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Jesus, Empire, and Radical Resistance
(9 page PDF sample)
Table of Contents Introduction – page 7 Chapter 1 (Luke 1-4) – page 9 Introducing Jesus, and the gospel of the Kingdom of God. -He has Brought Down the Mighty From Their Thrones, and Exalted Those of Lowly Estate -Good News of Great Joy for All People Everywhere -Every valley filled, every mountain made low, all flesh sees the salvation of the Lord -The Themes of Luke and Acts -Jesus’ defines his own ministry: Good News to the Poor. Liberty to Captives. Freedom for the Oppressed. Sight For the Blind. Chapter 2 (Luke 6, 12-13, 17) – page 23 Jesus Teaches Radical Resistance - The Sermon on the Plain - Practical, Non-Violent Resistance - Patience, Anxiety, and Resistance - Living Free and without Fear in a Contrary World - Overgrow the Government - The Coming Living Kingdom of God - The Kingdom of God, Condemnation, and Judgment - The Kingdom Now and the Kingdom to Come Chapter 3 (Luke 19-22, 24) – page 41 Jesus Demonstrates Radical Resistance - The Journey from Galilee to Jerusalem - Jesus and his Followers Occupy the Temple - Jesus’ Authority to Organize the Demonstration is Challenged - Jesus Returns the Challenges - Warning against the Religious Elite
- The Economy of the Great Reversal - The Kingdom Yet To Come - The Mount of Olives - Denial, Betrayal, Arrest, and Covenant - The Last Supper - Ain’t No Grave – Jesus’ Resurrection Chapter 4 (Acts 1-5) – page 65 The Followers of Jesus Continue in Radical Resistance - A Motley Crew waits in Unity for their Coming King - Pentecost and the Radical Jesus People Community - The Radical Economy of the Early Jesus People - Power and Authority in the Kingdom of God - We Must Obey God Rather Than Men Conclusion - page 81 Appendix 1 - Humility, Conviction, Faith, and the Landmines of Scripture - page 83 Appendix 2 - Social Justice Throughout the Bible – page 87 About the Author – page 95
The Sermon on the Plain The Sermon on the Plain in Luke collects some of Jesus' most well-known teachings, and parallels the more commonly known Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. The two are extremely similar, but the differences show the marked difference between Luke's message compared to Matthew. Jesus comes down from the mountain in Luke, rather than ascending a mountain as he does in Matthew. Matthew's gospel emphasizes Jesus' sovereign kingship and authority, and his role as a new and greater prophet like Moses. Having him deliver teachings from a mountain accomplishes both. Luke emphasizes Jesus' humanity. In Luke, Jesus teaches and touches all of humanity, including outsiders and foreigners. In Luke, far less of a distinction is made between Jesus, the disciples and the multitudes. Jesus teaches a mixed multitude in Luke, including ethnic and religious outsiders, Gentiles from Tyre and Sidon, as a human and for all humanity in common. Jesus begins with Luke’s great theme – Justice for the poor. Luke 6:20-26 (ESV) 20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Mary's prayer in Luke 1, John the Baptist's teachings in Luke 3, Jesus' sermon in Luke 4, and these Blessings and Woes make it clear that God's new Kingdom will cause a great reversal in the order of the world as it is. While Matthew's beatitudes can be (correctly) spiritualized and internalized, Luke's blessings and woes have great practical and measurable consequence to those that hear them. Matthew describes the "poor in spirit", and those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness". But when Luke says poor, hungry, weeping, rich, full, or laughing, he means practical circumstances in a material reality. The words "now" and "you shall" demonstrate that the circumstances if the materially rich or poor are temporary, and promises an eternal change in these circumstances. This is not to say that Jesus is suggesting that poverty in itself is a somehow holy or fortunate circumstance. If this were so, he would be proclaiming a woe to the rich about a coming circumstance to which they should aspire. Furthermore, it would not be at all congruent to the context of the great reversal described in the rest of Luke. So we conclude that it is the oppressive rich to whom he speaks, and the poor who suffer the consequences of their oppression. Since we do not interpret this passage as describing poverty as something inherently holy or pious, we also do not accept that it suggests that one should apathetically accept one's lot in life in the hope of some better life after death. On the contrary, Jesus is warning of a real, practical, measurable change that is coming into the order of things, one that will affect the redistribution of wealth and power. This change is a good thing. It would be right and good for the hearers of the message to get on the right side of the change now, to become active in seeing God's Kingdom demonstrated now, not sit back and suffer in hope for a better life later. There is an inevitable change coming by the power of the work of the Holy Spirit on the earth, and this is both a warning, and invitation to participate. John told the affluent to give away one coat if they have two. Jesus is pronouncing a severe woe on those who do not.
