Jesus was a hipster. He didn’t really fit any molds back in the day. He wasn’t another gnostic philosopher encouraging people to screw earthly things and set their hopes on a spiritual escape. (“Your kingdom come on earth…”) He wasn’t another Jewish revolutionary, trying to make his way by the sword and thereby getting killed for it. (“Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and “My kingdom is not of this world.”) Jesus was a totally different person.
He was different in that he challenged the Jewish approach to waiting for “the kingdom of God.” He once said, “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Quite the slap in the face to a people waiting! He also challenged the non-Jews when he insisted that “salvation is of the Jews.”
Jesus was kind of a boss, no matter which way you put it. But what was he all about? What did he really want? Of course, there are about a thousand answers to this question that are given again and again. I’ll share one of mine and let you think about it yourself.
I think Jesus was here to bring deliverance. As I learned from N. T. Wright last year, Jesus was intentionally evoking images from Exodus. For crying out loud, he staged his crucifixion on the Passover, a holiday that was originally inventing during the Exodus in celebration of God’s salvation from the oppression of the wicked Pharoah. Since Exodus is the story that Jesus evoked in his life and public ministry, I agree with Wright that we should look back to the Exodus story to find hints concerning what it was Jesus wanted to accomplish.
For starters, Exodus represented the free and sovereign movement of God in his unrestrained glory to rescue his people, as he promised to their forefather that he would. The God of the Hebrews is a covenant God. He makes promises, and he keeps them. In the Exodus, God rescued the Hebrews from Pharoah. In Jesus, God rescued the whole creation, making it new. My answer is Paul’s answer. “…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.”
Why then, is the world so messed up, if it has been reconciled? I will not even pretend to solve this classic question, but I will offer some of my thoughts. If God is good as I believe, then it must be good of him to suspend his final eschatological intervention in order to allow Jesus’ followers to remake the broken systems and people of our world. I trust him to be doing the right thing. I have found reason to trust in the God who raised the buried Jesus from the dead.
Maybe you are reading this and you’re frickin’ tired of Christians. Maybe the Christians you know we’re oppressive to gay people. Maybe they’re voting for a bigot candidate. Maybe they’re so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly good. I encourage you, do not mistake a Christian for Jesus himself. Jesus did not have these problems. Jesus saw the temporal injustice of the earth and hated it. His solution wasn’t to postpone fixing everything until heaven. His solution was to heal real people now. An ancient serial killer now known as the Paul the “Apostle” said, “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” He believed that in Christ, he was already healed and reconciled to God now on this earth even before any heavenly solutions appeared. Paul devoted his whole life to helping other people escape their “lives” of self-hatred, others-hatred, sexual brokenness, laziness, racism, spousal abuse, debauchery, and hopelessness. If Paul, a serial killer (he was kind of like a member of ISIS before Jesus interrupted him) could find new life in Jesus now, then I am confident that all of us can.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you totes disagree with something in the post, have questions, or otherwise would like to chat.