Friday, 7 June 2013

Loving Your Enemy: Part 5: What did Jesus do?

Is this what Jesus did? 
In the previous blog (Part 4) we broke down Jesus' lengthy teaching in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, in the search of the answer to the question: "What did Jesus teach on loving your enemy?" This blog will try to answer the question "What did Jesus do?" or in other words, "Are Jesus' teachings on enemy love consistent with the life he lived?" Our approach to the Gospels, in this short blog post, will emphasize that the Gospel writers are not merely recording history, but each author has a rich theology that must be paid attention too.  

This is not an exhaustive read of the Peace Theology of the Gospels, but this blog post is designed to point out a few examples for the readers to think over.  

Zechariah's Song Luke 1:67-79

"Zechariah's vision goes beyond simply a realigning of the political powers. God's mercy, the forgiveness of sins, the rescue from death itself; all of this points to a wider meaning of 'salvation'. Luke is preparing us to see that God, in fulfilling the great promises of the Old Testament, is going beyond a merely this-worldly salvation and opening the door to a whole new world."- N.T. Wright, Luke For Everybody

Zechariah's prophecy, at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke,is a clear pointer to the promise of shalom. Luke is brilliantly foreshadowing what Jesus' good news would look like:

"the Rising Sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." (v78-79) 

Temptation Narrative (Luke 4:1-3; Matthew 4:1-11)

The Gospel(s) of Matthew and Luke tell of the temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness. Jesus is said to have entered into the Wilderness for forty days, of which he excludes himself from the systems and practices of the world. It is in the Wilderness that, The Satan tempts the Christ to bow to the powers of 'Empire'. The Satan declares to the Anointed One, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”(Luke 4:6-7) Jesus was tempted by ‘the Satan’ to use coercive power to establish Kingdom of God, to join in the fusing of nations and ecclesia. Jesus rejects the coercive power hungry ways of this world, and instead exercises cruciform-love that serves, sacrifices, and loves enemies. 

"Jesus was not going to allow the radical distinctiveness of the kingdom of God to be co-opted by the demonically ruled kingdoms of the world; however good the immediate consequences may have been. He was not going to do the practical thing and win the world by acquiring 'power-over' nations. He was, rather, going to win the world by exhibiting 'power-under'. Jesus took the impractical, slow, discrete, and self-crucifying road to transforming the world."
-Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation

Jesus is rejected at Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30)

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus walks out of the wilderness of temptation and into his hometown of Nazareth. It is there in Nazareth that Jesus reads the Jubilee passage from Isaiah 61. Jesus then proclaims, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." The initial reaction to Jesus' statement is positive, but as Jesus continues to communicate further the vision of fulfillment that he would bring, the crowd becomes furious! The people of Nazareth are ready to kill Jesus, but Luke tells us that he walks through the crowd and goes on his way. 

Why did the crowd go from speaking well of Jesus to almost killing him? 

"The first thing to notice is that Jesus does not cite the entire text but eliminates one very important line, “and the day of the vengeance of our God.” The question is why did he do this? Some suggest that now is the time of grace and so Jesus holds off on quoting the text about God’s vengeance since that will come later at the end of time. But nowhere else does Jesus seem to quote the biblical text in this fashion, and he never seems to break the work of God into dispensations or periods of time. Something else is going on here.....
If, in popular opinion, part of the promise of jubilee was that God would deliver Israel from her oppressors, and if that expectation was that God would punish her oppressors, then the phrase “and the day of the vengeance of our God” would be an aspect of the longed for and hoped for deliverance by which Israel’s enemies would be cast down. Political deliverance was perceived as an aspect of God working wrath on Israel’s enemies. By eliminating this line, Jesus also eliminated the possibility that jubilee included God’s wrath upon whoever was oppressing Israel. His words were indeed “gracious words” (“words of grace”)"....

The citation of the two examples of Elijah and Elisha then justify Jesus’ exclusion of this vengeance saying for both prophets had worked their healing miracles among foreign outsiders, those whom God was supposed (in popular piety) to hate. In short, Jesus is saying to his synagogue hearers “Jubilee is here, not only for you but also for those you hate; in fact God also goes to your oppressors with this message of jubilee, deliverance and salvation.” Now we can begin to understand why they got so mad at him."
 - Michael Hardin, The Jesus Driven Life

Jesus was rejected at Nazareth percisely because he would not use violence as a tool for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Jesus instead extends the offer of grace and mercy to the enemies of Israel; to all who are thirsty! This is scandalous grace! 

Jesus Rebukes The Old Testament Ethic (Luke 9:51-56)

In this narrative, Jesus purposely chooses to enter Samaria rather than bypassing it. For a Jew to pass through Samaria is extremely rare, let alone dwell with the Samaritans. Jesus by going to Samaria is breaking down ethnic, racial, gender barriers, demonstrating the love for his neighbour who the Jewish population regarded as the ethical half breed, the enemy. 

