Lately, I’ve been hearing about this guy. He says he’s above the law, and that all the religions are out to lunch! He says he’s the real Commander in Chief, and he won’t pledge allegiance to any flag. His Facebook page has 50 Million followers, and his talks on YouTube have 200 million views, but Ted Talks refuse to give him webtime. The FBI and CIA are watching him. He hangs out with the dregs of society. And, if you can believe what people are saying, he heals the sick miraculously everywhere he goes.
Of course, I’m talking about Jesus if he had waited another 2000 years to come. Jesus was scandalous in everything he said or did. He usurped all the titles of Caesar, the emperor of almost the whole known world. We are so removed from the historical context of Jesus that we don’t realize the King of Kings, Son of God, Prince of peace, and more, were all titles that Rome bestowed on the emperor before Jesus was born. And Christians, by and large, refused to pay homage and pledge allegiance to the Emperor as required. Worst of all for his good health was the hatred and fear he invoked among the Jewish leadership when he claimed to be the son of their God and turned their religion inside-out.
Jesus claimed to be king of his father’s kingdom, a kingdom with its own special laws. Yet he walked around looking like a pauper. Kings rode around on mighty steeds or chariots, but Jesus mostly walked. Once he made a grand entry into Jerusalem, but he rode in on a young donkey, his feet probably dragging the ground. It was a mockery of the triumphal entry a Roman general would have made.
As I describe it, it really sounds crazy. So what was all this contrarian behavior? What was he really saying? What is at the heart of all this?
When Jesus first went public, practically the first thing he said was that the Kingdom of God was here. John the Baptist was already announcing that the Kingdom of God was coming. Essentially, Jesus was the Kingdom of God in a person, being fully man and fully God. This Kingdom is related to the original realm God had created for us in the Garden of Eden. Before humanity rebelled, we lived peacefully and without the need to toil, fight, or suffer.
From our point of view, living in the Empire that is America, and from the point of view of the Roman empire of the first century, the Kingdom of God is a rebel world, antagonistic to all earthly empires, and it is an upside-down world. Everything Jesus said and did was upside-down. A quick reading of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) reveals this radical contradiction of Jesus with the world around him…and with the culture we find ourselves in.
Continues in Part 2 (Thursday 7:00pm)