“And unto him that slaps you on the cheek offer also your other cheek; and him that takes away your cloak forbid not to take your coat also.”
In that scripture, Jesus is teaching his disciples a higher way of acting and thinking in the face of violence and evil: we’re not to stoop to that level, but we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that incites love in the face of hatred. Jesus’ entire ministry offers such solutions to help change the world we live in. In a way, this is the epitome of being “Christ-like.” But there are a few scriptures that show Jesus doing an about-face and acting contrary to being…well, “Christ-like.” For example, in John 2:15, during the Passover, Jesus made a whip and beat the money-changers out of the temple who were selling merchandise and animals. John states that he literally overthrew the merchandise tables in a seemingly fit of rage.
Perhaps even stranger, Matthew 10:34-36 has Jesus saying:
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother…and a man’s foes shall be of his own household.”
Luke 12:49-53 gives a similar description:
“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it already be kindled…Suppose ye that I come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but rather division…the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the daughter against the mother, and the mother against the daughter…”
These scenes and scriptures used to puzzle me as a kid. They didn’t seem like something Jesus was supposed to say or do. Why would he come to divide? Back then I was taught that many families would be divided because some in those families would accept Christ and the other ones would turn against them. While on the surface this seems like a sufficient answer, it doesn’t get to the core issue. Only an esoteric study of the text can provide the truths to these great teachings.
The sword, the fire, the earth, the father, the mother, and even a man’s own household are all symbols defining aspects of ourselves and the unfolding process of the lower nature of man being transformed.
The sword is an instrument which defines truth from falsehood. As the Christ comes within us, he is combating the inclinations of the lower nature (the earth) by the sword and through fire (the spirit). The combat that we endure is very similar to combat on the battlefield. As the Christ comes, there is suffering. This suffering is not produced directly by the Christ within, but is a by-product of the suffering already present in duality and nature. We all suffer at some point, but more than that, as we go through spiritual revolutions we often suffer intensely. As the Christ comes, He cannot be portrayed as passive or peaceful, because the process of spiritual purification is never passive or a peaceful process within us. Thus Christ is always portrayed as peaceful either.
The lower nature doesn’t want to give in to higher spiritual ideals, so the dark night of the soul comes. In Jesus’ sayings the father and mother represent old mental and emotional states that refuse to change. The son and the daughter are the new spiritual life qualities that arise from the Christ. Father and mother qualities often hold on to literalism, formalism, religion, and dogmatism which stagnates the soul. This is why Jesus says the two will be a variance. Christ comes within us to transform them. Jesus emphasizes that the trouble will come within man’s own household because this own household is none other than ourselves.
I often say that my wife is the older soul of the two of us, because more than any other, she is constantly challenging me to respond to certain situations with love and acceptance instead of conformity and a reluctance to change. She has taught me time and time again that the war is within myself, in the mind, by the judgments and fears I still hold. And many of these conflicts have been quite divisive, both for us and within myself. After the trial is completed, I can usually look back and realize the greater picture instead of the false reality that my ego created and believed about those certain situations. The war was always fought in my own household, in my own head.
This is why Jesus immediately follows the scriptures we have already discussed in Matthew with what he states in verses 38:
“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
Those who have been following this site already know that the cross at Golgotha represents the crucifying of the ego, which is the process of the higher nature transforming the lower. Golgotha means, “place of the skull.” Jesus was symbolically crucified in our heads, where the battle truly takes place, within the mind and the emotions. This is where Jesus the man (like us) comes and must be crucified to the higher nature.
A similar line of reasoning can be applied when Jesus throws out the money-changers from the temple. After he does this, the Jews gather around and ask him:
“Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
— John 2:18-19
This seems a little odd, doesn’t it, that the scene would change from Jesus throwing out the money-changers in a fit of anger to this? Why would the Jews ask him this question and then Jesus reply about raising his own body? Esoterically, Jesus is referring the Jews to his crucifixion at Golgotha. It takes three days because three is a time period symbolic for a completed time of transformation.
Remember, much later when the Jews went to Pilate, they reminded him that Jesus had said he would rise after three days and they wanted a guard posted so that no one would mess with Jesus’ tomb. But the Pharisees also represent those literalists and dogmatist who refuse true spiritual truth and change. They would lose their occupations if truth changed them, and the ego doesn’t want to lose its occupation of being in control either.
May these truths inspire us to see the ego for what it is! And the next time you are presented with a trail or tough situation, consider Jesus’ dual attitudes; catch yourself turning the other cheek to many of these circumstances, but also note what the divisive combat is really all about within yourself.
Daily meditation will begin to intuitively give you the answers and ability to respond appropriately. Raymond Phelan has written an excellent article on SOS already about meditation that is relevant to this post. If you haven’t read it already, you can check it out HERE.