Patience, Anxiety, and Resistance Living Free and without Fear in a Contrary World Luke 12:1-3 (ESV) In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. Luke describes a great reversal. Jesus travels Galilee and then Jerusalem, gathering followers and preaching to the masses about a New Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, where everything is different. Mountains are brought down. Valleys are brought up. Rulers are removed. The humble are exalted. The proud are humbled. The rich are poor. The poor are blessed. The blind see. The deaf hear. Sins are forgiven. People are set free. Along with this radical message of freedom, he also pronounces deep warnings for those on the wrong side of the coming change. Jesus warns the oppressive rich and comfortable that their time of laughter is coming to an end. He pronounces judgment on towns that refuse his messengers. So far, he has reserved his strongest and most specific warnings of judgment for the religious and political elite, whom he calls hypocrites, unmarked graves, bowls buffed shiny on the outside but filled with greed (Luke 11). This is the scene we enter in this passage. Jesus does not leave his words of judgment hanging alone. He turns to the crowds, and explains the other side of the story. The rules and striving and control of the religious elite don't have the answer, but with the crowds Jesus willingly shares the freedom and good news of the Kingdom of God. After warning them with a quick summary that they should not be like the Pharisees in their hypocrisy, he tells the crowds that the truth of their inner lives will eventually be revealed. There is no need to put on a face as the religious people do. God knows our
Overgrow the Government The Coming Living Kingdom of God Luke 13:18-21 (ESV) 18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Mustard bushes are not pleasant plants. They are scrappy and tough little weeds, growing like short woody trees, overtaking any space where they are not kept at bay. In Palestine, they were known to take root and grow over graveyards if not tended well. Yeast, similarly, does not have a good reputation. On the contrary, it is almost exclusively used to represent sin in the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus himself used it to describe the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in only the previous chapter (Luke 12:1 - “leaven” is yeast). Jews often fasted yeast during seasonal festivals to represent repentance. Also notable is the unusual choice Jesus makes to use a woman to represent God. She was certainly an unlikely candidate for a divinity metaphor in his day. Yet Jesus uses yeast to describe the coming Kingdom of God, wherein the great reversal sets all things toward God's justice from the inside out. Jesus describes the woman as “hiding” the yeast in the dough. Both this yeast and the mustard plant are hidden, and both do their work outside of the light, but surely and steadily. Both are alive, bursting from within and affecting everything around them. Such is it with the Kingdom of God. The seed of the Kingdom, the living Holy Spirit of God, is planted in the disciples of Jesus. From the inside out they are changed. Their attitudes, desires, and motivations change. Their actions change. By their testimony, others also reject the sinful and corrupt spirit of the world, and join the living resistance. They become a body, working together in
new, just community contrary to the power and control of the empire. As they grow and change, so do the effects of their lives change the very foundations of the empire in which they live. The roots of their living Kingdom wedge wider the cracks of the concrete and barbed wire until the entire dead structure comes crumbling down, revealing a living garden of True Community in Holy Spirit Kingdom life. But this good news has a sharp other edge. Those that cling to the cold, empty deadness of the old way will perish along with it. Those that prefer the injustice of the selfish world and their selfish and controlling heart within it will pass away just as it will. Luke 13:24-30 (ESV) 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’, then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” These are extremely dramatic and sobering words. Yet it would be far less than the love that Jesus preaches for him to not warn people of the judgment that comes with justice served. Yes, there will be a great reversal. Be sure that you choose now which side of the line you stand on, or the good news of the Kingdom will not be good for you. Jesus said that the Kingdom was entered as though we are children. He said it is good news for the poor and hungry. He shares it in food and healing among the oppressed masses. Better to be among the poor and the oppressed, seeking their justice as the unstoppable reversal is made real in our resistance.
About the Author
My name is Shawn Birss. I am a follower of Jesus living simply with my spunky wife and precocious twin toddlers in the heart of Edmonton, the frozen capital of Alberta, Canada. I like punk rock and roots country. I am tattooed, branded, and bespectacled. Social injustice and oppression move me. I believe the world can be a better place, and intend to participate in seeing this become so. I want to directly interrupt and frustrate the building of the world's walls, actively steal the materials, and use them to participate in constructing bridges. I pastor a small church of wretched scoundrels and thieves, myself the worst of them. We represented punks and plumbers, hipsters and anarchists, alcoholics and straightedge vegans, artists and addicts, physicists and electricians, straight and otherwise, immigrants and the disabled, charismatics and conservatives, now rescued from ourselves and redeemed to true life by our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We are a crew of scallywags sailing through life together under the flag of the cross, the slaughtered lamb our King. We are all equals both in our skullduggery and our salvation. Our lives are forfeit to true justice and peace. Our hope is for heaven on earth. pirate-pastor.blogspot.com
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