, eternal Life, then oneness with God is seen as the solution to all the problems of human experience. To be aware of no other mind, to feel the presence, the power of divine Love, to realize the allness of God, is to come into harmony with the divine Principle of the universe. This is the substance of healing.

As we advance in our concept of prayer, we find that we pray not from the standpoint of a finite mind trying to reach the divine, but from the standpoint of the one infinite Mind expressing itself in man. There's just one Being, one Mind. In using Jesus' prayer, "Not my will, but thine, be done,"15 we aren't yielding to error but to Truth. This isn't enduring misfortune but counteracting it. Man has no Mind but infinite good. Remember, the divine Mind isn't conscious of disease, sin, or death. These errors couldn't possibly exist in the divine Mind. Such prayer renovates human consciousness and excludes the error of belief. When excluded from consciousness error can't appear in our experience.

Can you ever imagine the divine Mind being conscious of fear? Can you ever imagine the divine Mind being conscious of self-pity? Impossible! This divine Truth, this one Mind, is the only true self-consciousness.

Another way to see the oneness of being is to realize that there's just one Life and that Life is infinite Spirit. There's a common belief that life is material, that it exists in a material organization, that each one has a separate life which is temporal and vulnerable. This again is a false concept. Jesus never taught such an illusion. He said, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."16 When we're ready to surrender the belief that life and intelligence are in matter, we'll grasp the fact that Life is God, infinite Spirit. There's just one infinite Life and man reflects that Life. Man has no life apart from God. He coexists with Him. Life is eternal, self-existent, indestructible. Jesus proved this in his resurrection. He overcame death. What he did was scientific and therefore available to us all as we grow into the understanding of the oneness of Life, God.

 

Social Implications

What are the social implications of this oneness of being? Does this development of individual responsibility isolate us from society and center us on our own welfare? No, indeed. This one Mind, one God, includes all identity and meets all human need. The fact that there's just one God who's divine Love is at the very center of harmony among nations and in the community. Love determines our conduct towards our fellowman. This effort towards Christianization of thought isn't to be interpreted as many minds trying to find unity, but the one divine Mind expressing itself in oneness. Our ability to practice truth doesn't start from a finite base; it stems from the divine Mind expressing itself. Even your desire to pray comes from God. He's the only source of true desire.

 

Conclusion

Jesus taught in simple parables and examples. He spoke of shepherds and fishermen, of talents and productivity, of humility and childlikeness. He taught that the divine nature is expressed in man as the child of God. He liberated men from sin and disease. He stressed man's oneness with the Father. He spoke primarily to the individual, because it's the coming of Christ to the individual consciousness that brings healing and regeneration. It all happens with individual response. There's no mass salvation. Christ comes to you in the privacy of your prayers, and the awakening to Truth takes place.

Let me ask you, "Can you say with Jesus, 'I came forth from the Father'?"17 Can you say, "I and my Father are one"? Whatever Jesus did was scientific, understandable, repeatable. He said we should follow in his footsteps. He was stating divine facts, divine truths. These facts apply to each one of us in our true nature as the child of God. It's the Christ in you that enables you to say this and to prove these truths.

The universal nature of this truth is established in Jesus' own words. He prayed, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee."18 Let's all come to feel the unity of being, the oneness of God and man and learn to demonstrate the practical possibilities of that relationship. Then the coming of Christ will take place in our lives and we'll experience the kingdom of heaven within.

 

    1. John 3:16

    2. Science and Health, p. 497.

    3. John 10:30

    4. 16:7.

    5. 5:5-9.

    6. Christian Science Journal, November, 1979, p. 689, 690.

    7. Matthew 10:8.

    8. 5:48.

    9. Irving C. Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, The Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston, 1945, p. 64.

  10. Science and Health, p. 473.

  11. Luke 10:18.

  12. Science and Health, p. 18.

  13. Matthew 26:41.

  14. First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 211.

  15. Luke 22:42.

  16. Matthew 10:39.

  17. John 16:28.

  18. 17:21.

 

 

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