He sends disciples ahead of his main travelling group to prepare a place to stay the night, as was the custom of traveling Rabbi's. The disciples are to request the hospitality of the village ahead of the arrival of the Rabbi. The Samaritans openly reject Jesus. Luke tells us that it is because Jesus 'set his face toward Jerusalem.' What is the significance of the Samaritans rejecting Jesus?
“The refusal to receive a religious teacher was considered a rejection of his claims. Jesus was not the Messiah for them. They had expectations, traditions, and interpretations that they held onto so tightly that when the Saviour of all mankind appeared and offered them riches beyond measure they could not take hold of Him. Jesus was not the Messiah they had pictured.” [1] 

James and John respond to this rejection of Jesus by asking to 'call down fire from heaven just as Elijah did”. (See 2 Kings   1:9-16) The Sons of Thunder, or more accurately translated, the 'Sons of Rage'[2] are rebuked by Jesus who says, "You do not know of what sort of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them! " (Amplified) 

Wait a minute! 

Jesus rebukes them for following one of the greatest Old Testament prophets? Are the Sons of Rage really out of line? Why does Jesus rebuke them? 

 Take a moment to consider that something completely acceptable by a Prophet in the Old Testament is condemned in the New Testament by Jesus! This seems odd that Jesus would refrain from, and rebuke those who would consider to, commit the same action that Elijah the prophet would. 

Three things to consider here:

1. Violence is the opposite of the Good News. Jesus connects the use of violence against the Samaritans as the antithesis of his Gospel Mission to save the lives of humanity.
2. People are not the enemy, but victims of the enemy, by falling prey to a false conception of the anthropos. Jesus' new vision of humanity is one without tribalism, territory, and temple; the very thing that caused the Jews to ostracize the Samaritans and in turn led to the Samaritan rejection of Jesus. 
3. Elijah would not make a good disciple of Jesus! :)

"The disciples did not consider that the conduct of the Samaritans was rather the effect of national prejudices and bigotry, than of enmity to the word and worship of God; and through they refused to receive Christ and his disciples, they did not ill use or injure them, so that the case was widely different from that of Ahaziah and Elijah. Nor were they aware that the gospel was to be marked by miracles of mercy. But above all, they were ignorant of the prevailing motives of their own hearts, which were pride and carnal ambition. Of this our Lord warned them. It is easy for us to say, Come, see our zeal for the Lord! And to think we are very faithful in his cause, when we are seeking our own objects, and even doing harm instead of good to others."[3]

The Way of the Cross

Mark 10:35-45
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

Break down of the above text:

“Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

There was expectation among the people of Israel that the Messiah would come as a conqueror.The Messiah would kick out the Romans and then Israel would be restored James and John (the Sons of Rage) had this expectation when they approached Jesus. James and John want to turn Jesus’ messianic journey to Jerusalem into a march to glory—a glory in which they will sit on either side of him when he reigns as king of Israel . The Sons of Rage thought that Glory was the extent to which you could have power over others.

Jesus’ reply “You don’t know what you are asking,”

 Jesus did not view glory as the extent to which you could have power over others. Jesus' Kingdom operates with a completely different understanding of power. So Jesus asks them: 

 “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

Jesus is using two Jewish metaphors here:

1.The Cup: “Life experiences”  “My cup overflows”. Scripture uses it as a figure for getting one's fill either of good OR suffering. Here in Jesus' context of the cross it is the cup of suffering.

2. Baptism -A metaphor for being submerged into any experience. 

Jesus is asking them: Can you bear to go through the terrible experiences I have too? 

 “We can,” they answered.

John and James have clearly heard all the language about suffering, death and rising again simply as a set of pictures, perhaps meaning ‘It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to come out on top.’

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with."
Jesus sees that even thought they don’t fully get the Kingdom, they will one day! James was later beheaded by Herod (Acts 12:2) John endured much suffering, and was imprisoned on the island of Patmos. “They accepted the challenge of their Master; even if they did so blindly”[4] 

“But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

Here Jesus is foreshadowing his own death, and the picture of the two Thieves on the Cross. Notice that Jesus defines the place of Glory as the Cross. The place where he suffered.
The place where Christ served humanity unto death.It is through serving us and loving us even unto death: Jesus enacts and announces the Kingdom of God. 

