16-3-27 Forgiveness

Forgiveness Of Sins – Easter Sunday

Forgiveness of sins is the meaning of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord which we celebrate on Easter Sunday. This is one of the most mysterious and hard to believe parts of our religion. Some of us believe the word as it is written, others face doubt, others again reject the resurrection and due to this rejection of this mystery, they reject faith and the Teachings of Jesus of Neighbourly Love and forgiveness altogether which is a real shame. Many of those, having rejected the Teachings of Jesus, then adhere quite thoughtlessly to other ‘ideals’ for the laws and customs of the symbiosis, the living together, of people. The most common of these laws in modern society is probably ‘Only the strongest shall survive’ which is the direct opposite of Neighbourly Love and Forgiveness!’

Has anybody ever thought survival of the strongest through to the actually bloody end? What about those who are not the strongest? Are they to die? This is Darwinism and the survival of the fittest is a natural law. Yes, but isn’t culture and the endeavour of science, particularly of medicine and pharmacy, aimed at making people survive about who nature already has ruled they should die now?!

One fundamental observation of Charles Darwin was that nature provides abundance. Nature produces many more offspring than will survive to reproductive age! Most of the cute little baby animals in the wild will die! Only very few survive! A female mouse can produce thirty to eighty babies per year. Of all the babies a female produces in her life, only two on average will reach sexual maturity in a stable environment. If more would survive, the mouse population would increase and the environment would not be stable. A female wolf could produce about five offspring per year, so ten to fifteen in a lifetime.

In a stable environment only two of all those will reach reproductive age!!!

So in a humane society also weaker individuals should survive and we do make efforts to this end. The commandments to Neighbourly Love and forgiveness certainly are fundamental to a humane society. Maybe it should be noted that we do face an overpopulation problem.

So let us look at how the miracles which Jesus had performed are represented in today’s reading, to the end that the doubtful might find a way to God:

Acts 10: 34 to 44:

[34] Then Peter opened [his] mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: [35] But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. [36] The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) [37] That word, [I say], ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; [38] How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. [39] And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: [40] Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; [41] Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, [even] to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. [42] And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God [to be] the Judge of living and dead. [43] To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive forgiveness of sins. [44] While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Verse 38 says Jesus ‘went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.’ Jesus acts of good were against oppression by the devil. There are many incidences reported in the Bible in which Jesus drove out devils. The Ancient Greek word in this case is daimonion, which really means spirit or even god.

Could these people, obsessed or suppressed by devils, have been conditioned into a depressed state? A slave from birth who is told to look down and work, not to notice anything, not to judge anything, not to remember anything, just to be a mindless machine, as the prisoners at the beginning of Les Misérables, ‘Look down, look down, …’, would such a person be like deaf and dumb? Could such a person go mad at times and seem to be controlled by something higher, a devil? A person like that could easily be seen as not being in control of himself but rather being controlled by something higher, an evil spirit or a devil. Would he even be seen as a person? Would not such a person be rejected by all others for his sins or the sins of his fathers? Would there have been any forgiveness in the world for such a person. Would others loathe to touch such a person? Would such a person be deprived of humane touches and interactions?

Forgiveness by Jesus 

Was it this what Jesus did to these people? He touched them and through his touch they received forgiveness and through the forgiveness they were healed, they became humane as the touch permeated the body, they were filled with the feeling of forgiveness. They began to speak and to have humane interactions with others.

The other word commonly translated as devil is diabolos, meaning slanderer or false accuser. Would a person who would out of a sense of deprivation of humane interactions turn into someone who finds fault with everything? Did Jesus heal these by giving them what they needed most: forgiveness through humane interactions and touches? In these cases the slanderer just seems to use words or thoughts to lead people off the correct path. He might be seen instilling an evil spirit (daimonion) into them.

1. Tim. 3: 11 says about the women of deacons, that they should not be slanderers. The word for slanderer here is diabolos, which was most of the time translated as devil. Could it just mean slanderer and nothing more? This is not to say that there is not the association of feeling which we have towards a devious person, but could it be something quite mundane?

Matt. 13: 39; ‘The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.’ This is about the parable of the Good Seed and the weeds. A man sowed good seed in a field and his enemy sowed weeds into it. Jesus explained that the field is the world, the good seed are the children of the kingdom and the weeds are the children of the ‘wicked’ (verse 38) sown by the devil. The word poneros is an adjective meaning wicked or troublesome. It does not say ‘one’. This adjective has been used in Matt 12: 35 and Mark 7: 23 as a noun. King James translated ‘evil things’. He fitted the word ‘things’ into the translation. He could have used the word evil as a noun.

Could the word ‘children of’ have a non – biological meaning? The concept of fatherhood is explained in Greetings from Paradise. In the chapter ‘Living with the [Original] Sin, the exampe is given of an Ale – wife giving some advice about eternal life to the Ancient hero Gilgamesh which includes, ‘… Pay heed to the little one that holds on to thy hand.’ Gilgamesh did not have a queen. He had sex with every woman and every boy he fancied in his city Uruk which caused jealousy by the citizens. There might have been a clear concept of a father in his city. A son was a boy who took the adult’s hand and wanted to become like him once big. In 1. Kings 22: 26 King Ahab ordered the prophet Micaiah to be put to prison. He said, ‘Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son;’ The Bible does not mention a son of Ahab by that name. The son who followed him onto his throne was Ahaziah. The Jerome Bible Commentary says about this verse that ‘king’s son’ was a title and does not mean a biological son. Also the New Testament in Matt 1 and Luke 3: 23 on tells the forefathers of Jesus, even though neither of them claims Jesus to be the biological son of Joseph.

So could the phrase ‘children of’ in Matt 13: 38 just mean people who try to emulate a certain behaviour and not biological children of an actual wicked person or a personified devil, a word which really only means slanderer or false accuser, in other words somebody who finds fault with everything. Also the ‘children of the kingdom’ obviously just belong into this kingdom because of their faith and not because of their biological descent.

Matt 25: 41: ‘Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:’ This is what shall happen to those who do not help the needy. Could this be a threat to the simple minded and an appeal to the conscience of the thoughtful? Should you feel bad when walking past a beggar?

Luke 8: 12: ‘Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.’ This is about the parable of the sower and some of his seed falls by the way side, others were trodden down or eaten by birds and so on. Those by the wayside are the casual believers. A little bit of slander against the Faith will make them falter.

John 6: 70: ‘Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ This is Judas Iscariot, who slandered or betrayed him. This could have be seen as meaning traitor, a very evil traitor.

John 8: 44: ‘Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ Again the devil just uses words, lies, he slanders.

John 13; 2: ‘And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s [son], to betray him;’ again it is not a person with horns and a trident acting here. It a slandering spirit which made him betray Jesus.

Also in the temptation of Christ, which is reported in Matt 4: 1 to 11 and Luke 4: 1 to 13, could it be something that occurred to Jesus, not the picture we have in mind. In particular Luke 4; 1 & 2 say, ‘And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.’ In Matt 3 (and similarly in Luke 3: 21 & 22) he just had been baptised prior to the temptation. His baptism culminated in (e.g. Matt 3: 16 & 17), ’And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Was the spirit to calm him down about God’s words? Was this the importance of the temptation? Did he have to go into the desert and sort things out in his own mind?

So could it be that the personification of slander is really an invention? Was the casting out of devils the liberation of the Faithful from their oppression, which would have caused them feelings of worthlessness and guilt? Did they feel forgiveness through the humane touch by Jesus? Were these miracles because he did, what nobody else dared to do, to give forgiveness and humane touches to these?

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Amen!