7.

The Victory of God
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. God is with Man Israel’s Task Jesus’ Charge against Israel’s Leaders Man against Man The Battle Passover Christ is Victor

1. God is with Man
Man is made for God. God wants to be with us. He intends to come to us, and to stay with us so that we are his people and he is our God. He gives life, to us and to all other people and he invites us into communion with him, and through him, with all other creatures. God brings all things to life for us so that we may participate in a single living communion with himself and with all things. God holds himself responsible for us. He does not intend to see his creation come to grief. He has made a creation in which we can live well, with him and with one another: this creation is good, and it is up to this task, so we have no reason to be anxious about its sufficiency. Everything that is not God is a creature of the world, and part of the hospitality of God for us. All creatures receive their life from God and must return it to him so that it can be renewed. We have no source of life of our own. The Son receives what the Father gives him. He does not seek the approval of any man . He can give, without limit, and without fear that he will ever run out of resources to give. Because we need to access our support and identity from others we are needy. The Son is not needy. He does not need to work to establish his own identity. He trusted the Father for his whole identity and being and did not struggle to maintain his own identity against death. He did not have to sustain himself against all others by force. As long as we remain in relationship with God, all things remain good. When we delay taking up this relationship and receiving all the good things that come with it, our relationship with the created world breaks down and other creatures become threatening. Under this fear we become a misery to ourselves and a menace to others. When we do not trust in God we give way to fear, and push other into relationships which justify others’ anxiety, and they push us into relationship which justify our anxiety. We fail to pass on what we have received. We try to turn others into our own creatures, to assume control over them and to interpose ourselves between them and God. Our delay in giving credit to God for what we have received from him turns into usurpers and aggressors. And we are those who have been from whom all these good things have been withheld and above all the one good thing which is the news of God. All humanity is in flight from the bottom toward the top, away from the status of the servant, toward that of the master. We fear oblivion. We struggle to exert our identity. Each of us has to make himself master. We have to gather our substance and power from others, and so we are dependent on them. All masters put others to work as their servants. But the Son of Man did not come to make us his servants. He came serve and be our servant. He is here to wait on us, supply us with what we need, to carry us and take away from us whatever we cannot cope with. But though he is to serve us, he is the servant of the Father, and so, he will provide us with what the Father wants for us.

1

The Christian proclamation is addressed to the man who is without God, and without his discipline, is acting as a tyrant and divinity to his fellows. He is a tyrant, a new god. For all creation man without God out of control thing and frightening thing. When this creature resisted God’s coming and put himself between God and the people he comes to save, God’s coming takes the form of judgment. God is on the side of the vulnerable and defenceless, and he is against us who have made them so. Rescue for them means that he judges and condemns those who have exploited them. The collision of man with God is a battle in which all worldly forces are routed and captured, and those who were held captive are released. The Son is true form of humanity. We are human as much as we participate in him, and through him participate in one another. So the gospel, the free act of the free God, makes us free to exercise the mode of the servant, and in this to be freely ourselves. It gives us that freedom, and as a result we have that forever, so we do not need to seek it, or to establish it for ourselves. The servant who is free, is lord. Christ is our servant by the gracious generosity of God. The Son learned how to be the Son of God, and learned how to be human. He did this in obedience to his Father.
‘The Son can do nothing by himself. He can only do what he sees his Father doing… for the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does… He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him’ (John 5.19).

His servant identity comes from freedom, because God is free, and it creates freedom for us. Salvation is incorporation into the good fellowship of God, graciously extended to man. We are redeemed from our asocial isolation, and brought into love and life together in the society of man with God. All society is an anticipation of the society of God.

2. Israel’s Task
The Law entrusted by God to Israel is the instruction manual by which to man can act as steward of creation. It is creation’s handbook. The Law serves the unity of Israel and is the means of reintegration by which any member of Israel who is threatened by outside forces can be restored and brought back into the assembly again. The Law given to Israel is the enlightenment intended for Israel to pass on to all mankind. The Holy People is the Undivided People Each member of Israel is kept integrated within the nation. Each family and each village sends a member up to the great King at the palace (temple) in Jerusalem. They choose him, set him aside, prepare him for this special and dangerous duty. They set him apart from the rest of us for this purpose, release him from all other domestic economic obligations and educate him for his task, by teaching him the law. This member is their ‘sacrifice’. They lay their hands on him, loaded him with the various tokens of themselves and petitions they wish to send. They prepare him so that he knows off by heart the speech he has to make, and have also written it down on paper. This speech will start by praising the great King for his good action and justice, for taking an interest in them and demanding that they make an appearance to give him the news from their village. Then it will ask him for everything they want for their village. They ask for education, debt relief (forgiveness), protection (defence) and investment. There is an ongoing process of reintegration and reincorporation, reinstatement. The holy people is the undivided and undamaged people. Yet damage, wear and tear occurs in the course of life, and it must be dealt with. There must be repair and redistribution and restoration . The Law is instruction given by God to Israel for man . It is the internal education and the external rails and barriers within which man can acquire the image and

2

the righteousness of God. It is the syllabus for our upbringing. The agenda that God has set himself is the creation of a people who can take what he gives with thanksgiving and act in God-like love and in freedom. He has appointed Israel the elite cadre that will instruct and lead the nations. Israel is to be teacher and leader of the world. The Reintegration Mechanisms of the Law The Law, and the sacrificial legislation in particular, is the means to maintain the integrity of the witness of God and the mechanism for keeping the people of Israel in good shape. It is intended to keep the little ones in good health and good morale, to protect them from outside influences by keeping them within the assembly of the people of God. The people of Israel are to assemble to give evidence of their good stewardship to God and to the world.
‘Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you’ (Deuteronomy 16.16).

