This was a wonderful book and a great read for someone wanting to learn more about Jesus. Meeting Jesus Again or the First Time is a consolidation of lectures given by Marcus J. Borg in the early 90s. It’s a classic work because I definitely found it relevant in my spiritual life. The book starts off with a bit of an anecdote about his spiritual journey that sounds quite similar to most of us. It’s very easy to believe in Jesus as a child, but as we get older the story of Jesus doesn’t make too much sense.
People like Marcus almost become agnostic trying to figure out what Jesus means to them. It’s very telling when someone who’s studying christianity starts losing faith. The main thesis of the book is that the mainstream image of Jesus is a divine savior promoting the moralistic images of being a Christian. Marcus wants to promote a new image. One of which bring us into relationship with God.
What Manner of Man
We start the books analysis by distinguishing between the pre-Easter Jesus (the human) and the post-Easter Jesus (the savior). The Christian community is much more enthralled with the post-Easter Jesus. Marcus wants to put more emphasis on Jesus the human. The human who went into the wilderness and experienced the reality of God few people experience. He was a teacher. A teacher of parables that taught a different type of wisdom using the same Jewish tradition.
Jesus, Compassion and Politics
The difference between Jesus and the laws set by the Jewish tradition is that Jesus promoted the ideas of love and compassion with every sermon. When asked which is the most important commandment, Jesus respond with “Be compassionate as God is compassionate.” The word “compassion” is similar to in definition to “womb” or “wobbly.” This describes the love that a mom has for her child. Mainstream Christianity teaches us about holiness and purity, whereas Marcus argues that love and compassion was at the center of Jesus’s message. We can tell that Jesus’s message was not that holiness and purity as those actions are what ultimately created conflict with the Pharisees and his ultimate death. Jesus famously ate and drank with the lower class, touched sick people, and disobeyed Jewish law.
Jesus and Wisdom: Teacher of Alternative Wisdom
This is the chapter that really spoke to me. It talks about the difference between conventional wisdom and subversive wisdom. Conventional wisdom talks about striving for material status and rewards. This includes the job title, salary, family, nice house, the car, and the list goes on. In our capitalistic world, these are main goal posts. Jesus and his wisdom is much different and may even be at odds with conventional wisdom. Instead of wanting these things, Jesus believes that wisdom comes from making decisions out of compassion. This is a big eye opener for me. I know it’ll be something that’s hard to do in our culture, but if we were to be like Jesus, we need to be counter cultural.
Jesus, the Wisdom of God: Sophia Becomes Flesh
I’m not too familiar with the idea of Sophia, but in this chapter, Marcus makes the case that Jesus is the incarnation of God’s Wisdom using the famous beginnings of the book of John. Jesus is only the Son of God because he has the relationship with God so that he can call him father. The wisdom of the Old Testament before the beginning of the world was then made flesh.
Images of Jesus and Images of the Christian Life
In the last chapter, Marcus puts it all together by summarizing Jesus’s life as a social profit and subversive messenger. There’s very little evidence of Jesus wanting to be believed or known as “The Son of God.” With this knowledge in hand, Marcus describes the life a Christian would lead by categorizing it into three bible stories: the Exodus from Egypt, the period of exile and return to Babylon, and the non-historical stories that explain institutions around temples and priests. The three categories represents the human experience of bondage, alienation, and guilt. The stories around priests and temples teach conventional wisdom, while the two prior are more subversive. The story of Jesus then adds a fourth category; discipleship. Christians are not only supposed to believe in Christ, but enter into a relationship in which are transforming themselves into more compassionate beings.