New Testament Justice

Grant Montgomery – Grant’s Rants on New Testament Oppression and Justice

After years in exile in Babylon, the Jewish nation is eventually allowed to come home to Israel. They return to Jerusalem, rebuild its walls, and construct another temple.

However, the Roman Empire, the superpower of the day, conquers Israel and begins a long oppressive occupation of their nation. Roman soldiers march through their villages, and taxes are collected so the Romans can build an even bigger army to conquer more nations.

The Romans build a military center called the Praetorium next to temple in Jerusalem. Just to remind the Jewish people who is really in charge when they go to worship their God, the Romans built their military center a few feet taller than the Jewish temple.

Israel at the beginning of the first century is one of occupation, oppression, shame, and humiliation. A nation of people wondering where their God is, asking, ‘Why is this happening to us again?’ They cling to the suspended promises of the prophets, looking forward to the day when another son of David would come.

And then Jesus was born.

As a young man, Jesus goes into the temple area and announces that a new kind of kingdom is coming. Jesus’ life portrays what it’s like in this new reality, the kingdom of God. He goes about healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, helping the lame walk.

The writers of the Gospels make it very clear that this new son of David isn’t leading a new spiritual exodus only for a specific group of people; he’s bringing liberation for everybody everywhere, and ultimately for everything everywhere for all time.

And then it seems like it’s over. Jesus is arrested and tried as a criminal. And then killed on a Roman execution stake. How embarrassing.

But Jesus’ death is not the end of hope; it’s actually the beginning of hope.

Many at this time, including even some of Jesus’ disciples, were still holding on to the distorted hope that Jesus was going to reconstruct the same old broken system. When Jesus stated that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, their question had been “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

Their question about the kingdom shows that they still confused blessing with favoritism. But Jesus is inviting them to participate in a reality so liberating and compelling that Jerusalem can’t contain it.

As to the economic dimensions of this new spiritual exodus, we’re told that they “were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2: 44,45) Instead of forcing slaves to build storehouses to stockpile their riches, this new movement Christianity is ruled by generosity and sharing.

But remember this: Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It’s a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative.

The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires. This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you’re reading it as a citizen of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scripture. Read more

 

[Includes excerpts from “Jesus wants to save Christians” by Rob Bell and Don Golden]

 

Grant Montgomery – Grant’s Rants on New Testament Oppression and Justice