As human beings, we may consider ourselves to be a “higher life form” than any other living creature on the planet.
We have a well-developed neocortex, which allows for complex thinking. This may involve such things as compassion, mercy, and justice.
There may be times, however, when we find reason to put our neocortex activities on hold. It can happen when we perceive a threat.
As a result, our lower brain may then take over. This may be fueled by our emotions and bring us to a point of fight, flight or being frozen.
This process may save us from harm. However, the downside may be a temporary loss of the ability to reason well and think things through.
When our lower brain takes over in this way, we may act solely upon base emotions with little regard to any long-term consequences. Another name for it is being “bird-brained.”
Considering the above, I propose this hypothesis: Jesus used his neocortex often and more than most.
The things he talked about were mind-blowing. He was saying things like: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” Attempting to come to terms with what Jesus was saying would take a great deal of relearning and mental gymnastics; his followers would have to shift their neocortexes into overdrive.
Most who held power within Jewish society treated Jesus as a threat. They wished to fight but were temporarily frozen into inaction because of Jesus’ public support. However, they eventually saw their opportunity to put an end to this threat by having Jesus executed. Their bird-brained actions were fueled by hatred and they even broke their own laws to get the job done (regardless of the consequences).
Some would say that Jesus died in order that God could then forgive sin. (As if an all-powerful God was powerless to do otherwise).
The truth is that Jesus died because he threatened earthly power, by hanging out with the lesser, least, and lost, declaring the forgiveness of sin, and preaching radical grace. Jesus calls for us to do the same.
Our human pride has the capacity to undo Jesus’ teachings, to rationalize it away, or ignore it – a foolish, bird-brained activity. We can all fall into this trap.
My God-given neocortex reminds myself of this daily.
How about you?
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.