Friday, August 5, 2011

Non-Violence Through the Violent Cross

In finishing up (maybe) on the non-violent way of Jesus I think it's appropriate to end at the cross, where Jesus' non-violent Way is ultimately demonstrated.

It's important to point out that Jesus arrived on the scene in a time when Rome pretty much ruled the world. The Caesars were self proclaimed, and understood by many, to be gods, and they also claimed that they were bringing peace to the world. In fact, one of the many titles for Caesar was, "prince of peace", sound familiar? However, Caesar went about establishing peace through violence and coercion.

When a new town was conquered in the name of Caesar, it's citizens were given a choice... Worship Caesar as god or be crucified on a cross. The cross was Rome's ultimate, fear based,intimedator. It was one of Rome's greatest weapons.

It's interesting that when a town submitted and became a known "worship center" for Caesar, that town was then concidered an "Ekklesia" or what we would call a "church". There was also a message sent throughout the empire called a "euaggelion", a message of the good news that another church had been established. "Euaggelion" translates to "evangelical" in English.

Now Israel believed that God would one day deliver them from oppression,and though there were different understandings of how this would happen, One of the more popular beliefs was that God would work through a violent insurrectionist, a messiah. "Zealots" were those who believed that a Messiah would be sent by God to fight and destroy Rome and it was their duty to help out as much as possible. A zealot had two life goals... To kill a tax collector and a roman soldier. (It's interesting that Jesus' followers consisted of both tax collectors and zealots.)

Enter Jesus. Many people, including some of jesus' own disciples and followers, saw Him as the warrior from God that they had been waiting for to destroy their enemies. (Sadly, Jesus is still understood in this way today.) They believed, all the way up until his death by crucifixion, that Jesus was intending to lead a violent revolution. But of course Jesus didn't quite do things the way his followers were hoping. (In fact, just days after Jesus' death the disciples are found fishing... They had already went back to their lives before they had encountered Jesus, because they thought he had failed.)

Instead of fighting and leading a revolt against his enemies, Jesus disarms his followers and heals his enemies' wounds. He willingly went to be crucified. He never puts up a fight, though I would think he probably had the resources to do so. Instead he lived out his teachings... "there is no greater love than this... A person that gives their life for their friends".

Jesus chose to give his life rather than take the life of his enemies'. And in doing so, disarmed the Roman cross, The greatest threat that Rome possessed. The cross represented the way things has been done and It's no wonder that a little more than 3 days after Jesus' death, his followers no longer feared it, instead many chose to die by it.

Jesus,by dying on the cross, was not being passive, but was indeed leading an insurrection, a revolution unlike anyone had every seen.

The cross was how jesus showed the world that there is a better way. A way other than caesar's or that of Rome. a Way that gives life and never takes it. A narrow way, but, if lived out, a Way which leads to life and life more abundant.

1 comment:

JustinGaynor said...

Love does not insist on it's own Way...I think the dangerous part of this is that what you see in the scriptures again and again is God bringing their own sins of violence and fear and manipulation and oppression down upon those who will not repent of them. Jesus went to the cross trying to save Jerusalem from turning in on itself, for those who accepted His Way and were willing to follow Him were saved...those committed to the systems of violence and oppression...well its as Jesus said to his accusers in Matthew 26...hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and 'COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN'.(A phrase meaning coming in judgment...and they new it!)...note then the kindness and the severity of God...