Excerpt from the book: Awakening To I Am Love by David Youngren. Adapted by permission.
Although historians and scholars are not sure exactly when Jesus was born, most agree that the year of his birth was probably between 4 and 6 B.C. Biblical accounts suggest that Jesus lived in Egypt at the beginning of his life, but then at some point moved with his parents, Joseph and Mary, to Galilee, a region in northern Israel.
The people of Galilee were the most religious Jews in the world at the time. It was the Jewish Bible-belt where strong religious communities, scripture-based education, and devotion to family, nation, and their synagogues were the hallmarks of society.
The educational process for a young boy in Galilee at the time of Jesus was called Mishnah. Around the age of 5, children began their studies in Beth Sefer (elementary school), where both boys and girls were taught by a rabbi (teacher or master) to read and write their scriptures, primarily the Torah. By the time they finished Beth Sefer around 10 years old, many of the children had memorized the entire Torah. Even the ones who were not among the gifted students were intimately familiar with every passage of Jewish scriptures. Upon completion of Beth Sefer, most of the children would stay at home. The girls would take on household duties, whereas the boys would learn the family trade.
While working in the family business, the best male students would also continue their study in what was called the Beth Midrash (secondary school). There they would study the prophets and various other spiritual texts while continuing to memorize all their sacred scriptures. They would also learn to make their own applications and interpretations of these religious texts.
Becoming A Rabbi
At age 18, a few of the most outstanding students would leave home for lengthy periods to study with a famous rabbi. These students were called talmidims (disciples.) Unlike the student-teacher relationship of today, a disciple was a passionate follower of the rabbi. The talmidim was not only listening to the rabbi’s teachings, but also emulated his lifestyle to become exactly like his honored rabbi. Eventually, by the age of 30, the disciple was commissioned by the rabbi to go out on his own and make new disciples—in other words, to pass on their master’s way of life and lifestyle so that it would continue generationally.
It was in this religious, educational, and cultural environment that Jesus was raised. By the time Jesus was 30 years old, he was one of a small group who were ordained as rabbis. While traditionally the most advanced students would approach the rabbi they wanted to follow, Jesus invited the ones who were considered uneducated and unqualified as his talmidims. They had already given up on their religious studies and were serving full-time in the family business. This rabbi, whose fame would be unequaled in human history, turned to the fishermen, hated tax collectors, and the rebels and told them to follow him. What a reversal of religious order! Love begins with what others consider less.
The Yoke of Jesus
It didn’t take long for Jesus to stand out among the teachers who lived in Galilee. The crowd recognized that he had authority—or what they called s’mikhah—to make new interpretations of their sacred scriptures. These interpretations and unique teachings were also referred to as the yoke of the rabbi. The imagery here was that a yoke connects the ox and make them walk in unison under the leadership of the lead ox.
So what was Jesus’ yoke? We know that Jesus referred to his yoke as easy, and his burden as light. Then we know from the Gospels that Jesus’ teachings were focused on the kingdom of heaven (also referred to as the kingdom of God). However, this was not unusual because it was the topic of all rabbis at the time.
The kingdom of God was something that they were waiting for. When the Messiah appeared, he would defeat the Roman occupying force and reestablish Israel’s political and religious independence. This would usher in global peace in the world. While waiting for the kingdom of heaven to be established on earth, the Jewish community was commanded to follow the word of God and be obedient to the law and scriptures. It was their duty and served as a sign that they qualified for the kingdom of God.
But Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven differently. It was not something to be observed with the five senses, because “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” The fruit of that kingdom was not military might, external religious piety, or tribal allegiance, but inward love that externally manifested itself as love for your enemies. It was peace from within that turned into peace on earth, and inner joy that brought joy to the world.
