An Uprising: Revolutionary Talk
Jesus’ message was revolutionary. That’s to put it mildly. His words captured the imagination of some, rocked the world of others, and even incited threats and violence. Some marvelled openly. Others didn’t know what to think. And some just wanted to shut Him up. In His first public message, after making a few comments following the reading of a passage of Scripture, His audience wanted to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-29).
Yes, the miracles He performed were spellbinding, but His message was gripping, compelling. Dangerous. Provocative. Dangerously provocative.
Like me, you’ve probably heard it all many times over now. And in the playback loop, we may well be numb to the sheer audacity of it. The utter scandal of Jesus’ message. Yawn. You may even be bored.
Hopefully, I can help you hear it with fresh ears. I’ll certainly try.
898 words (c. 2 pages) = 10 minute read
A Clarion Call to Revolution
Right, you ready for the rubber to hit the road? Screeching around tight corners at full-throttle? Good. In an attempt to capture the audacity of Jesus’ message, I think it’s best for me to simply throw you into it. To go ahead and make some strong statements about Jesus’ message, and then only afterwards, point to examples and explanations. In this way, I’ll pick up on the sociopolitical undercurrent of the first article in this series and draw in the melody of Jesus’ message that we touched upon in article two.
Okay, here goes…
Jesus’ message heralded a completely distinct, otherworldly missive. He told a brand new story, a message that entirely trumped the Empire and superseded allegiance to Caesar. Jesus offered a new framing reference point, an altogether unique frame story.
And this is where it gets particularly interesting:
- Jesus’ message addressed the immediate, real, seemingly insurmountable societal ills of His day, and expected His followers—usually those oppressed, disenfranchised and uneducated (who the Empire had crippled the most)—to contend for immediate change where possible or demonstrate righteous vigilance where change would be more gradual.
- Jesus’ message spoke first and foremost of salvation and deliverance from the dominant framing reference of His day, and much of the sin He confronted were transgressions related to the misuse and abuse of this false frame story (and its many inter-related corrupt systems).
- Jesus preached repentance, a rejection of the Empire and a renunciation of Caesar as the framing reference (and a defection from the corrupt systems of Rome’s societal machine)1, re-aligning with a new King, the promise of which was freedom in this life (from the oppressive frame story) and the power to bring deliverance to others still trapped in the system. The movie Matrix is required viewing.
- Defecting from the Empire’s corrupt frame story required a personal acknowledgement of the deceitful power of self-interest (repentance); rejecting one’s identity derived from one’s place and status in the system (our vested interests), and renouncing behaviour that was self-serving and self-advancing.
- Jesus called His audience to believe, a faith anchored in His victory that would empower them to live above the diseased frame story of their day, yet to remain incarnated within society, contending for righteous justice, peace and joy—evidence that the Kingdom was manifest2.
- Jesus inspired His audience with a faith to move the mountains of opposition of their day; to live by an entirely different narrative that superseded Caesar, to tackle the societal dysfunctions and systemic injustices of the Empire. He called them to believe the impossible, to believe for society-sweeping change. That is, for the Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And this is where things get really heated:
- Jesus’ message focused on the down here and right now; He did not relegate the crux of His message to up there (abstract theory) and the after life (the other side). In keeping with the Old Testament Scriptures, He did not build a complex after-life theology, and urged our application of faith here. Now.
One of the biggest implications at this point is Jesus’ lack of emphasis on calling people to “get saved” (as we know it today). That is, He did not press people to “get saved” from eternal damnation, or in order to get to heaven. His call to salvation was a call to be saved from the prevailing corrupt frame story in which they were entangled; a deliverance only possible through a restored relationship with Father God.
Yes, yes. We’ll work through reams of Bible passages in the articles to come. However, do yourself a favour. Ponder over the points above. The sentences are shaped deliberately and the words chosen specifically. Allow yourself to think. To ponder. To kick and scream if necessary. Seek to hear the words of Jesus as His first-century audience heard them.
Of course, you may not agree with all that I’ve said. You may question most of it. That’s okay. Hang with me. We’re going to wade through a lot of Scripture next.
1 It is worth noting that this revolutionary message did not mean civil rebellion. Rendering to Caesar what was Caesar’s, the early believers were model citizens living by a truly distinct, higher way grounded in earthy application.)
2 You probably noticed the use of the word ‘righteous justice’ rather than ‘righteousness’ here (Romans 14:17). This is on purpose. As we will see later, Christendom has largely lost the justice implications of this word.