“And his manifestation does not abide in you, as long as you do not believe in whom He sent. Your entire hope is in the Scriptures, thinking that you have achieved eternal Life, and [yet the Scriptures] testify about me. And you are not pleased to come to me, so that you may have eternal life." — John 5:38-40, Aramaic Bible
Jesus' words bore not only into the hearts and souls of the religious leaders, they drill into the spiritual well-being of many of today's Christians. They force us to look into the inner chambers of our spiritual beliefs and presuppositions.
The people of Israel, especially those in Galilee, were not uneducated nor lackluster devotees of God. They were extremely well-versed in the teachings and philosophies of the times. Christian historian and teacher Ray Vander Laan describes the Galileans as "more educated in the Bible and its application than most Jews….They were known for their great reverence for Scripture and the passionate desire to be faithful to it. This translated into vibrant religious communities, devoted to strong families, their country, whose synagogues echoed the debate and discussions about keeping the Torah. They resisted the pagan influences of Hellenism far more than did their Judean counterparts. When the great revolt against the pagan Romans and their collaborators (66-74 AD) finally occurred, it began among the Galileans."
The Jew of Jesus' day saw themselves as moral, "church-going", and God-fearing people who studied the Bible religiously. So, what could be lacking? So, with such a strong dedication to what seemly appears to be right, why did Christ deliver to them such strong words? Were they not being "spiritual?" Apparently not. According to Christ, eternal life went deeper, and at times veered from the conventional wisdom of what most saw as the spiritual life.
Jesus was revealing a different worldview; one that did not contradict the Law and morality, but one that defined it in terms of the spiritual. It was God's way of viewing reality involving a rebirth of the eternal man; his spirit and soul. Being moral through a devotion to moral living was not working. In reality, it was never designed to work. Christ's teaching was to have mankind look inward and admit the need for a spiritual rebirth. Once becoming established in the spiritual realm the follower would begin seeing life, including the inward and outward, in a completely new way. God was to be seen in all things created, and especially in his greatest creation, mankind. Not that those items were God himself, but that God sustains and reveals life in those things. All of the universe is to be seen as being sustained by God and not just physics. Seeing God working in all things means the disciple understand they are being made into a new creation where the Father sustains and actually dwells within us. Christ was telling the Galileans that he was the revelation of God. The creator of all things was being revealed in human form.
This idea certainly did not set well with most of the people of the day. For them, the law was the sole avenue to God. It established the philosophical foundations of life. Having God reveal himself in human form, and countering the religious teachers of the day, was certain to give rise to fear and anger. Telling people God wants to live in humankind would eventually put Christ on the execution block. The religious leaders knew the teachings of God and were not about to give up thousands of years of tradition, teaching, and philosophy and follow a relatively unknown teacher.
Not much has changed in the last 2000 years. Just like the Jews, we are fearful to delve into the spiritual world. Our views have been cemented with study, teaching, and tradition. To give it up and dig into the spiritual life might mean giving up much of everything we have been taught, or at the very least challenge it. We might have to admit we are wrong about something we believe including our overall worldview. Our pride often directs us along the path of thinking we believe to be the correct way. We then build spiritual "truths" on weak and flimsy foundations, only to watch them crumble when put into direct contact with the truth of Christ.
Eternal life is soul-searching. It means evaluating and re-evaluating our worldview to ensure it is consistent with our creator's view. This doesn't me we are to walk on spiritual eggshells awaiting eternal damnation for any mistake. Instead, it is a love for the Father, Christ, and the Spirit. Where true love resides, so does the Spirit of God. As our bodies are the temple of God, let's focus on our rebirth and mature in the teachings of our master.