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What Is the Good News That Jesus Taught?

by Shirley Paulson, PhD

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Christians all over the world and even many other people think they know what Jesus taught, but if asked to try to explain his teachings succinctly, many will flounder.  We know Jesus taught through his actions and he taught though speaking, often using parables. We know he shared his teachings with all kinds of people—small and large gatherings of ordinary Jews, Pharisees, and even those that many called ‘sinners.’

But what exactly did he teach?

Sometimes people call Jesus’s teachings the ‘good news’ But, what does that mean? Perhaps we assume we know—but there’s not that much textual evidence.

However, there are some intriguing clues in the extracanonical writings, describing the good news and implying reasons for why it’s so good. Here’s a clue from the Gospel of Mary in which Jesus (or ‘the Savior’) teaches about ‘the good news’ specifically:

Be on your guard so that no one deceives you by saying, “Look over here!” or “Look over there!” For the son of Man (or “child of true Humanity”) exists within you. Follow it! Those who search for it will find it. Go then and preach the good news about the Realm. (Gospel of Mary, King, transl. 4:3-8)

The realm, or ‘the kingdom,’ within us, was good news for the disciples he was teaching then. But it was also good news for anybody else. Here’s a teaching from Luke:

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among (or ‘within’) you.” (Luke 17: 20-21, NRSVue)

Jesus says ‘the kingdom’ is already here. The Greek word entos which is translated as ‘among’ could just as easily be translated ‘within.’ The fact that Jesus taught the Pharisees this, a group who notoriously argued with Jesus over the best way to behave as a good Jew, meant that the ‘good news’ was applicable for anyone, even those who opposed him. Everyone had access to this divine presence within or among them.

The realm or kingdom of God is present!

Jesus pointed out that it wasn’t about when some blessed form of divinity might appear on earth, because it’s already present and operating within all humanity. This divinity constitutes our very nature.

Why would the knowledge of this realm within us be such good news? Again, from the Gospel of Mary, the Savior teaches that this divine presence within everyone causes us to be connected. We have a built-in beneficial relationship with everyone and everything created by the divine source.

“Every nature, every modeled form, every creature, exists in and with each other. They will dissolve again into their own proper root. For the nature of matter is dissolved into what belongs to its nature.” (Gospel of Mary, 2:1-4, King transl.)

I’ll paraphrase it like this:

“We’re all connected and exist in and with each other. We’ll see what this means when all materialism dissolves into our proper root.”

We learn from this teaching that what connects all humanity and all existence is a root that we all share, a divine kind of treasure that exists within each one of us. A bit later in the text, in another context, the Savior tells Mary about this treasure. He says:

Where the mind is, there is the treasure. (Gospel of Mary, 7:4)

The mind is the treasure! This is our ‘proper root.’ But there’s a twist to this use of the word mind. It is not a personal, brain-centered intelligence. This is something rooted in our consciousness itself. In antiquity, one could always find a deeper cosmic consciousness at work. The Greeks made a distinction between logismos (human reasoning) and nous (consciousness). Interestingly, this kind of distinction occurred in other ancient religions too, such as in Buddhism with ‘normal’ consciousness versus ‘wisdom’ consciousness.

The cosmic consciousness

‘The root’ that connects all nature and all creatures is a cosmic, divine consciousness. It functions both among us and within us because it is, quite simply, an awareness of the reality of the divine existence within us.

I think that in the modern world, we have largely lost track of the meaning of this ‘good news’ because we do not remember the meaning of nous – the consciousness that creates and underlies all existence.

The Secret Revelation of John explains the nature and function of this nous in more detail. It offers descriptions of both the process and result of the creative nous (cosmic consciousness), which is also called ‘Virginal Spirit.’

The Spirit ‘stares’ or ‘gazes,’ and at first, the intangible ideas, such as grace, memory, love, and wisdom appear as beings in the Creator’s realm (6:1-2). Then the ‘perfect Mind’ (nous) brings humanity into being from the power and authority of the Spirit of God. (9:2)

All creation occurs through the gazing— active thinking—of the cosmic Mind. The creative nous becomes a thing. We exist as distinct and individual thoughts, but we remain connected to each other in this cosmic consciousness.

What’s the problem with materialism?

Let’s go back to that quote from the Gospel of Mary which states that materialism will dissolve into what belongs to our nature. What does that really mean to us today?

Jesus was no student of contemporary quantum physics, but the modern discovery of these laws is consistent with Jesus’s teachings. As Jeffrey Kripal has said about matter, “materialism is an interpretation of science. It’s not science itself.” Matter is not the substance of things; it is more like the operative method of everyday thinking. The real engine of the universe is consciousness.

Jesus appears to object to “the nature of matter” as an opposition to the nature of our roots. Matter not only puts limitations on all forms of existence because of its own finite elements, but by its contrary nature to Spirit, it diminishes our recognition of the divine presence.

If each individual contained their intelligence within individual brains in a material form, then the great cosmic consciousness would be excluded from the creation and overall government of our lives. Consciousness would cease to exist when the body no longer functions at death.

Good news: the cosmic consciousness within and among us

The greatest impact on humanity regarding the loss of the great treasure—the cosmic consciousness— would be our inability to find peace on earth. Everyone would remain ‘other’ instead of “existing in and with each other.” (Gospel of Mary, 2:1)

The good news is the fact that we exist in and with each other because the one great consciousness of the universe knows us, loves us, protects us, and is within each of us forever. We have nothing to wait for, but we always have the opportunity to search for it and find it. It is within and among us.

This post is available as a Bible and Beyond Video Essay. Watch it on YouTube here.