Who was Jesus of Nazareth? Many admire his spiritual teachings; some go further and claim him as the messiah, while a few deny he ever existed at all. But everyone has an opinion about this obscure preacher who lived his brief life in one of the less significant regions of the Roman Empire; and who, in being crucified, died the traditional death for criminals and trouble-makers.
Jesus lived in turbulent times. Under Roman rule, Judea was a hotbed of nationalist, political and religious interests, all vying for power. Jesus was caught in the middle of these, allied to none and ultimately reviled by all. ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ he said, though he agreed taxes should be paid to the Romans. ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’
He taught simply but challengingly, advocating love for our enemies, a spirit of forgiveness and respect for children. What else was new about Jesus? He spoke of a new way of being which he called ‘the kingdom of God.’ This was not a place but an inner state, and the doorway to this kingdom was trust in a heavenly father. As he would often say: ‘Have anxiety about nothing.’ It was a trust Jesus himself required in a life full of conflict; not least with his family who largely disowned him. ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ he famously asked when they attempted to rein him in.
In Conversations with Jesus of Nazareth, the questions are imagined, but the words of Jesus are not; they are authentically his, taken from the various records of his life in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Thomas. Jesus himself never wrote anything down, but in a culture of oral transmission, his words, deeds and stories were well-remembered, and it’s not hard to see why.
‘It’s the shape of our heart which Jesus is interested in,’ says Simon Parke. ‘This is what comes across when talking with him. It’s not what we do that matters, but who we are, and thats why he upset the religious people of his day: he didn’t give them anything to hide behind. He’s not always easy company, I agree, but his life and his words – they have the undoubted ring of truth.’
About the author
Simon Parke was a priest in the Church of England for twenty years, before leaving for fresh adventures. He worked for three years in a supermarket, stacking shelves and working on the till. He was also chair of the shop union. He has since left to go free lance, and now writes, leads retreats and offers consultancy.
He has written for The Independent and The Evening Standard, and is currently columnist with the Daily Mail. His weekly supermarket diary, ‘Shelf Life’, ran for 15 months in the Mail on Saturday, and he now contributes another weekly column called ‘One-Minute Mystic.’ The book version of ‘Shelf Life’ is published by Rider. The book version of ‘One-Minute Mystic’ was published by Hay House in Jan.2010.
Other books by Simon include ‘Forsaking the Family’ – a refreshingly real look at family life. Our families made us; yet we understand very little of how our experiences as children still affects us. The book starts by contemplating Jesus’ ambivalence towards his own family, particularly his parents; reflects on how our family settings can both help and harm us; and suggests paths for freedom and authenticity.
‘The Beautiful Life – ten new commandments because life could be better’ was published by Bloomsbury, and describes ten skilful attitudes for life. Simon leads retreats around this book, and talks about it on this site. It is now also available in audio form with White Crow books.
Simon has been a teacher of the Enneagram for twenty years. The enneagram is an ancient and remarkable path of self-understanding, and Simon’s book on the subject, published by Lion, is called ‘Enneagram – a private session with the world’s greatest psychologist.’
‘Another bloody retreat’ is Simon’s desert novel, describing events at the monastery of St James-the-Less set in the sands of Middle Egypt. It follows the fortunes of Abbot Peter and the rest of the community, when the stillness of their sacred setting is rudely and irrevocably shattered.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published September 13th 2010
Duration: 177 Minutes