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What does the Jesus of Mitchell’s gospel have to say to those of us living in the year 2000?
The true test of a literary work is the test of time. If a work has a universal theme, if it has a universal lesson that can be learned, it will last and be referred to as a classic and generation after generation of students will read and discuss it in school. While the Gospels are not necessarily considered classics, they have, indeed stood the test of time. Almost 2000 years after Jesus lived, people still talk about him and study his life. Perhaps this is why Stephen Mitchell was compelled to write The Gospel According to Jesus. If one looks carefully, the message of the Jesus of this gospel is universal; therefore, even though the stories were written quite a long time ago, they still have a lot to say to those living in the year 2000. To see what the Jesus of this gospel has to say to those living in the year 2000, one must look at its two major themes: inclusivity and not judging others.
First, The Gospel According to Jesus is an inclusive gospel. If one looks carefully, one will see that Jesus is preaching a message of equality. While this can really be seen throughout the entire gospel, it is best shown in the following passage: “Everyone who hears what I say and does it is like a man who built his house upon a rock; and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it didn’t fall because it was founded on rock. And everyone who hears what I say and doesn’t do it is like a man who built his house upon sand; and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was its fall. (sic)” Notice that this passage does not say “every white man,” or “every Catholic person,” or any other discriminatory type of classification. The passage says “everyone.” This message of equality can also be seen in the healing stories. Jesus does not discriminate against any group when he heals; anyone that asks him to help them, Jesus helps. It is as simple as that. Yet another example of this message can be found in the following: “… ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?
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The other theme that seems to stand out as having huge significance to the year 2000, is the theme of not judging others actions. While this theme can also be seen all throughout this gospel, it is best expressed in the following: “Don’t judge, and you will not be judged. For in the same way that you judge people, you yourself will be judged. Why do you see the splinter that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye? …So if you don’t judge, you will not be judged; if you do not condemn, you will not be condemned; if you forgive, you will be forgiven…” This theme is incredibly vital to the year 2000 and particularly the year 2000 in the United States for many reasons. First, the United States is really an atomized society. There are many different parts of the whole and it is sometimes difficult to see that the some of the different parts are not necessarily inferior to the others; they are just different. Of late there has been much controversy over issues such as gay rights, abortion, and the death penalty. In all of these situations, people on both sides tend to point a finger at the other and judge them for what they believe in. In the year 2000, it is becoming increasingly evident that people need to stop this finger pointing and try to respect each other. This theme says a lot about how individuals should live their lives. It is a message that leads to understanding, compassion, and forgiveness-much of which seems to be lacking in society today.
While the Gospel may not be considered classics, their messages have truly stood the test of time. Stephen Mitchell takes the messages of the Gospels and puts them into a gospel that people living in the year 2000 can relate to, if they just take the time to examine the gospel beyond the surface level. While there are numerous themes that pertain to the year 2000, the two that the Jesus of this gospel seems to be shouting are inclusivity/equality and that one should not judge others. Both themes really go hand in hand. They are both themes that try to give the reader a clue as to how he should live his life.