Friday, November 20, 2015

Jesus the Pharisee Fighter?

It is well known that people who like Jesus usually make him into whatever picture of him they like. So was Jesus a hippie type or a Pharisee fighter? Did Jesus keep silent when he was attacked and accused or did he stick it to the man?

Jesus' earthly mission (see also a more detailed version):

1. Jesus preached the kingdom of God.
"The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)

The good news was the kingdom of God, the coming reign of God to the earth. God had let the Romans rule, but was going to restore Israel if it would repent and believe in God (and his Messiah). What did Israel need to repent of? "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness." (Matt. 23:23)

2. Jesus' exorcisms prepared the way.
"But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."(Luke 11:20).

For whatever reason, God had allowed Satan to run rampant on the earth. Jesus exorcist ministry was Jesus cleaning house in preparation for the arrival of the kingdom of God.

3. Jesus wanted everyone to be a part.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor." (Luke 4:18)

Jesus did not focus on the religious leaders in his ministry. At least initially, he referred to individuals like the Pharisees as "healthy" and indicated he did not come to minister to them (cf. Mark 2:17--"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.") Jesus focused on tax collectors (who abused the people monetarily for their own gain) and sinners.

4. Jesus taught love of one's enemies.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt. 5:43-44)

Although some people like to celebrate Jesus telling off religious leaders. This was not the centerpiece of his message and in some cases may reflect especially the contexts of the Gospel writers. But Jesus did not go looking for conflict. It came to him. Those who emphasize Jesus telling people off are telling more about their own psychology than about Jesus. When Jesus stood before the government, he said nothing. (Mark 15:4-5)

5. Secretly, Jesus knew he was the Messiah.
"The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 14:45)

Jesus kept his messianic identity somewhat of a secret. It's not until he's on his way to Jerusalem at the very end that he reveals this fact to his disciples (Mark 8:29-30). He did not preach himself much at all when he was on earth and only really mentioned his death at the end.
Jesus would find no welcome in most American churches. He would be labeled a liberal and a socialist, a wimp who was anti-American. He rejected the "Bible-believing" fundamentalism of his day (e.g., Mark 2:23-28).

1 comment:

John Mark said...

Thanks for this. I would love to see more visible manifestations of #2.