Thursday, December 06, 2012

Jesus is King - 31 Days with Jesus - Day 12

Ancient tomb in Israel


When you read the four Gospels you discover that Jesus thinks and acts like he is a king. N.T. Wright says that “Throughout his short public career Jesus spoke and acted as if he was in charge.” (Wright, Simply Jesus, K292)  Jesus “behaved suspiciously like someone trying to start a political party or a revolutionary movement.”  (Ib., K296) For example:

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.
- Mark 6:39

This verse is about Jesus feeding the 5,000. To understand what's going on here we need to realize that this is a highly politicized situation.  It’s volatile in Galilee under Roman rule. Imagine a country under the rule of a foreign government. The people are oppressed. Four Jewish political groups are offering their various suggestions. There’s an undercurrent of Zealot sympathies.

Their immediate ruler is Herod Antipas.  He calls himself "king," but he’s not actually a king. Yet he really wants to be king.  Antipas is an adulterer, a child pornographer, a drunken party-guy who mostly sits in his palace fsr to the south of the sea of Galilee where he spends part of his time cutting off the heads of prophets.

Enter Jesus. He sees the oppressed people living in their own land like it is a foreign land. Jesus views them as “sheep without a shepherd.” Can you see why? The 4 Jewish political groups didn’t have a solution. And then there’s Herod Antipas…

Jesus views the people as leaderless people, “kingless people.” And he has compassion on them, not simply because they are hungry.

So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.
- Mark 6:40

Jesus instructs the disciples to organize the crowds into groups, to get ready for the meal. They were eating in prasia – literally “garden plots” or “flower beds.” New Testament scholar R.T. France says that this is “a remarkably visual impression of the scene, with men lined up in groups like plots of vegetables on the green grass... The vivid description suggests the eyewitness account of someone who was present at this extraordinary picnic.” (France, Gospel of Mark, 267)

Jesus has the people sit down in ranks, in groups of 50s and 100s. He formally organized them.  They looked like… organized military troops. N. T. Wright says, “Anybody watching this might be asking,  “Who does this man think he is?”"

This explains John 6:14-15 - 14 After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

R.T. France sums this up: a strong case can be made for a political and indeed military character to the outcome.

When Jesus feeds the 5,000, what He does is a Kingly, Militaristic Act. The people pick up on this, and try to force Jesus to be their king.
Which he is. Jesus is King. But not the kind of king they were looking for.
"Who is this king of glory
Who consumes me with His love?"
- Third Day