In Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the for the First Time, the author imparts to readers the various ways he perceives Jesus vis-a-vis his experiences in various stages of his life. A vital image Borg depicts is that Jesus is a spirit person. Being a spirit person, Jesus serves as “one of many mediators of the sacred” (Borg 37). This essay aims to elaborate on what it means to be a spirit person, as Jesus is, and the implications of Jesus being viewed as one to the traditional Christian belief.
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Spirit Person – Defined
Borg defines spirit persons as “people who have vivid and frequent subjective experiences of another level or dimension of reality ... who experience the sacred frequently and vividly” (32-33). In contrast to an ordinary person’s one-dimensional view of the world or reality, a spirit person’s is multi-dimensional. This means he or she often experiences a facet of reality that is beyond our physical or tangible world. Since Borg mentioned the shaman, I would imagine spirit persons to have moments of being in a trance while communicating with the higher being or what is referred to as the sacred or God as in the Jewish Christian tradition.
Another critical depiction of spirit persons is that “they become mediators of the sacred” (Borg 33). Borg recounts that mediation maybe in the form of healing or exorcism, and game finding or rain making. The spirit persons functions as the bridge through which God’s power or wisdom is channelled through.
It is critical to note that Borg emphasises in a chapter of his book that his realization of the concept of the spirit person was initially brought about by non-Western religion and cultural anthropology (32).
Jesus as a Spirit Person
Given the above definition, how does Jesus fit in the picture? Borg clearly illustrates that Jesus is a spirit person through various instances in Jesus’ life. As a spirit person, this means Jesus “had visions, including a vision of his baptism in which, like Ezekiel, he ‘saw the heavens opened’ and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove ... followed by a series of visions in the wilderness ...” (Borg 35).
To make himself more attuned to God, Jesus also engaged in spiritual practices such as fasting and praying. Apart from these, his intimate way of addressing God likewise indicated his being a spirit person. Borg notes, “He called God Abba, which is the Aramaic word that a toddler on the babbling edge of speech uses to address his or her father” (35). For Borg, this term of endearment somehow exhibited how very close Jesus feels to God. With this closeness, Jesus was able to speak with authority when teaching among his followers.
As a further proof of Jesus being a spirit person, he exuded a spiritual presence experienced by his followers when with him. Borg asserts that this is similar to the spiritual presence or zone of liberation purportedly generated by Buddha and Saint Francis of Assisi. Through the power of God, Jesus is also able to heal diseases and cast away demons as narrated in many Gospel accounts. (Borg 36)
Borg also notes that when Jesus uttered “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” at the onset of his ministry in the gospel of Luke, Jesus openly expressed his experience of the spirit – “a profound and continuous relationship to the Spirit of God” (36).
Implication to Traditional Christian Belief
The image of Jesus as a spirit person, as Borg suggests, means “that Jesus was not simply a person who believed strongly in God, but one who knew God” (37). However, according to Borg, the pre-Easter Jesus is not God (37).
Another implication of Jesus being a spirit person, a concept that is known across many cultures – not just the Christian culture, is that the “widespread Christian belief that Jesus is unique, which most commonly is linked to the notion that Christianity is exclusively true and the Jesus is ‘the only way’” is undermined. This means that Jesus is not the only mediator, but “he is one of the many mediators of the sacred” (37).
Although the implications of Jesus’ image as a spirit person to the traditional Christian belief that Borg suggested are initially somehow disheartening, we should always bear in mind Jesus’ pivotal role in bringing billions of people closer to God. He is the primary “mediator of the sacred” for many and by living through his examples, as a compassionate healer and humble leader, we can find peace within.
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