Israel goes to the Temple – Sacrifice as public demonstration Every member of Israel offers his Son to God. He presents his son in the temple, and publicly gives thanks to God for him. Such a sacrifice does not mean that, having received him from God, the Israelite gives his son back to God again, so that he no longer has him. That would be a refusal of the gift that he has just received. Rather in sacrifice he holds him up (as the wave offering indicates) and before the assembly gives his thanks to God. He demonstrates that the Lord has heard his prayer and vindicated him. Each member of Israel is kept integrated by an ongoing process of restoration and reincorporation. Each family and each village sends a member up to the great King at the palace (the temple) in Jerusalem. They choose one of their number, set him aside for this purpose, release him from all other domestic and economic obligations. Along with the various petitions and tokens of themselves that they send, he is their ‘sacrifice’. Their prayers will ask the Lord for everything they want for their village. They ask for education, debt relief (forgiveness), protection (defence) and investment. The Virtuous and the Vicious Circle We need to be able to contrast two possibilities: Blessing – the virtuous circle The Israelite who has no resources is given them. When he has exhausted these resources again (either profitably or unprofitably) he will be given more - seven times seventy - in the expectation that he will learn how to make more profitable use of it. He is given gifts in order that he has gifts to give on his own account. From his wealth he will give, so whatever he is given he will spread widely to the benefit of the whole body of Israel. He is a benefactor, and he receives his recognition as such; he can appear in the assembly. He has a place and an office; he gives the unprotected a place, taking them into his protection. He binds their wounds, and readies them for readmission to the assembly. He acts as their kinsman redeemer. He displays the generosity of God, He honours them as though they were his own parents. Cursing – The Vicious Circle On one hand, if an Israelite is not given all the instalments of blessing this will begin to be reflected in his appearance. If he is given no working capital, he will have no means to practice the obligations of friendship, of giving gifts that represent him and keep him visible in the assembly of Israel. Then he will have no access to all the good things available within

3

the assembly. He will begin to look like an outsider, his appearance will be blemished or ambiguous, and he will be shunned and treated as an outsider. The impurity nexus: loss of public standing  poverty  disease  disappearance. Promotion and Relegation The Law does not make the same demands of everybody. Some have more advantages and responsibilities than others. Senior Israelites have been given more, and from them is expected more. They have been the Instruction. in how to participate in the work given to Israel by God. They have been given all the material means of life. And they have been given the care of the younger ones. The Israelite who received more is expected to provide more. He has been the Law, which is the knowledge of how to rule and serve, and participate in the work given to Israel by God. He has been given all the material means of life. And they have been given the care of the younger ones. The younger ones are the gift and trust given to the older ones. If these younger ones are successfully nurtured, they will also be the reward of their teachers. The big ones are heads of households, and the younger ones are members of the household headed by the bigger ones. We are made ‘head of household’, authorized to extend the hospitality of God to anyone. But that responsibility can be taken away from you again. There is a possibility of promotion or relegation, of being returned to the ranks, your own juniors promoted into your position, so you have to serve him as he served you. The blessing given to Saul was taken away again.
‘Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king. The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbour of yours, who is better than you’ (1 Samuel 15.23-28).

What the Law says the poor must bring, it instructs the rich to provide. It gives the rich the task of showing generosity to the poor and passing on them the resources that they need. It does not imagine that the poor will have to provide this for themselves from some source of their own that they clearly do not have. It says that they have only to turn up to get atonement, in the form of the ashes of the red heifer (Number 19.9) for example. If Israel keeps its law it will grow into the status promised to it. It will indeed be the leader and guide of the world. But if Israel does not keep this law ‘the alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. He will lend to you but you will not lend to him. He will be the head, but you will be the tail’ (Deuteronomy 28.43).

3. Jesus’ Charge against Israel’s Leaders
Authority in Israel

The Master Appraises his Servant’s Performance
The Parable of the Vineyard Continued The parable of the vineyard in Mark 12 tells us that the master wants to hear from his servants. He expects to receive reports from them.
‘The kingdom of heaven is a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants’ (Matthew 18.23).

This reckoning is intended to sustain to relationship, not bring it to an end. Every relationship is sustained by the events in which we keep in touch. The friend whose communications are never reciprocated, and whose support is never received or acknowledged, might well protest at this treatment. He might well be concerned about this friend and renew his

4

advances more forcefully, to insist that his friend assure him that all is well and even demonstrate that this is so. When we are truly concerned for the well-being of our friend we will make every effort to go and see them and even do so even when they are unwilling to receive us. We do fearful that they have fallen bad company that and that they are being held against their will. We will alert everyone who knows them to this situation, bang on their door and tell them through the letter box that we have been sick with worry for them. To find out how things stood, and to give them his assistance and direction, the Lord of the vineyard sent them servants. These servants represented the assistance and service of God to the tenants. But the tenants did not care to maintain the relationship with the Lord. They did not intend to take his direction or aid in the running of the vineyard. They did not receive the support he sent. They did not consider themselves answerable for the state of the vineyard. They decided that, having been away a long time, his master was no longer likely to reappear, and thus that he would treat his fellow-servants with disdain and with impunity. (Matthew 24.48). Since they did not take the generosity of God, the tenants did not exercise generosity towards those set under them. The condition of the vineyard declined and its people sank into poor morale, poverty and brutality. Justice vanished. The poor and vulnerable were being plundered.
‘The Lord entered into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: ‘It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?’ (Isaiah 3.14-15)

The Lord expected Israel to gather in the Gentiles and the poor and unprotected. He sent them teachers and encouragers, and expected regular news and evidence of the progress of the work. But the teachers he sent were turned away. On their own, without the work and instruction of God, the tenants were poor farmers. The fields became a desert; the people of Israel are battered and bruised (Isaiah 1). The poor call the Lord to come back and depose those he put in charge. The wealth you failed to pay the harvests who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord God Almighty (James 5.4).
He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless… Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out harvesters into his harvest fields (Matthew 9.38). Why have you been standing her all day doing nothing? (Matthew 20.6) Look at the fields. They are ripe for gathering in. (John 4.35).

The parable of the vineyard gives us an account of the coming of God to preserve creation and save his people. The king comes back to see how his tenants have fared and will hear the people’s assessment of how their masters have treated them. The well-being of the whole people is the criterion by which the masters will be judged: if the condition of the people is not good, the managers will be removed and the post will be given to others. Those have refused the authority of God, gradually lose all sense of responsibility. They insulate themselves from their people. They cannot hear any warnings or tolerate contrary voices and so fail to see what is coming.

5

When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? (Mark 12.3-9)

How should this relationship between lord and his servants proceed? The Lord invites us to give our views.
‘Judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? (Isaiah 5.1-7).

The King comes back to his own estate and finds it is barred to him. He finds that he has to liberate its inhabitants from the constraints that they impose on one another. He must take direct possession of it again. But he is opposed. He can only take possession of his vineyard again by force. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others (Mark 12.9) The rebel managers may lock themselves in with those they are holding to ransom. But the forces of the king will break in, release those held to ransom, and throw those rebel managers to those they had oppressed (Luke 19.26). The Lord comes and takes on the strong men. The God of Israel comes to take on the gods of the Gentiles. The God of Israel, stronger than the interloper gods of the nations, is going to drive them out of Israel and out of creation. Jesus charges Israel’s other teachers with having failed to do the necessary work of purification and reintegration that is required to keep all Israelites inside the circle, safe from outside forces. The leaders of Israel have not understood that the sacrificial legislation has not been employed to maintain this integration, that gives the people the unity and purity that demonstrates the holiness of God. Instead it has been used as way of raising income even from the very poorest. Israel has learned to behave with the same cruelty as the Gentiles. These teachers have not understood the whole law as the means by which to call God to help Israel and keep all its little ones integrated. If an Israelite is not given all the instalments of blessing this will begin to be reflected in his appearance. If he is given no working capital, he will have no means to practice the obligations of friendship, of giving gifts that represent him and keep him visible in the assembly of Israel. Then he will have no access to all the good things available within the assembly. He will begin to look like an outsider, his appearance will be blemished or ambiguous, and he will be shunned and treated as an outsider. He must be extricated from this vicious circle. Jesus charges the Pharisee, Sadducee and Priestly leaderships and the regime of Herod of failure to keep the people integrated and holy. He attributes the poor state of the people of Israel to Israel’s leaders. The inadvertent failing of the poor is the result of the culpable sin of the rich, the shepherds who have not provided, led, protected, cleansed or redeemed the

6

poor. Jesus finds that the rulers of Israel have effective become Israel’s enemies more than the gentiles. The Gentiles have to appeal to God against the pitiless leaders of Israel. Jesus is amazed that Israelites have so little understanding other what they have available to them in this form. They have so little faith. He is ready to give them more, but they cannot yet use even what they have. But it looks as though after centuries of education have retained absolutely nothing. Jesus is not angry because Israel’s teachers have taught the law, but because they have not taught the law. Jesus asks which way power goes? Does power go from the other gods into Israel, or from the God of Israel outward against the other gods? Other gods are negative shadows of the real action and provision provided by Israel’s God. they have a merely parasitic existence, extracting what reality they have from mankind. The God of Israel holds Israel clean. Nothing can enter an Israelite because he is the servant of the Spirit who cannot be penetrated.
‘Nothing outside a man can make him unclean’ (Mark 7.15).

The Spirit of Israel does not let foreign spirits in, but himself only goes out.
‘A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding. Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was free from her suffering’ (Mark 5.25).

The multitude is hemorrhaging and this loss that cannot be stemmed is keeping the priestly people out of the temple. ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you’ (Mark 5.34). Her expectancy has made it possible for such a sign to be received, and so to be given, and so for the kingdom to come without coming as judgment. These signs of power with authority bring about the return of order to nature. The Gospel of Mark tells us that the Son of Man ‘speaks with authority’. The Son of man commands the powers and forces with the authority of the God of gods. He works acts of power miracles that demonstrate that his power is in continuity with the power by which the world was created. This king is accustomed to commanding and being obeyed, not only by people, but by the masters (the regime in Jerusalem), other empires, natural forces and the demons, those ambiguous forces that combine both. The present generation of Israel is possessed and steered by foreign influences, lost, leaderless and vulnerable to foreign and destructive influences. But the present leadership of Israel mobilise against their own king. Thus their own true king mobilises against them. The Lord ejects those hard masters and foreign spirits, who impose a vicious authority but themselves acknowledge no discipline. He has driven them out from the top of the cosmos to the bottom. The voice and the command of the Lord loosens the grip of those who preyed on us and drives them off. Mercy not sacrifice The command to offer mercy not sacrifice means that the law be used to bring the poor into the people of God and integrate them in that body. In the wrong hands the sacrifice mechanism can have the reverse of its intended effect. Instead of transferring goods from the haves to have-nots it impoverishes the poor and enriching the priestly caste and ruling class. Then the animals brought to the temple represent only the wealth not shared with poor and so represent the resources of the poor are given to the rich. Israel’s leadership is told to ‘Stop bringing meaningless offerings’ (Isaiah 1.13). The Lord desires mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6.6).

7

If you knew what these words meant, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the innocent (Matthew 12.7) ‘Woe to those who deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people’ (Isaiah 10.1-2). The leaders of Israel carry blood guilt for their crimes. ‘Listen you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones, who eat my people’s flesh and strip off their skin’ (Micah 3.1). ‘You took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. You slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering to them’ (Ezekiel 16.20-21).

4. Man against Man
Unkept Promises We flourish as we give one another opportunities, and we are diminished as we take opportunities away from one another. We can talk each other up. When we talk in this way each of us uncurls and grows in stature. Or by gossip, slander and backbiting and defamation we can talk one another down and our mutual denigration diminishes our own environment. Without the support of God, Man is an enemy to himself, only able to make promises that he is unable to deliver on. Everyone needs the respect and recognition of everyone else. Everyone is needy. We make out that we can do more than we can. We believe we are more ourselves without other people. At the same time we make more promises than we can keep. We are not able to protect even those we want to protect. We have no resources of life other than the resources we consume for ourselves. We fear that there will not be enough resources, so we panic and deny others the resources we do have. We fear the worst and try to get our revenge in first and this fear and panic deteriorates the environment in which we live. The unheard voices create a poisoned atmosphere. Slander has a disintegrating and excluding effect. We are commanded not to run other people down by passing on the half-truths about them. The ninth commandment – Do not testify falsely – is amplified in Exodus.
Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in the lawsuit do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd and do not show favouritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.’ (Exodus 23.1-3).

We make promises, more than we can keep. We complain that others do not keep the promises that they have made to us. The world is full of promised not kept and of business that is unfinished. We complain to whoever will listen to us that we have been neglected and betrayed. We have taken one another’s lives and frittered them by making huge unsustainable claims in a pyramid selling of promises that cannot possibly be made good on. Our promises do not disappear but forms a cloud of broken promises that fouls the atmosphere. The unheard complaints and protests of all those who did not receive any good thing from those set over them reaches God. The Law had become a description of all that action that we could not reproduce. It was a list of what each of us owed to all others. It was a bill we could not pay. We have come under

8

the curse, for it is written ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’ (Galatians 3.10). The Law is the charge sheet that sets down our offence. Who can release us from it? The Complaint of the Poor We need two definitions of ourselves. We are the aggressors who receive judgment, the unrighteous kings who are holding and destroying others. We have excluded the poor form our assembly and refused to give them a hearing. We have taken the place and gifts intended for the poor. We have done so on the grounds that they are unworthy and unclean. The poor have called to us. They wanted some recognition from us. We have not given it to them. We have not heard them or have not replied. And we are the poor who have called and not been heard. The Lord alone can tell which of us is which. Other people have not received form us the recognition and resource they need in order to remain members of our society. We think the poor are indebted to us. But it is we who are indebted to God and to them. Servants are in explicit debt to their masters, always owing them some service. But masters are in implicit debt to servants. It looks as though the poor are in debt to the rich, but in fact the rich are equally in debt to the poor. The debt relationship runs both ways. We have neglected other people, and allowed them to become excluded from the covenant. We have not supplied them with forgiveness and the resources by which they can be restored and integrated. We have allowed to become covered in sin, and since no atonement has been exercised on their behalf, they have remained sinful. By our failure to act for them we have ‘condemned the innocent’ (Matthew 12.7)
‘You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them’ (Luke 11.46).

We have got in the way of the salvation and healing of the poor. The Lord does not desire that even one out of a hundred should be lost. The loss even of one is no pleasing sacrifice to God. Nothing is worth the loss of a single life or a ‘hair of your head’ (Ezekiel 5.1-4). Debt and the Unfinished Business The assembly of heaven has become a courtroom. The assembly brings charges against us. We have usurped power over the weak and vulnerable, and so we have usurped God. We have promoted ourselves over God, and so attempted to put God in the dock and to make ourselves his judges. But the Lord comes to take his place at the bar and on the bench. We are unrighteous rulers and wicked tenants. We are rulers who tolerate no rule and impose no rule on ourselves. We try to secure our position against all others. We have lived off those who were unable to defend themselves against us. In trying to escape any limit, and to secure ourselves against death we attempt to climb from the bottom to the top of the ladder of being. We are scaling the universe to reach the top and secure ourselves there. We make this climb by treading down all others. By this action we tear a gap between the top and the bottom, and created two tiers. We are driven by fear of the bottom, where extinction and death is. The cosmological dualism is the result of the effort of each of us to escape from the lower levels, driven by our fear of being extinguished, becoming nameless, fear of becoming nothing, of death at the bottom of the cosmos. We require salvation from the confines that our fellow men put us under. In his fear man has exalted some creatures to an illegitimately high status and subordinates himself to them. We are out of control and a threat to one another. Man has to be separated from his claim to divinity. The Man who is out of control has to be stopped if creation is to survive. The poor call the Lord to come back and depose those he has put in charge

9

The wealth you failed to pay the workman who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord God almighty (James 5.4).

For our sake the Lord intervenes to take back the house that has been usurped. That creation is indeed creation is demonstrated only because God fights for it, acting for the poor against the rich. Reluctant Son and Negligent Master The man who does not wish to be held accountable believes that God cannot touch him. Until man takes from God he is fortifying his own house against all others, and since God has taken the side of all others against him, he is necessarily fortifying himself against God too. Without God, we can only build our own house by tearing down other people’s. All our building is the construction of security measures and fortifications to secure us against the demands of other people, who since they are the gifts of God to us, are also the demands of God on us, and so we distance ourselves from him and make ourselves a rival to him. But we have no greater enemy than ourselves. Without God we can only be a misery to ourselves. Man is held back by man. Men cannot sustain one another. We wear each other out until there is nothing left. All our acts amount to separation, individuation and isolation. Death is the long term effect we have on one another. We have taken one another’s lives and frittered them by making huge unsustainable claims in a pyramid selling of promises that cannot possibly be made good on. What we promised but we could not deliver. We released a cloud of broken promises into atmosphere made of all the unheard complaints and protests of all those who did not receive any good thing from those set over them. The anger of all those who have never been given a hearing became a single storm-cloud of distress. These unredeemed speech-acts mass together into a smog. It is made of the promises never kept, and attributions, insight and supply never given and our callous speech-acts. The idle son is a poor manager who shows no compassion for his people. We are the unwilling son who does not take up his education. We have not given the poor the recognition they require. We do not hear them, are refuse to be taught or led so that we can learn how to do so. We give out discipline but cannot take it, we fail our education and drop out. We become unwilling to hear other voices or receive their instruction and correction, we become enclosed by the consequences of our acts. We divided up the world between us. We made ourselves gods over others. We divided up its people them and set them against each other. We have usurped God’s role. We have taken the role of teacher and leader of the world. but we are not able to teach it to be anything but our own source of power. We make it, and all men, serve us. We have taken advantage of other weaker people. We have not told them about their protector. We have not admitted that we ourselves have a lord and are under discipline. We have held back the people we have been entrusted to nurture, and have concealed from them the protection of God. We are walled ever more closely in by our own misunderstanding. We have come between them and their God. We have blocked them in. We have taken on increasingly control of the little ones. We become fearful. Our grip on them becomes more panicked, so we cannot let them go. We try to shut them up or bury them. They cry and appeal over our heads and their cries escape to God us. They have cried, and we have panicked and attempted to shut them up. We have been found out. He has heard and he will come. We will be deposed and humiliated. We panic. The uncaring and the hard-of-hearing become trapped within the circumstances of their own making, besieged in their fortifications. Those who have died and received nothing ask the Lord to vindicate them and raise them from their captivity to death. They ask for their lives to be restored to them.

10

‘I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out How Long, Sovereign Lord, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ (Revelation 6.9).

Those already martyred are assured of their victory by being given white robes to put on. Our Violence Comes Back to Us God intervenes for the righteous against the unrighteous. The king looked around to see if anyone else was going to perform the task that was necessary. Finding that no one else was, he took up the task himself, ‘with his own right hand and with his holy arm’ Our violence returns to us. God lets us have the consequences of our acts. The tenants do not take their last chance. ‘The king sent one last servant, but the reply was: This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and the inheritance will be ours’ (Mark 12). In the face of this refusal the master comes to throw out the uncaring tenants who had made themselves brutal masters. He will take responsibility from them and give it to others. Our rebellion, and God’s compassion for those we have been consuming, has turned God into a warrior. The complaints of all those who have been left out have been heard. He no longer holds back to see if we will act on them. He lets us have the consequences of all our acts. The violence we released into the world returns to us. The God of Israel acts to crush this rebellion, and he does so in the event of the cross, which is a collision and battle between God and man. One the one side is the obedient Son, while on the other is Israel in alliance with all the gentile forces of the world on the other.
‘What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No it was for this very reason I came to this hour’ (John 12.27). ‘Now is the time for judgment on the world; now the prince of this world will be driven out’ (John 12.31).

The Gospel is Two Messages for Two Different Audiences It is one message to the poor, that they will be delivered from the rich. It tells them that they have been heard and will be redeemed, and it tells them to be glad and be patient. And it is a message to the rich that they must release the poor and impoverish them no longer. It calls to account the powers that be. When they will not be called to account it topples them, and replaces them with others. It subjects the proud to the humble, the arrogant to the grateful, the complacent to the desperate. The poor cry and God hears them. He hears the appeals the poor make to him over our heads. He God endured the nagging of the poor of the earth for a long time. The Lord reads the warning to the powerful. They must stop their violence and intervene against those who do not. When they fail to do so, the Lord himself will intervene.

5. The Battle
Our rebellion, and God’s compassion for those we have been consuming, has turned God into a warrior. The complaints of all those who have been left out have been heard. He no longer holds back to see if we will act on them. He intervenes for them, and against us. The Lord breaks down the door and opens the windows and all that air and spirits is released, and all the foulness is purged. In the Gospel of Mark the Son comes and takes on the strong men, the gods of the gentiles, engages the forces and demons. This God, the God of Israel, is stronger that other gods, the

11

gods of the nations, who are interlopers. He is going to drive them out first from Israel then from the world. Jesus pulls out of its concealment the destructive force everywhere at work: the demons appear only in confrontation with Jesus, attempt to utter Jesus' name in order to resist him but are silenced and stilled. Satan's army is divided, and weaker troops are abandoning him already because a Stronger man is here (Mark 3.23-27) Satan, the spirit who holds out against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven: for the sake of all others, he must be overcome. The holy spirit is the full revelation of God to Israel through the whole course of the history of the people of Israel. He is the whole spirit of God revealed to and represented by all the prophets of Israel. He is not the partial spirit revealed to this or that prophet, but the complete spirit revealed to all Israel. Satan will come crashing down, ‘like lightning’ (Luke 10.8). The force that is divided against itself, cannot stand (Mark 3.24). If Satan is at war even with himself he cannot last. When he is attacking himself his time is up. To win back all whom the violent man has carried off through the long years of Israel’s history, the violent man himself has to be overcome. His force has to be broken and his power taken away. Only when he has been dealt with can all whom he has plundered be released. Only the one who can tie up the strong man can enter his house and carry off his possessions. Can we beat our opponent? Are we stronger than him? Will the combined forces of all earthly powers overcome the God of Israel? Before going to war against God we should calculate the chances of our success.
‘Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able to oppose with ten thousand the one coming against him with twenty thousand?’ (Luke 14.28) ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I come to bring peace on earth? No I tell you, but division’ (Luke 12.49-51).

We cannot keep our promises. The promises we have made one another but been unable to keep remain and hang over us. A cloud of unfinished business hangs over our heads. We are storing up wrath.
‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men.. who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Romans 1.18).

We have made it harder for anyone to hear one another or their Lord. We have turned the world into a place of swirling conflicting forces. There is a dust storm of every kind of disordered element. What could once be seen is now blanketed out by dust raised by the battle of all against all, the battle of men against men, and the consequent battle of elements against elements. At last, the storm breaks.

Two Armies
There are two armies drawn up on opposite hills. On one side are all the kings of this world, and behind them all they have pressed into their service, the willing and the unwilling. On the other hill is the army of God. But this army is represented by just one single solitary figure, the Servant of God. He has refused all offers of service, and is abandoned.
‘The Philistines gathered their armies for battle; the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley, and formed ranks against the Philistines. The Philistines stood on the mountain on the

12

one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them’ (1 Samuel 17.2-4).

The contest is unequal.
‘The Arameans went up to fight against Israel. When the Israelites had mustered and provisioned, they went out to engage them; the people of Israel encamped opposite them like two little flocks of goats, while the Arameans filled the country’ (1 Kings 20.26-7).

The two opposing armies descend from their opposite hillsides to meet in battle. One army is composed of all the kings of earth and the people they lead, freely or by compulsion. But the other army is composed of a single servant of God, one unaccompanied warrior. He is all Israel and the whole promise of God to man.
‘The Lord says Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord’ (1 Kings 20.13).

This single Israelite confronts the world. He suffers alone the contradiction and resistance of the whole world. Their enmity is the cup he drinks out and the baptism he undergoes. In this battle the single warrior tears through the middle of the enemy, breaking it, and putting its forces to flight. This single warrior charges the enemy army. He cuts through it. It splinters, panics and is scattered. In a moment there is nothing but fleeing groups and little knots making their last stand against him. He cuts through it, he cuts it off. The Lord Fights to Save his Creation This single warrior is not alone. He is the Fear of Israel. He comes ‘in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel’’ (I Samuel 17.45-46). The forces of the Lord are innumerable. ‘Do not be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them. The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked as saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round’ (2 Kings 6.17). He acts ‘with great power and outstretched arm’ (Jeremiah 32.17). The arm of the Lord stretched out against the enemy. Moses and Joshua extend their arms over the battle. ‘Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed’ (Exodus 17. 11). He opened his arms for us upon the cross.
‘The Lord goes forth like a soldier, like a warrior he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out’ (Isaiah 43.13-14).

The Lord will test all the nations
‘I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the wine-press is full and the vats overflow’ (Joel 3.12).

The servant of the Lord is told ‘take your sickle and reap’ (Revelation 14.16). The noise of this battle is ‘a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder’ (Revelation 14.2). He tells the enemies of Israel ‘I am against you, I will turn you around and drive you forward’ (Ezekiel 39). ‘There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields, the swords, the weapons of war. At your rebuke of God of Jacob both horse and chariot lie still’ (Psalm 76). The Fear of the Lord turns the enemy to panic. ‘The Lord made the Arameans hear the sound of chariots and a great army, so they ran for their lives’ (2 Kings 7.6).

13

‘The Lord has driven out before you great powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you’ (Joshua 23.9).

All the world can see the hosts and forces available to the Holy Spirit. He is the ‘Fear of the Lord’ that causes his enemies to panic and flee.
‘The Lord caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and a great army. So they got up and ran for their lives’ (2 Kings 7.6).

As at Jericho Israel has only to ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city’ (Joshua 6.6-16) Attempts to destroy Israel, the armies of the Assyrian king Sennacherib lay siege to David’s city. But the Lord throws off the siege.
‘I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David. That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies’ (2 Kings 19.3435). ‘Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, let the wicked perish before God’ (Psalm 68.1-2).

God intervenes to save his creation and to save Israel from those who want to destroy her. He holds back the forces of chaos and maintains the peace and integrity of all creation. Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the earth (Psalm 74.12). Psalms 18, 48, 68
‘You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness’ (Psalm 74.13-14). ‘His voice shakes the earth’ (Hebrews 12). ‘Look! The Lord is coming from his dwellingplace, he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart’ (Micah 1.3). ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses’ (Psalm 33).

6. Passover
Escape from Egypt, Defeat of Death The Son stands before the world. He is poised on the edge of the land promised to him. He plunges into the river and crosses it. He divided the forces and pacified this torrent. He crosses the barrier created by the resistance of man and breaks through to the other side.
‘You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain’ (Psalm 89).

The Resurrection as the Judgement of Men thrown off
We keep on coming against him, but the Son can take our punch without limit. We overreach ourselves, and are exhausted by his ability to take whatever we can throw at him. We are sprawled out the length of the floor, breathless and our fury plays itself out to the point of final impotence and quietness. The God of Israel has made himself known as impenetrable and indivisible fire, rock and spirit. Rival gods cannot get their knives into him: violent men laid hands upon him, but the Lord shook them off.

14

The cross took the form of the death of one man. The resurrection reveals that the cross is the victory of this man over all. The resurrection makes the cross plain. It revealed the cross in its truth. The false appearances of man’s perception are removed to show the truth of God. The Son has drunk down the cup of the wrath of the nations (Isaiah 51.17-22). He has triumphed. He has overcome his enemies.
‘He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted the voices of the seven thunders spoke’ (Revelation 10.2)

His enemies are humiliated and put to shame. They are disgraced by being caught and exposed, ‘as a thief is disgraced when he is caught’ (Jeremiah 2.2).

The Authority of the Son
The Gospel of Mark The king speaks with authority, he commands. A miracle is an act of power and so a demonstration of power. This king is accustomed to commanding and being obeyed. He expects the people of Israel to understand what he , not only by people. He expects his word to be heard by the regime in Jerusalem), and by other forces, political and natural, represented by the demons. ‘Jesus rebuked him, saying, Be silent, and come out of him!’ (Mark 1.25). Israel is lost, rudderless and vulnerable to destructive influences. ‘The possessed individuals whom Jesus meets in Galilee shows that Israel has become the prey of these alien powers. But even these powers know who they are facing.
‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God’ (Mark 1.24).

The people themselves are not so quick on the uptake.
‘They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him’ (Mark 1. 27).

He teaches ‘as one who had authority’ (Mark 1.22). Other teachers recognise Christ’s authority as teacher of Israel in the early chapters of Mark and the alien spirits that inhabit Galilee, recognise him (Mark 1.32-34). Even the waves (and natural but demonic powers) obey him (4.39)
‘He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves Quiet, Be still!’ (Mark 6.48). ‘He went out to them, walking on the lake’ .

The elements recognise him, as sheep know the master's voice (John 10.3-5). The Son drives out the Interlopers The Son’s confession of the Father is simultaneously his confession against all interlopers and rivals.
‘When the trumpet sounded the people shouted and at the sound of trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged in and they took the city’ (Joshua 6.20).

The voice of God interrogates them then silences them.
‘A man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us I know who you are – the Holy one of God’. ‘Be quiet! Said Jesus sternly Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek’ (Mark 1.23-25)

God acted for us. He did so by resisting us and bringing our career towards destruction to an end. We warred against God. But we were not able to make our act stick. God does not act

15

as we act, in uncertainty about the outcome of our action. He works purposefully, without anxiety because his life is not at stake in this struggle. We do not make God struggle. The outcome of this work was already present to him, so the battle was waged in the certainty of the victory of God. God works, but the outcome of his work is already present to him, as he is, enthroned, vindicated and glorified. By his Spirit the victorious Son calls and draws out of the earth all the bodies of the poor, hidden by wicked men, and all the dispersed elements. He brings them together to form one new body, the resurrection body, united in himself. This man is re-assembled from the divided and plundered spoils held by the various rulers, their kingdoms, in their secular time. In this man all creation is united and redeemed. Christ has defeated Death By Christ’s victory over death on the cross, the rebellious powers have lost touch with the source of their power, which is the fear of death and death itself. It is this fear that make each of us vulnerable to them and ready to put ourselves in their power. Christ has defeated death and drained the sump of death which bred fear. The rebellious powers have been cut off from the source of their power. Jesus has drawn all decay off into his own body and soaked it up. Death is carried by human beings. It is transferred by us from one generation to another. As soon as we are dead and gone so is death, the fire is out as soon as there is no more combustible or decomposable material. But without anything to work on, Death disappears. (Athanasius ‘Incarnation’ asbestos simile 28.5 ‘But just as he who has got the asbestos knows that fire (ie death) has no burning power over it…) Creation is no longer exposed to decay: it has been given a Spirit-coating that is our decay-proofing.

