Since Jesus’ incarnation, activists and revolutionaries at various times have used Jesus as a figure-head for their cause – some good, some definitely not. In the last century, there has been a number of attempts to colour Jesus “red” in the socialist cause. His blessing of the poor and woes for the rich, His challenge to the tax collectors and the powerful elite, His cleansing of the Temple and His teaching about the “kingdom” which they have understood as a revolutionary, ‘equal’, utopian society in this world have all been put forward.
However there are other revolutionary streams of teaching of Jesus that are not embraced by modern revolutionaries. These include ‘loving your enemies’ and ‘taking up your cross daily’, or dying to your own desires and dreams of power. Jesus calls us to acknowledge God’s existing authority and power, and receive from Him the abundant blessings He provides in this life – and to an unimaginable degree – in the next [2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Romans 8:18-25].
Then there is the great scandal of Jerusalem when the innocence of Jesus is confirmed by Pontius Pilate before the revolutionary crowd, and yet convicted and crucified on the Roman cross. Meanwhile, the crowd cries out for the release of the revolutionary Barabbas, well-known to be a leader of chaos and murder in the cause of Jewish independence against the Romans.
Jesus’ revolutionary teaching cost Him His life. He managed to offend just about everyone. But no one could accuse Him of an actual crime.
Should we follow this revolutionary teacher? Are the poor blessed and the rich evil? Not necessarily, but we should be alert to the entrapment of loving wealth and recognise how much we do have, rather than live for more. Should we follow Jesus to the cross? Here, in Australia in 2017, it’s not really an issue. Or is it? It is becoming an issue, and will continue to do so. I can see a time when Christians in Australia will be punitively punished for speaking the words of Jesus, for following Him in defiance of the world. In many places in our world, this is already happening, and many innocent Christians are victims of evil and hatred in dreadful ways.
By the way, over many centuries many innocent people have been the victim of the Church too, in ways of evil and hatred that should bring us to our knees in confession, and tears to our eyes in shame.
So we should follow the revolutionary Jesus who was a proponent of change, who knew that the end justified the means. In His case, ‘the means’ was His own death by crucifixion was for the guilty (you and I), and ‘the end’ is our justification with God. Jesus opened the way for our souls to be saved by faith through grace. The revolution of Jesus is His sacrifice for the life of many.
It’s revolutionary grace, and it defies imagination and understanding in its beauty, simplicity and complexity. Jesus’ revolution is not of this world, but will end with the destruction of all power structures opposed to His kingdom, including those inside of us that still demand that we be the sovereign of our own soul.