“Jesus had very little to do with religion. He had no home in any particular religious sect. He did not identify himself with the Essenes, Pharisees, Zealots, Priests or Rabbis. He did not subscribe to any school of thought, whether it was the school of the great Rabbi Hillel, Philo the philosopher, or the school of the Cynics, all of which had a strong following in his day.
Jesus identified with the whole of humankind irrespective of race, religion, or gender. His vision transcended any sect. He was not a member of any exclusive group. Jesus recognized that no group had a monopoly on the Truth or God. Some of Jesus’s earliest followers wrongly assumed that only their small group could claim to be his true disciples. But Jesus taught that any person who listened to the Spirit of God inside them and loved their neighbor were themselves a Jesus in their own right.
Jesus was not part of any kind of Establishment. Not an old one or a new one. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not replace Judaism with Christianity. At a later point, others organized an establishment called Christianity, but the itinerant Jesus had nothing to do with that. The very nature of an establishment was contrary to his free spirit.
Jesus was always picking a fight with religion. Religion was supposed to help people know God, but Jesus exposed the ways it was the obstacle hindering it. Jesus spoke of being divine AND human. He wanted humankind to know that, contrary to the view of religion, the two were not in opposition to each other. Jesus handpicked the most notorious “sinners” of his day as his close friends, and in so doing, confronted the false notion that some people did not qualify for God’s love and acceptance. Jesus didn’t allow the adulterous woman to be stoned to death as the religious law required. He stood in opposition to the performance-based mentality of relating to God.
Jesus honored the spirit of God wherever it was manifested, but he did not align himself with the religious mentality that sought to formulate and legislate God.
Often to their dismay, Jesus’s close friends found that he would not stay in one place long enough for them to consolidate interests and central beliefs or take steps to organize a movement. Jesus always moved on. In fact, one time his three closest friends had a revelation on a mountainside, and wanted to build some kind of structure or monument to capture and display the glory of Jesus. But Jesus, the incurable itinerant, would have none of it.
Jesus freely taught those whose hearts were open. Some of them followed Jesus and took up the truth he taught, and lived it for themselves. But it’s doubtful that Jesus ever took any steps to organize the church by ordaining twelve apostles, which is more closely aligned with the Old Testament tradition of the twelve tribes. Jesus was not involved in organizing the Christian church as the “new Israel,” an idea the Christian establishment fashioned after Jesus’s death. The whole notion of Jesus beginning a new hierarchy ruled by the chair of Saint Peter is a grave distortion of the whole character, life, and teaching of Jesus. Jesus’s central message was about the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of men.”
– Jim Palmer, Notes from (Over) the Edge