JESUS AND THE FLESHLY
The concept of fleshliness expressed by Jesus isn’t shown as linked to tax-collectors, prostitutes and “sinners”. Instead, it is directly related to the religious of His days, and, among them, the most “zealous” ones: the Pharisees and the religious authorities.
To Jesus, a fleshly person is, above all, a religious one who is conceited and arrogant. Jesus calls such an individual—the one who “has a monopoly on truth”— a “hypocrite”.
The worst fleshliness, to Jesus, is to be blind to your own faults and, in spite of that, be willing to judge your neighbor. Worse, try to “clone” him/her, making him/her twice as much a hypocrite as you are.
Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus also shows us, from the Lord’s viewpoint, what a fleshly man is like. He is born of the flesh only, and has the fleshly arrogance of feeling and considering himself—self-deceitfully, of course—as a master; a completed, full-fledged being. But Jesus told him he needed to be born again.
The fleshly don’t realize they’re fleshly. After all, they see themselves as beings that are above everything and everybody, because their self-deceit makes them think they’re “full-grown”. According to Jesus, fleshly people like these urgently need to be born of water and the Spirit, and abandon themselves to the uncertainties of the wind.
According to Jesus, the worship to security can be an awful sign of fleshliness!
We read the Gospels and don’t see Jesus associate fleshliness with feasts, parties, weddings, open-air celebrations, human mistakes or even congenital troubles or disasters.
Likewise, we don’t see Him call “fleshliness” things as tiredness, annoyance, the righteous wrath, or even the violence as a byproduct of responses to survival. To Him, the fleshliest one isn’t that who goes to war and kills, but the one who, out of envy, keeps cursing the blessing of bravery that was given to the warrior, even though he benefits from the liberation the warrior wins.
Fleshly, in the Gospel, is not the woman who comes from the dark night into the room and brightens it up with her love, tears and kisses on Jesus’ feet, but her all-self-righteous opponent, who Jesus denounces as fleshly. So, to Jesus, the fleshly person isn’t necessarily the one who made a mistake when seeking for love, but the one who has never loved out of an absolute inability to or fear of doing so.
The biggest fleshliness is to be unable to love, even if misguidedly; it’s a total lack of will to know love. An all-fleshly being is, paradoxically, an all-disaffective being!
The fleshly, according to Jesus, are the Pharisee, the hypocrite, the conceited, the arrogant, the self-assured, the certain-of-their-certainties!
Fleshly is the one who trusts in the results of his own legal, moral and religious deeds!
Therefore, according to the Gospels, fleshly is the one who can’t see himself but is pretentious enough to think he can see his neighbor.
In addition, to Jesus, fleshly was also the brother who was unable to be glad about his father’s happiness for the “other” brother’s return. The “other one”—his compeer—, who had chosen to take the risk of visiting “far countries” and returned broken, humiliated, to his family; no longer having any fantasies but the real joys of truth.
According to Jesus, this Older Brother, incapable of joining the party, is the fleshly one. After all, that was the party the Father gave to celebrate the homecoming of One of His Sons—who had been dead and was alive again; had been lost and was found again! The Angry Son, the Older Son, in spite of all his father’s requests, didn’t want to go in and share his father’s rejoice in finding that Brother who, now, fortunately, was definitely “un-deceived”.
Yes! The Older Brother, envious of the sin and the forgiveness that the Un-deceived, Prodigal Brother received from their father, is the one who Jesus sees as the fleshly one who had never tried any kind of flesh—not even a young goat’s to celebrate with his friends!
A fleshly being gets sad when Grace and Forgiveness are offered!
Fleshly, to Jesus, was the forgiven debtor who was unable to forgive his neighbor a extremely smaller debt. Or the believer who fastened twice a week, gave the tithes of everything, prayed many times a day, and thanked God at the top of his voice for the blessing of not being like the sinner who was beside him, weeping for guilt and affliction.
In that very thanksgiving prayer, he still praised God because he didn’t even have the smallest resemblance to other people who were like that outcast beside him, who was crying before God, not even daring look up. Yes! To Jesus, the fleshly one was the self-justified one!
To Jesus, to be fleshly was also to be like the grouchy religious who found the very same reasons to complain to God about the existence of beings both holy and behaviorally different as John the Baptist and Jesus.
That is, in Jesus’ sight, a chronic bad mood regarding those expressions of God’s Grace that we “dislike” also expresses our fleshliness.
Even worse to Him, fleshliness was the fearlessness of ruling, trading and judging in an area called holy to God by men!
In Jesus’ eyes, fleshlier than the adulterous woman was the assembly with stones in their hands and an orgasmic desire to stone her to death.
What’s more, to Him, worse than to be fleshly was to be a fleshly one who was also idiotic,foolish and dishonestly stupid. That’s why the unfaithful manager was “praised” for his wisdom in trying to do his best with the consequences of his irreparable mistakes.
However, to Jesus no one can be fleshlier than the person who doesn’t lift one finger, both hands, both feet, and doesn’t sharpen his/her senses and heart to recognize His presence in the encounter with one’s neighbor—from the plague to jails; from hospitals to the exile; from starvation to the inhibition of being a foreigner! The ultimately fleshly individual in history is the one who can’t see the presence of Christ’s Grace hidden in the dearth of his/her castaway neighbor.
Yes! To Jesus, a fleshly one is that who only lives up to what he can afford by himself. On the contrary, he chooses to protect himself/herself from the risk of living.
Paul’s concept of fleshliness is no different—and you couldn’t expect it to be otherwise—from what Jesus teaches as being “works of the flesh”.
According to Jesus, the flesh, negatively speaking, is whatever comes from the human arrogance, especially the pretension of doing judgment against one’s neighbor and the unfortunate attempt to justify oneself before God.
This is just a reflection for you to begin with.
From the original: “JESUS E OS CARNAIS”
Translated by F. R. Castelo Branco | May 2007