In questioning this claim, my wish is not to diminish the life of Jesus, but to honor it as fully as I can by asking whether his elevation to divinity is something he would have wanted. One telling clue to Jesus’s self-awareness can be found in the tenth chapter of the gospel of Mark when Jesus was approached by a man who called him “Good Teacher” (v. 17). Jesus’s response was immediate and startling, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (v. 18). I have heard some say Jesus was, in a clever way, offering the man the opportunity to affirm his divinity, but that is not what happened. Jesus simply directed the man to a style of living he believed would honor the priorities of God. Clearly, Jesus was a man who did not comfortably accept affirmations of divinity as his due.
Jesus did none of the things essential to forming a viable institution. Some may argue that Jesus wasn’t negligent, that he was simply confident in the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide and grow the fledgling church. But Jesus’s cautionary, even hostile, language about religious institutions makes such a claim doubtful, if not incredible. A fair reading of the earliest gospels offers scant evidence that Jesus intended to start a new religion.
The above quotes are from some books by Philip Gulley who is a Quaker minister and author. He has provoked me to much thought about this topic. Was Jesus’ purpose in coming to us as a man like us to insist on our adoration of him or was it something else? I tend to believe along the lines of Philip Gulley and think that Jesus came with a much stronger message. Depending on how literally you take the Old Testament Bible text God had anxiously awaited at least five thousand and perhaps as much as a million or more years for us to understand His nature. When it seemed that even the prophets he sent throughout that time could not convince us how he wants us to live He chose to have Jesus come to us with that message. Toward the end of his time on this earth Jesus summarized his mission to us with the instructions to love God above all earthly things and to love our fellow man. He made a very direct point in telling us this was his message. I don’t see how anybody can dispute that fact? He did not include a bunch of rules on treating Jesus as a God like what the present day Jews prescribe to in the Old Testament.
As mentioned in the quote above Jesus did nothing to form a religious institution around him and I can’t find many of his words that I would interpret as him even remotely trying to do so. But today we have 39,000 different institutions, each with their own set of worship rules, saying that they are the ones who true to Jesus’ words. I don’t think Jesus intended us to just gather together each Sunday to chant certain mantra and go through a bunch of repetitious words. I think Jesus meant for us to take his words into our hearts every day and to do what he says. Unfortunately that message seems to have been lost in most Christian institutions today. Shame on us….