At some point in life most of us have asked our self the big question, “Who am I?” Am I this kind of person – or am I that kind of person? It’s like playing mental Ping Pong. We ask this question of our selves at almost every stage of human development. As children we are looking for an identity within our family. As teenager we’re looking for an identity separate from our family. As young adults we’re looking for a purpose. As adults we’re trying to live out our purpose. As older adults we’re trying to assess if we have fulfilled our purpose. These questions are extremely important in our growth as mature humans because our answers affect our relationship to other people. Simply put, you can’t truly know another human being, and you can’t truly know God—unless you know yourself. Christianity has taught this truth from its beginning.
In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus said, “Divine Reality exists inside and all around you. Only when you have come to know your true Self will you be fully known—realizing at last that you are a child of the Living One.”
But, how did Jesus come to realize this about himself? First—he was human. Therefore he had to ask all the human questions, including—Who am I? Yes, that’s right, Jesus had to go through the same self-discovery process we have to trudge through. He had to ask himself, who am I, so that he could discover that he was a child of the Living One. He modeled for us that we too are children of the Living One.
Today’s gospel reading (John 12:1-8) is a perfect example of Jesus’ search for his answer to the question, “Who am I.” To do this we have to read the Gospel of John metaphorically, not literally.
I’ve developed a diagram to help us get a picture of Jesus’ Self-discovery process found in today’s reading. I know there is too much information in this diagram to cram into a fifteen-minute sermon. So, I’m giving you a glimpse of a series I’ll be offering in late May, early June. The title of the program will be “Jesus: His Mind, Mystery, and Magic.” This sermon is the very beginning of my ideas about how Jesus thought.
A couple of quick notes about the title at the top of the chart: Jesus called himself the Son of Man, which followed in the tradition of Ezekiel. The word Anthropos is a reference to Carl Jung’s suggestion that Jesus is the archetypal man in search of his True Self. Therefore, Jesus, the Son of Man is the archetypal True Self, whose path we can follow for our own self-discovery.
The diagram is a circle—a mandala, a sacred circle. A cross divides the circle into four sections. Four is a complete number—as in the four points of the cross, the four directions and the four elements, air, earth, fire, and water. At the different points of the cross, you will see the four letters of the unspeakable name of God, YHVH. In the Kabbalah’s interpretation of the Torah, the four letters of the unspeakable name of God are—Yod (Father), He (Mother), Vau (Son), He (Daughter). There’s so much to say about this because it plays such an important part in understanding Jesus’ understanding of the Holy One. But that will have to wait until another time.
The two quadrants on the top, the darker blue, are the conscious, the bottom two, the lighter blue, are the unconscious. The four quadrants represent the holistic picture of Jesus personality—his complete personality. The upper left is Jesus’ ego. The upper right is Jesus’ emerging Self. The bottom left represents Jesus’ soul. And the bottom right is Jesus’ shadow. The characters in the story represent the four parts of Jesus’ personality. For our sake of discussion, the story is not about Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Judas—the story is all about Jesus.
The upper left quadrant represents the Ego. You’ll see Jesus making four statements that are focused on his conscious awareness of who he is existentially. “Leave Mary alone. She bought the oil. She’s anointing me in preparation for my impending death. Don’t worry about the poor right now, you’ll always have them.” Jesus sensed that after he had overturned the tables in the Tabernacle and raised Lazarus from the tomb, the authorities would be looking to execute him. Jesus was focused on the situation of the moment—his situation. There’s nothing wrong or bad about that—that was just his reality at the moment.
The lower right quadrant represents Jesus’ shadow. The writer of the gospel puts the shadow’s words into Judas’ mouth. “We have a responsibility, we need the money to take care of the poor, to take care of us.” Jesus had to have been worried about what was going to happen to his poor disciples after he died? But, he didn’t want to think about responsibility at that moment, or maybe at all. So he avoided thinking about it and hid his thoughts in his shadow. Then there was the issue of betrayal. Jesus probably felt like he had betrayed his disciples—they gave up everything to follow him and now it was all going to end on the cross. And maybe Jesus was worried that he was a thief, that he was stealing his identity as a child of God? Maybe he was concerned that he wasn’t worthy? Or that he wasn’t ready?
The lower left quadrant represents the soul of Jesus. In Jungian psychology, the soul is always representative of the opposite gender that resides within us. Jesus being a male, would identify his soul as feminine. In the story we are reading today, Mary and Martha represent two sides of the same person—Mary the disciple, the esthetic, Martha the servant, the doer. This two-sided person actually represents the three Marys in Jesus’s life—the mother, the wife, the daughter. In mystical literature, the three Marys are the same person, playing out different roles in Jesus’ life. This is the role of the soul—to confront us with our aspects of spirituality. That’s what Mary is doing as she anoints Jesus’ feet with her hair. She acts in humility. She makes a sacrifice. She engages all her mind, body, soul, and spirit to be in union with the Living One. She is acting out for Jesus how his spirituality and his soul must evolve. Soon Jesus would wash the disciples feet.
And finally, let’s turn our attention to the upper right quadrant—the Self, represented by Lazarus. Here we see Lazarus, possibly the beloved disciple, who had died and then had been resurrected. Lazarus was in the house, while his sister was anointing the feet of Jesus. He was sitting at the table. Lazarus represented whom Jesus would have to become in order to find his True Self. Jesus would have to be willing to die so that someone else would resurrect him, in order that he might become the Holy Eucharist served at the table, the altar.
I know, this all very weird stuff for us to think about. But, the question is, why should be paying attention to the humanity of Jesus?
Typically, we’re presented a Jesus who is an enigmatic, two-dimensional figure—a mysterious figure that is so far away that we lose any personal connection. So then, we fill in the human gap. We turn Jesus into our imaginary childhood friend, or the best friend we never had, or the brother that was missing in our life, or the lover we need. And once we re-create Jesus, then we do the same thing to our self, creating our idealized fictional character of who we wish we were. And worse yet, we then project all of our stuff onto our family and friends. And what happens is, our recreated Jesus doesn’t live up to our expectations. Our family and friends don’t act like we want them to. And of course, we are not really the person we created. We need the real Jesus, so that we have a model to find our own authentic self.
As followers of Jesus, let me suggest we spend some time this week and during Holy Week with these questions:
What have you avoided in your life and stuffed in your shadow?
What is your soul trying to tell you about your spirituality?
What is your True Self calling you to become?
Like Jesus, the answer to these question are somewhere inside of you.
Let me end with a portion of the poem “Who am I?” written by the Christian theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Who am I? This man or that other?
Am I then this man today and tomorrow another?
Am I both all at once?
Who am I? They mock me these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, you know me, O God. You know I am yours.