Monday, November 26, 2007

Jesus vs. the State

The Romans were not entirely mistaken in their decision to crucify Jesus.

We often try to paint a picture of Jesus who was a helpless and humble victim of a cruel dictatorship
- accused of blasphemy by his own religious leaders
- and accused of being a traitor and terrorist (to use a modern term) by the Romans.

We often have a picture in our minds of a gentle Jesus, meek and mild, who spoke softly and led quiet and peaceful retreats on the shores of Galilee.

This image is false and is contradicted by almost every story about Jesus in the Gospels.

∙ Jesus actively travelled around the region of Galilee, recruiting people to leave their homes and daily lives to follow him. He often travelled through the region with a group of twelve or more men, not including women and children.

∙ Jesus usually went straight to the synagogues when he entered a town and both challenged and insulted the religious authorities there.

∙ Jesus broke many of the traditional religious laws of the day and claimed that he and his disciples were above them.

∙ Jesus openly talked about the coming of a new kingdom in which he was to be the leader.

∙ Jesus eventually travelled to the Temple in Jerusalem where he violated the traditional practices there by overturning tables and brandishing a whip. He called the Temple leaders thieves and hypocrites. He even claimed the whole Temple would be torn down in three days.

∙ When Jesus was finally arrested and brought to trial, he denied none of the charges brought against him, especially the traitorous charge of claiming to be a king.

The Romans were not entirely mistaken in their decision to crucify Jesus.

In any state, there are two basic reasons to execute someone:

First, the person might be guilty of some terrible crime that has been deemed punishable by death.

This is most definitely not the case. Jesus may have been an active revolutionary leader, but there is no evidence (inside or outside the Scriptures) to suggest that he or any of his followers ever broke any Roman laws.

On this account Jesus was innocent.

The other reason for a government to execute someone is fear. Fear that the person in question poses a real threat to the future of the state.

- This still happens all over the world in dictatorships today. Thousands are murdered each year simply because they disagree with the leadership of the day.

On this account, the Romans, as well as the Jewish leadership, had been correct.

Jesus did pose a real threat.

Jesus challenged systems and authorities that helped the rich get richer and the poor remain poor.
- First last and last first.
- Rich have their reward.
- Blessed are the poor.

- This should alarm us as Canadians and residents of North America.

In just a recent report from the UN on Child Poverty this past week, it was reported that:
-About one in six Canadian children live in poverty - unchanged in a generation - and the situation may be getting worse;
-At almost 26 per cent, Canada also has one of the highest rates of obesity among children in developed countries;
-Infant mortality rates at five deaths per 1,000 have remained unchanged over the past five years despite falling rates elsewhere;
-Canada has one of the highest rates of children in state care and in youth detention centres compared with other industrialized nations;
-Mental illness among children has risen, with only 20 per cent getting treatment.

In another article this past week:
- Almost 25,000 women were turned away from shelters in Alberta alone last year.

The reality of our world is that:
- We in North America and other developed countries make up 20% of the world’s population, but control 80% of the world’s wealth.

This is frighteningly similar to the balance of wealth in the Roman world.

Jesus’ message of God’s love and desire for the justice and welfare of every person directly challenged the institutions of government and Temple, whose wealth and power were based on the unequal distribution of wealth.

The Romans were not entirely mistaken in their decision to crucify Jesus.

But there were wrong.

They were wrong about what was right.

They could not see that Jesus’ challenge to change and live out God’s love would create a better world, a more ‘just’ world - a kingdom of God as it were.

They would not accept that their way was not the way of God.

They were wrong on one other account.

They were wrong to think that Jesus’ execution was the end.

They did not anticipate the power of God bring truth out of error.

They did not anticipate the power of God bring righteousness out of sin.

They did not anticipate the power of God bring new life out of death.

The resurrected Jesus continues to speak the message of challenge and change and justice even today.

I wonder...

What would we as a North American society do with Jesus, Christ the King, if here appeared among us today, preaching the changes necessary to reveal the reign of God?

I wonder...

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