Destroying All Boundaries

"Now, when Jesus heals the paralytic by forgiving his sins, he upsets the Pharisees, who can be seen as the religious fundamentalists or radicals of the time. The reason they're so angry is that, from their viewpoint, God is the only one who has the capacity to forgive sins. The religious institutions that Jesus was born into, and often found himself surrounded by, were very threatened by his presence. In their minds, his actions were the ultimate sin. Jesus was forgiving sins, healing people, and attracting great crowds. All these were real threats to the religious powers of the day. This theme of relationship to power appears in many of Jesus's healings, because the religious hierarchy is very unsettled by the presence of Jesus. In a certain sense, their power has been usurped by a greater power. In Jesus, the power of spirit itself has awakened; it's a constant reminder to these religious institutions that their hierarchical power pales in comparison to the power of divine being that Jesus is and that he represents in these stories. The power structures are upset by Jesus's power, and we see this theme arise again and again throughout the Gospels.

"There's another encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees in which Jesus and his disciples are dining at Levi's house. The Gospel of Mark reads, 'While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.' (Mark 2:15, NIV) These sinners are people of ill repute, on the lowest rungs of society, and tax collectors were even less popular in the ancient world than now. In the ancient world, taxation was a very personal transaction, because a tax collector could demand money from you right on the spot.

"For Jesus, a spiritual figure of great magnitude, to be sitting down with the lowest rungs of society was simply not acceptable at that time. In the ancient world there was a very clear stratification of society, similar to Indian society with the Brahmins at the top and the untouchables at the lowest rung. There were clear boundaries around whom you could associate with and whom you couldn't, between who was clean and pure and who was unclean and impure. Jesus crossed all of those boundary lines, destroying them at almost every turn. In the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus has done something terrible, a high spiritual figure dining with the lowest classes. People in positions of power are on the highest rungs of society. In order to keep their high status, in order to be seen as mighty and noble, they need to have people that are seen as lesser. From a religious point of view, these distinctions mattered deeply, but to Jesus they didn't matter at all. Jesus destroys the boundaries that separate people because that's what spirit does: it sees the unity of all beings. It sees what we all share in common instead of what separates us and divides us."