Interestingly, Jesus speaks of just such a hidden secret. The gospels tell us he spoke in parables and that these were only understood by those who were inside a certain circle, but they remained riddles to everyone outside that circle.
That, of course, begs the question: What is the hidden secret and who is inside and who is outside the circle of understanding? In the message of Jesus, what’s the secret to be discovered, the code be cracked?
Mark’s gospel takes this up explicitly. His Jesus makes it very clear that there is a hidden, secret wisdom that needs to be grasped if one is to understand the deep design of things. What is it?
In caption, it’s the cross of Christ and the wisdom that’s contained within it. The hidden secret is that love is most truly revealed in the brokenness of Jesus on the cross. What’s hidden in the cross of Christ is the code that we have to break open if we are to learn the deep secrets of life. The cross contains a wisdom, the wisdom of the crucified, which is a prism through which all else is to be viewed.
More specifically, what is this wisdom?
Unlike false, gnostic teachers who are forever playing games and giving the impression that learning the deep secrets is a question of luck, brilliant intelligence, or of becoming their disciples, Jesus tries everywhere to reveal the secret in public and in a language open to everyone. His whole life and mission are an attempt to lay open for everyone the deepest secret of all and to make that secret accessible to everyone, as accessible as the nearest water tap or the village well. Since Jesus, the deepest secret is an open secret. What is it?
One entry into it is through the words Jesus speaks to his uncomprehending disciples on the road to Emmaus. In trying to explain this secret, he asks them: “Wasn’t it necessary?” Wasn’t what necessary?
The secret is that there is a necessary connection between certain things: Isn’t a certain prior suffering and humiliation always the condition for glory? Don’t we all, like Cinderella, first have to sit in the ashes before the glass slipper will fit our feet? Isn’t sublimation always the means to the sublime? Isn’t it precisely when we are vulnerable and unable to impress or overpower others that we are finally open to intimacy, love, and family? Aren’t self-sacrifice and self-denial, in the end, the way real love manifests itself? Isn’t the crucifixion of the private ego the route to empathy and community? Isn’t the forgiveness of those who hurt us the final manifestation of human maturity?
And, most graphic of all, isn’t the way Jesus died – innocent, trusting, unwilling out of love to protect himself against suffering, absorbing hatred and sin, understanding and forgiving those who were murdering him, refusing to resort to any kind of superior physical power to overwhelm his adversaries, refusing to give back in kind, and refusing to give himself over to bitterness and cynicism – the paragon of mature human love?
Love is the deepest mystery within the universe. It lies at the base of everything, the cosmic, the biological, the emotional, the psychological, the sexual, the spiritual. There is no level of reality where one doesn’t see the relentless deep pull inside of all things towards a unity, community, fusion, and oneness beyond self. Love stirs all things, speaking to every element in the language it can understand. Deep inside of us, we know too that this alone can bring us home.
And there is an inner code, a certain DNA, within love itself. It too has inner secrets, an inner structure, and a code that needs to be cracked if we are to properly understand its dynamics. And we don’t crack that code all at once, at a weekend retreat or at religious rally. We crack it slowly, painfully, with many setbacks, over the course of a lifetime.
But Jesus gave us the keys to crack it. They can be named: vulnerability, the refusal out of love to protect ourselves, self-sacrifice, putting others before ourselves, refusing to give back in kind when someone hurts us, a willingness to die for others, the refusal to give ourselves over to cynicism and bitterness when things beset us, continued trust in God and goodness even when things look the opposite, and especially forgiveness, having our hearts remain warm and hospitable, even when we have just cause for hatred.
These are the keys to the wisdom that Jesus revealed and the gospels tells that we are “inside” or “outside” the true circle of love, depending upon whether or not we grasp this wisdom.