Truly Revolutionary

Jesus played the role of a truly revolutionary compassionate prophet.

From the moment he was conceived, his mother Mary knew Jesus would be a revolutionary figure: a king who would not only overthrow other kings, but also the very idea of ‘kingship’ itself; an extraordinary man who would stand, with radical empathy, against relentless cruelty, for the sake of genuine inclusivity, equity and equality. As far as Mary was concerned, in this regard her son Jesus was going to be the answer to her people’s prayers (Luke 1:46–55).

Mary is said to have sung a song of praise that reflected her deep, profound, personal faith in God and revealed her joyous and jubilant appreciation of his great faithfulness to her as a person. She sang: ‘My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His Name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.’ (Luke 1.46-50)

Mary’s Song has been described by Stanley Jones as ‘the most revolutionary document in the world’.[i] Mary celebrated her experience of God as a God of love and justice, whom she prays will one day have overthrown the rich and the powerful and upheld the poor and the powerless. She sang: ‘He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in the plans of their hearts. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.’ (Luke 1:51–56)

Jesus grew up with a compassionate concern for the welfare of his people, particularly those that no one else was particularly concerned for. He was passionately concerned about the plight of the poor, the victims of the imperial system. He was passionately concerned about the predicament of the prisoners, the disabled and disadvantaged, excluded from all meaningful participation in society by bars of steel and stigma. He was passionately concerned about the condition of the lepers, not only because of the pain of their ulcers, but also because of the pain of their untouchability. And he was passionately concerned about the situation of ordinary people whose hope had all but been destroyed by their soul-destroying circumstances, and who consequently felt consigned forever to long days, and even longer nights, of utter despair.

For Jesus, a compassionate concern for people meant nothing less than a passionate commitment to people. He became forgetful of himself, living instead in constant remembrance of those around him who were themselves forgotten. He desperately wanted them to feel fully alive again, to revel in the joy of being loved, and being able to love, once more. He worked tirelessly to set them free from all that might debilitate them, breaking the bonds of exclusivity, poverty, misery, and guilt. He welcomed the outcast, helped the weak, healed the sick, and forgave the sinner, giving them all another chance at a new beginning. He didn’t write anyone off himself, and he encouraged everyone that he met not to write one another off either. He challenged everyone to tear up their prejudices, trash their stereotypes, and just get their act together – the ‘in’ crowd with the outcast; the strong with the weak; the rich with the poor; the saint with the sinner – to support one another in their common quest for their own humanity.

Jesus criticized people of all religions for promoting domineering leadership (Mark 10:42-43), acting as closed groups that are not open to others (Matt. 5:47), and practicing empty rituals with embody no practical compassion. (Matt.6:7) But it was never Jesus’ intention to start a religion, still less a monopolistic religion, bearing his own name, that saw itself in competition with other religions for people’s allegiance. Jesus said he simply came ‘to bring life and life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10). Thus, in my view, he would affirm all that is life-affirming and confront all that is life-negating in the world’s religions

Jesus did not play the role of a mystic like Buddha, a scholar like Confucius, a lawgiver like Moses, or a military leader like Muhammad. He didn’t try to renounce the world and/or study it on the one hand, or try to organize the world and/or control it on the other hand.[ii] Jesus loved the world and simply showed people the way that they could love their world like he did

He did not try to play the role of a reformist priest, because he was against the establishment. He did not try to play the part of a traditional rabbi, because he was against legalism. He did not try to play the part of a classical monk, because he was against asceticism. And he did not take up arms and fight as a guerrilla, because he was against violence – from the left as well as the right. [iii]

Jesus was truly revolutionary. For Jesus, liberation could never come from Sadducean rules and regulations, Pharisaic rituals and ceremonies, Qumranic disciplines and practices, or Zealot strategies and tactics. For Jesus, liberation could only ever come through love – real love – substantive, sacrificial, giving and forgiving love – love of our God and God’s love of our neighbour – love of our friends and love of our enemies.

Which is what I celebrated in my song ‘The Ballad Of The Rebel Jesus’.

 

Jesus Christ was not a Christian. Didn’t want his own religion.

But showed us how to live life beautifully.

Took the path of patient service. In pursuit of love and justice.

Then he turned to us and said “Come follow me.”

 

They say that Jesus touched the people strict observers never touched;

He served the ones that others only used.

They say that Jesus loved the people conservative leaders never loved;

He blessed the ones that others had abused.

 

They say he taught a gospel wealthy pharisees had never thought of

Beliefs that would be “good news for the poor”.

They say his assault on the temple-on the orthodox who’d been bought off

Had the paupers at the door crying out for more.

 

They say he preached nonviolence – the cheek to “turn the other cheek”-

Predicting we’d see the victory of the meek.

Then they say he prayed forgiveness when they nailed him for blasphemy

Setting battlers marked by “fatwahs” completely free.

 

He did not call us to worship him – to bend our knee – and bow.

He called us all to follow him – stepping out in the spirit’s power.

 

Jesus Christ was not a Christian. Didn’t want his own religion.

But showed us how to live life beautifully.

Took the path of patient service. In pursuit of love and justice.

Then he turned to us and said “Come follow me.”

 

“Follow me. Follow me.” (x3)

He turned to us and said “Come follow me.”

 

The Rebel Jesus (mp3) (sheet music)

 

Dave Andrews

 

[i] Barclay,W The Gospel Of Luke The St Andrew Press Edinburgh p9

[ii]H Kung, Christianity, SCM, London, 1996, p35

[iii]H Kung, Christianity, SCM, London, 1995, p34

Comments are closed.