Some other passages about the way of the Cross:

  • Jesus first identifies the way of the Cross in the context of being a disciple who follows him. (Luke 9:22-24, Matt 10:38, Mark 8:34)
      • "By requiring disciples to carry their cross, Jesus expects them to be willing to join the ranks of the despised and doomed.They must be ready to deny themselves even to the point of giving their lives."[5]
  • In the three passion predictions (Mt 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 20:-17-19) Jesus foretells his fate as one who will be ‘persecuted for righteousness sake’; and he intimates that those who follow him will suffer the same fate
  • In Gethsemane,(Mt. 26.36) Jesus chooses to bear the cup of suffering, the way of obedience instead of the way of violence.
  • Jesus rebukes his disciple who uses the sword saying, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Mt 26:52) 
      • “For even if soldiers came to John and received advice on how to act, and even if a centurion  became a believer, the Lord, in subsequently disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier” - Tertullian (160-220 A.D)
      • "The way of the world is to assert its will on others through human power, even violence, and the way of the world is to retaliate against violence with violence. The inevitable consequence of championing violence is often one’s own violent end." [6]
  • Jesus tells Pilate that his “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight” (Jn 18:36)
      • "The true test of his kingdom can be seen in the behaviour of his disciples. They will not engage in combat or struggle against Rome’s rule...The one instance of violence when Peter struck Malchus was promptly rebuked by Jesus (18:11)." [7]
      • This is one of the few times in the Gospel of John where Jesus uses the term "kingdom' (basileia).
  • Jesus’ death is fully consistent with his teaching: he refuses to lift a finger, rejects calling a legion of angels (Mt 26:53), and intercedes and forgives his enemies. (Lk 23:34a) 

 The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to the  kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come. -John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus 

Jesus' Enactment and Announcement of the Kingdom

A kingdom is a realm where the character and commands of the king influence a people's way of living; with each other and with other kingdoms. The kingdom of Heaven/God/Christ is a way of living in union with the authority, character, and way of Jesus. (Matthew 6:33) Here are a few references to Jesus' vision of what his Kingdom look like: 

Jesus is careful in defining what the Kingdom looks like:

  • Jesus withdraws from the crowd that wants to ‘take him by force to make him king’. (Jn 6.15)
  • Jesus imposes an order of silence to keep his disciples from proclaiming him as Messiah until he as redefined it in terms of the Cross. He instructs his disciples that their vocation must be the same as his. (Mk 8:27-9:1) 
  • Jesus would not allow demons to speak because they knew he was the Messiah. (Luke 4:41) 
    • "Some Scholars refer to this as to this as the ‘messianic secret.’ Jesus supposedly wanted to keep his messianic identity quiet, after all it could get him in trouble with the authorities and he still had work to do."-Michael Hardin

  • The Kingdom grows slowly, organically, and even serves enemies. Luke 13:18-19; John 12:24
  • The Kingdom is peace-making and peace-living. John 18:36
  • The Kingdom is non-institutional and non-territorial. Luke 17:20-21 
  • Service as the way of the Kingdom. Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:12-17
  • It is a Kingdom that is not marked by Titles, but by Towels. John 13:14
  • It's a Kingdom that looks entirely like Jesus!  

The Resurrection 

DJesus Uncrossed (Saturday Night Live) from razorgrind on Vimeo.

(Above: a parody of Jesus resurrection as 'revenge') 

The Resurrected Jesus does not seek to 'bring to justice' those who crucified him. Jesus does not return an eye for an eye. Instead the first words that Jesus utters in Luke's gospel after the resurrection are: "Peace be with you". 

"I suspect that what may have astonished them (disciples) the most was that the emphasis placed by Jesus on the meaning of his suffering and death did not result in some kind of retribution from God. It was the forgiveness expressed by God in the resurrected Jesus that collapsed all of their previous theological ideas and assumptions. Their theologies dictated a violent or retributive response on the part of God. That never happened; instead peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and love were announced!"
-Michael Hardin, The Jesus Driven Life

Thanks for reading. My next post will survey the New Testament witness to peace theology. 

Be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4.

Here is Part 6.

Reflection Questions for Discussion

1.Do you find this brief survey of the Gospel's helpful in understanding the scriptural basis for Nonviolence?

2. At this point in the series let’s ask a previous question: If you became convinced that Jesus calls us to absolute non-violent, active enemy love, no matter what... Would you submit to his call? If you’re not convinced already, what issue will this series need to address before you would be convinced?

3. Why do you think it is so hard for otherwise Bible-believing Christ-followers to believe the Bible and follow the NT witness on this specific teaching? 

Works Cited

1. James Braun Commentary on Luke 9 
2. Gustaf Dalman Jesus-Jeshua, op. cit., 12, notes that Boanerges of Mk. 3:17 “probably goes back to the Aramaic bene regesh, ‘sons of rage’, and does not mean (as it is often understood) ‘sons of thunder.’ 
3. Arrington, French and Roger Stronstad, eds. Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999
4. William Barclay's commentary on Mark.
5. Garland, David E. NIV Application Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004) 1194 (e-version)  
6.Bock, Darrel. The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew(Grand Rapids: Zondervan,2003) 2293 (e-version)
7. Burge, Gary. The NIV Application Commentary: John (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 2004) 

1 comment:

  1. In answer to Question #3.
    Probably because we underestimate or misunderstand the greatness of this statement:
    "Jesus was/is/will forever be the perfect revelation of God."

    As the OT is great for examples of living, it is a pale comparison to God's example.