Grant’s Rants on The Revolutionary Message of Jesus
The prophets of the Old Testament initiated public spectacles that functioned very much like political demonstrations in modern times.
Jesus [besides being the Son of God] was also a prophet, arising from obscurity with a shocking, disturbing, unexpected, inflammatory message. And that message was conveyed with prophetic language (hot, fiery, metaphorical, and intentionally jarring) and prophetic action (such as the time he staged a demonstration in the temple disrupting routines, turning over tables, scattering money, and thus denouncing religious greed, exclusion, and hypocrisy.)
Interestingly, in at least four ways Jesus message of the kingdom of God resonated deeply with themes the prophets had been sounding for centuries. First, like many of the prophets, Jesus spoke on behalf of the poor, the forgotten, the rejected, and the outcasts. Status in the kingdom is determined by how one treats little children and the least of the brethren (Matthew 5:19) Second, in strong resonance with the prophetic tradition, Jesus emphasized the inward sincerity of the heart and not mere outward conformity as religious people can become whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27) Third, like the prophets before Him, Jesus spoke of coming judgement on injustice and hypocrisy. But it is the fourth resonance that is especially important: Jesus echoed and intensified the prophetic message that a new day is coming a new kingdom. In that new reality, the poor and rejected will be embraced and valued. In that new era, what will count is what is in the heart, not merely what is projected, pretended, or professed. In that new kingdom, justice, integrity, and peace will overcome.
Here is the scandal: Jesus said that the kingdom of God is AT HAND (Mark 1:15), available to be grasped, knocking at the door not just someday in the future, but here and now. This term At Hand would come as a shock and a contradiction to what everyone thought. Everyone thought that the kingdom of God could not happen now; for example it could only happen [for the Zealots] after the Jews were militarily mobilized, or [for the Pharisees] after all the prostitutes and drunks and other desirables were either reformed or otherwise eliminated [and so forth.]
Think of our reality today. We might all believe that war and poverty should end someday, but how many people would believe a self-proclaimed prophet who arose from, say, Panama or Sierra Leone or Sri Lanka, and was interviewed on CNN or the BBC with this message: It is time to decommission weapons programs and reconcile with our enemies! It is time for prosperous multinationals to become rich in generosity! It is time for CEOs to slash their mammoth salaries and give generous raises to all their lowest-paid employees! Donâ€™t say SOME DAY or TOMORROW. The time is TODAY!
Again, we might all agree that the poor and the hungry should be helped and fed in theory, someday, and perhaps even that the rich should be willing to part with some of their wealth to help make that happen someday. But what if someone arose proclaiming, The time is at hand! The time is NOW! Shut down your weapons factories! Open your checkbooks!
And Jesus showed his primal kinship with all people in refusing to draw or respect racial, religious, moral, ethnic, economic, or class barriers, in welcoming everyone and treating them with kindness and respect.
Jesus words are not the words and ways of a polite teacher. These are the primal, disruptive, inspiring, terrifying, shocking, hopeful words and ways of a revolutionary who seeks to overthrow the status quo in nearly every conceivable way.
[Excerpts from “The Secret Message of Jesus” by Brian D McLaren]