Summary: Jesus is the revolutionary revolutionary
Jesus Who? October 21, 22 & 25
Jesus the Revolutionary
nativity story tax scene – pretty easy to see why people might want to head to the hills and take up arms against their oppressors.
Was Jesus a revolutionary?
You may remember from last week, the video of Tony Campolo where Tony says “There is no Christianity that does not tie us up with the poor and the oppressed of the world.” There is great truth in this, but what you do with this truth is can make a world of difference. In the 70’s and 80’s many places in Latin America were experiencing great social strife – the wealth of the countries was held in a very few hands, most of the people were poor and oppressed by totalitarian regimes. Many leftist guerrilla movements sprang up. What began with the priests deciding that the guerrillas needed to share the communion table as well grew into a whole theology called Liberation Theology, which was a marriage of Marxism and Christianity. Some of these liberationists said that if you were not involved in the struggle for liberation, you were not Christian. They painted Jesus as a political liberator above all things.
Is Jesus a Revolutionary? Or a Political Liberator?
Brian McLaren writes of an interview of an American Pastor that he saw on British Television. The interview asked him why so many Christians in America unquestionally supported the US was in Iraq, when that foreign policy was so clearly against the teaching of Jesus. The American pastor seemed surprised and a little offended, so the interviewer explained, “Jesus talked about peace and reconciliation, turning the other cheek, walking the second mile, that sort of thing. How do you reconcile that with your war?” The pastor hesitated a moment and then replied, “Well, the teachings of Jesus are personal. They have nothing to do with politics and foreign policy.”
Is that true? If Jesus is a revolutionary, is his revolution only a private revolution? Is it only about personal morality and personal relationship with God?
Although Jesus message was personal, it is never private.
I had said before, when introducing Jesus the rabbi, that the hills of Galilee were a prime area for rebels to gather to begin a revolution against the Roman occupying force. Most of these rebels dreamed of driving out the Romans and setting up a state based on the Law of the Hebrew Scriptures. They would have been devout and violent men. For Jesus to center his ministry in Galilee, and to go up into the hills to teach was a declaration that he was a revolutionary, that he was here to shake up the status quo, that he was here to begin a new era in history.
Not only does the Sermon on the Mount occur in the hills of Galilee, in Mark’s account Jesus takes his disciples up into the hills of Galilee to set them apart as apostles or “sent ones.” It is reminiscent of Castro gathering his forces in the Sierra Madre before the march on the cities and finally Havana. In Luke’s Gospel it is obvious that Jesus and his band of “anybodies” are on the march toward Jerusalem – every would-be-King needed to go to Jerusalem. The gospels definitely paint Jesus as a revolutionary, but what kind of revolutionary?
For some revolutionaries, their vision only goes as far as getting rid of the current government and putting themselves in charge. But most have a dream of country or society that is different than the status quo. For Castro, it was getting rid of the influence that the American government, big business and organized crime had over Cuba, and bringing in a socialist economic structure. For George Washington and the boys, it was getting rid of British influence and creating a society where everyone was free to excel and all were treated equal.
What was Jesus vision?
When you look at how Jesus’ teaching is described in the Gospels, one phrase stands out above all the rest in frequency and importance. That phrase is “The Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Kingdom of God.”
Jesus describes the kingdom through metaphor and stories that we call parables, it is hard to get a grasp of his vision for this new kingdom. But I think we can find a good description in the writings of a prophet 500 years before Jesus. The Prophet’s name was Isaiah, and in the 65th chapter of his Book in the Hebrew scriptures, or “Old Testament” he describes the kingdom in this way: Isaiah 65:17-25
“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth,
and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.
Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation!
And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness.