“My background is Jewish. So I see Jesus through a Jerusalem lens. To see him in that lens is to see him embedded in the Jewish world of 2,000 years ago. That world is nothing like the peacefulness of an American church pew. It’s nothing like the quiet domesticity of a modern Bible study. It was a world of strife, combat and fractious intensity. The Holy land then, and it is now, was a spiritual and a literal battleground. The primary factor was foreign occupation. Jews and Jewish homeland had been oppressed and occupied for centuries. The Babylonians, the Syrians, the Romans–certain questions would have been electric in the air: Why are we oppressed? Who amongst our people is betraying us and collaborating? How do we survive as a people under the crushing burden of their power? Everything was fraught, semi-hysterical and tension-filled. Desperate gangs roamed the land. Minor league revolutionaries were perpetually rising up. N. T. Wright lists seven separate revolts between the years 26 and 36, about the time of Jesus’s ministry. . . . When you see Jesus in this context, you see how completely bold and aggressive he was. He lived in a crowded, angry world yet took on all comers. . . . Jesus walked into a complex network of negotiated and renegotiated power settlements between various factions. And he . . . pierced through them and went right to the core. At a moment of elite polarization, he was bringing access to the kingdom directly to the poor. He was offering triumph directly to the downtrodden. [He taught] . . . another way, another path, a higher serenity. [The Beatitudes] were an inversion of values. They were beauty in the storm. Romano Guardini put it beautifully–in the Beatitudes, something of the celestial grandeur breaks through. There are no mere formulas for superior ethics, but tidings of sacred and supreme realities entering into the world. Jesus was love and beauty in the midst of muck and violence and the most difficult circumstances imaginable. You don’t have to be Christian. You can be atheist, Jewish, Muslim–whatever, and you can be astounded by this man and astounded by the faith he inspired. . . . [and] these are the acts that have the power to shock . . . a revolution in our culture and in our consciousness.” David Brooks
“Behold, the Man!”
John 19:5 NIV
Moving From Head to Heart
- Was the Jesus you know an “agitator”–challenging and offending the political and religious leaders of his day? –often rocking the boat?
- Have we somehow pared Jesus down to make him more acceptable–more manageable–less demanding?
- Have you turned to his story lately (as an adult)?
Abba, guide me into “good trouble” (John Lewis), and truth seeking just like Jesus.
For More: David Brooks at the National Cathedral in Washington
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