The Purpose of the Parables
Jesus often used stories—also known as parables—to paint a picture about the kingdom of God. These teachings were frequently shocking and appalling, especially to the religious establishment. A common thread in Jesus’ teachings and interactions with people was his care for those who were considered the least among them. Jesus identified with the foreigners who lived in their nation, the sinners who were the outcasts of society, the women who were marginalized by traditions, and the secular elite who were disdained by the religious-political propaganda machine.
What troubled the religious establishment the most about Jesus’ kingdom teaching was how God was not an object separate from them. Jesus spoke of being one with the Father. This was not only against their teachings, but it was also blasphemous. Their minds could not comprehend union with God because they identified with their personal and collective ego. Since fear is essential to the egoic mind, they felt attacked by a message of oneness with God because it would inevitably weaken their hold on the religious and political power structure. It would upend the authority they had worked so hard to achieve. So Jesus had to be silenced.
Where Religion Fails
As history teaches us, it’s not uncommon for religious systems to align with political power when they feel threatened by a progressive agenda and new spiritual thought. Voices that advocate for greater equality, tolerance, and acceptance of everyone must be squashed before they diminish the significance, specialness, and superiority of a religion. Even if that means hypocritically rejecting their most valued beliefs, it’s the price they are willing to pay. It’s not just their religion that’s coming under attack, but it’s what has set them apart as being closer to God than others.
So even though the religious leaders at the time eloquently affirmed their own law, including “You shall not kill,” they were so blinded by hatred for what Jesus represented that they stirred up the crowd to shout, “Crucify Jesus!” Jesus and his message were a threat to their beliefs, their way of life, and their power. They even felt justified to break their most revered law so that they could stop progress and maintain their influence on society. Religion will, ultimately, always side with what preserves its traditions, even if it means violating its core principles. So under the banner of God, Jesus was condemned to the most gruesome death.
The Non-Dual Consciousness of Jesus
It could be easy to feel a sense of resentment and anger looking back at the religious and political system.
Jesus knew the cross was coming. Even before he made the journey to Jerusalem, he was completely aware of what he would face. Death was somehow his mission.
Interestingly enough, Jesus never became hateful or vengeful toward his attackers. Establishing fault would only bring about further division and would pit groups of people against each other. His death could end up as just another device to strengthen the ego. The dualistic mind could use what symbolized the end of the ego to pit others toward the evil side on its continuum of good and evil. Jesus, therefore, extended forgiveness and added that they didn’t know what they were doing. In other words, there was no one to blame. Jesus simply accepted his death for what it was. There was an inner joy because he was aware of the transcending reality beyond his suffering. Somehow the death would demonstrate the essence of love. It would serve as a catalyst to tear down the wall of separation that existed in the minds of humanity.
The resurrection was not a new concept among the rabbis who taught about the kingdom of God. The Pharisees, the most prominent religious group in Israel at the time, believed that the resurrection of the dead would occur when the Messiah came. After all, it had been 500 years since their exile from Babylon, and many had died. So they didn’t want them to have died for nothing. Resurrection from the dead was, therefore, the promise to all of them while they waited for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth. It was a reward for all the faithful Jews.
So when the story of Jesus’ resurrection was told, it was not a new idea, but it had a new twist to it. Only one Jew was raised. Later when Jesus’ disciples begin to put the pieces together, it occurred to them that the forthcoming resurrection as the “world to come” was already here—or at the very least it had already begun. A new age of the Messiah (Christ) had dawned. A future world was invading the present.
But the resurrection life was nothing like what they had foreseen. The resurrection of Christ was a consciousness emerging from within each and every one of them. The kingdom of heaven was a dimension within them where they were united in love with the transcending reality. Moving beyond the egoic mind and finding their true self in the presence of God was their resurrection from the dead. The end of physical life was only a transition into another form.
David Youngren is a philanthropist, author, and an international teacher (has spoken to more than one million people at live events), who inspires and guides spiritual seekers from every background to awaken to the wonder of who they are. His most recent book, Awakening To I Am Love is available at major online retailers.