7. Christ is Victor
We can summarise the logic of the coming of God to man, as it was set out by the Church, like this: 1. God initiates. The Son of God comes to man. He comes unaccompanied, without glory, as servant. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. The Father gave himself to us in the person of the Son. The Father’s gift to us is that in the person of his Son he stand at our head and lead us. But we interpreted this not as aid, but as attack. This Servant, though commander of the king’s forces, does not move any these forces against us, but charges alone into the line of the enemy. He is the gift of God, given to the enemy. He is the missile hurled and the magic bullet discharged into them, to kill or cure. The gift is good, but our refusal of it brings about our defeat. 2. The cross is the act of man. The wicked tenants do not want any relationship with God. They attack and seize this Servant and destroy him publicly, intending to dispose of the claim of the God who sent him. 3. The cross is the act of God against these leaders who exercise no leadership of his people and who will accept no leadership for themselves. The disappointment of God turns to anger. The Son comes in war to throw the irresponsible tenants out. 4. The resurrection is God’s rejection of the act of man. God elected the one we rejected. He shakes off the grip his enemies have on his Servant, raises him from all his rivals and appoints him Son.

16

5. God lays hands on them. We laid hands on the servant of God and tried to push him out. The Servant can endure and survive this opposition of man. But having laid hands on the one God sent, it is man who is gripped and held. We cannot shake him off. He stole us back out of the house of the strong man and he carries us off as his plunder. The Almighty God hears the Poor The God of Israel can give life to everything, and can bring to life whatever has died and to bring into being new things and new life limitlessly. Will God establish justice? Will God rescue the poor from their oppressors? The resurrection of Jesus is the demonstration that God is powerful for us. He can hear us. No one is powerful enough to silence anyone and prevent their prayers from reaching the Lord. No one has the power to keep the bodies concealed from him. He has the power to hear even the most distant, feeble and inarticulate cry. He comes searching for us. The blood of Abel cried to him from the earth (Genesis). This king is able to see through appearances to the reality and so make judgments that are right. No other king is able to conceal anything from him, so no crime can be covered up, none has the power to close the earth against this king. He can command all graves to open and the earth to give up its dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the vindication of the poor man and the demonstration that the high God hears the poor man The Lord has not caused devastation by coming all at once at the head of his entire army, but has come gently and mercifully, and therefore stage by stage, first as servant. Of course this Servant is not alone, for he is servant of the Father. He is the warrior who faced the enemy alone We cannot fight God. He does not fight and cannot be provoked to fight. He does not see us as an opponent, and cannot be forced to change his mind. He stops our fight by setting some creaturely thing in our way as a limit that brings our fight to an end. We exhaust ourselves on it. In all our battles against him we never succeed in touching him. His patience is infinite, so it never runs out. Our rage can exhaust itself against him.

SUMMARY
1. God has come to be with man. When we are with him, we may truly be with one another and so truly become ourselves. 2. The coming of God to man is the form in which man comes to God. God's coming has been opposed, by man. Man without God, not covered by God, not disciplined by God, is trying to be God himself. He is a tyrant. 3. Creation belongs to God and no other. He will not let it go. God does not let his creation come to grief. Everything that is not God is a creature of the world, and part of the hospitality of God for us. We are his possession. The doctrine of creation declares that the world is the possession of God for us. It is his on two counts. First, he made it, and secondly, he went to war to win it back from rebellious forces for our sake. 4. The God of Israel is the high God. He is above all gods. He is the court of appeal. Anyone can appeal to him. God exercises his power for us. He hears us and comes searching for us.

17

5. The poor have called to us for resource and recognition from us. We have not given it to them. We have tried to make others our creatures, to assume control over them and to interpose ourselves between them and God. We have turned into aggressors who hold others captive to our power-claims creating a delusory world and become a misery to ourselves. 6. God intervenes on behalf of those we have oppressed. He came against those who opposed him and overcame them. Christ fought a battle, alone, against us, broke our power and released those we held captive. 7. We attempted to resist Christ by putting him to death, but he broke through death. Nothing in creation can hold him.Christ was vindicated by God. By the resurrection Christ was demonstrated to be God’s man. He was demonstrated to be the man for us, and to be God for us. God has intervened on our behalf. 8. God has made himself identical with Jesus for us. The Son and Father are of one being. There are not many roads to God, but only one, the route provided by God himself. The Son is the fullness of the Father for us. The Son is the gentleness and the unknowableness of God, the Father, made known to us and present with us.

18

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful