In the centuries since His first coming, believers have recognized Jesus as the Son of God, the promised Messiah, and the Savior of the world. He also came as a Prophet, a Teacher, and a Shepherd to the lost. He is known for His compassion and mercy as well as His miraculous signs and power to heal. Christ followers have championed His cause for the weak and His call for salvation. But, there is one aspect of His nature that the Church has not been quite as ready to celebrate – or even embrace.
Jesus was a revolutionary. He came to disrupt the systems of men and displace them with something totally different. He not only challenged the status quo but rebuked those who couldn’t perceive another reality outside of their own. His interactions and conversations were constantly pushing the buttons of the Pharisees and even frustrating His own followers for their radical implications. Yes – Jesus came to revolutionize not only the culture itself, but the way people thought. He came to shake up the way His followers perceived truth and totally alter the direction they were headed. People did not expect this of the Messiah. Thus, many missed His purpose and even condemned His mission.
The question is – are we doing the same thing today? Has the Church put Jesus in a neat and tidy box that doesn’t allow Him to challenge the systems that keep us in bondage? Have we presumed upon His kindness to the extent we are unable to fathom His sharp pronouncements against the hypocrites and rebels? Though we are happy to embrace His softer attributes and compassionate deeds, are we willing to embrace His radical agenda that flies in the face of known traditions and acceptable practices? Do we dare recognize Him as a revolutionary who turned over tables in the Temple and called religious leaders snakes?
Jesus saw past the façades and recognized the religious and political systems of the day that held people captive. The ideologies they had been fed were totally foreign to the Kingdom they were born for. He was not afraid to rebuke the religious leaders to their face and renounce their blinded agendas that kept people from the Truth. Jesus, full of compassion and Giver of mercy was certainly well known and gladly welcomed by all who benefited from His kindness. But, Jesus the Revolutionary? THAT Jesus – was constantly blacklisted.
In a tradition where keeping the letter of the law indicated spiritual and intellectual superiority, Jesus exposed it as the ball and chain it was and renounced it as worthless. He broke the spell that had held people bound to rules and regulations and gave them freedom to steward righteousness from within. Considered by some as a heretic, He stirred up His opposition and even caused His followers concern. Yet, the political and religious leaders were rendered powerless in their control as the Spirit of Truth cut through their pride and presumption.
Refusing to bow to social protocols or expected norms, Jesus regularly interacted with those outside religious circles. He was not afraid of being swayed by their worldly ways, but rather relished the opportunity to illustrate another Kingdom beyond the one they knew. His interactions were constantly criticized and yet He opened the door for the Kingdom message to break free of religious constraints and reach those who otherwise would have never heard.
In a day when women were thought to be mere property, incapable of learning, and totally unreliable in their testimony, Jesus made sure to use a woman to be the first witness of His resurrection. From the beginning of His public ministry, women were included in His circle of traveling disciples and He openly taught and instructed them, just as He did the men. These highly controversial actions were not only seen as inappropriate; they disqualified Him in the eyes of many.
In everything He said and did, Jesus was calculated and deliberate in His mission to expose the frauds and transform the minds of those who were open and ready for change. He easily broke with tradition and put customs aside when they countered truth or subjugated people to the manipulations of men. He spoke up when expected to be silent and interfered when told to stand down. He was a trouble to the magistrates and a threat to the Pharisees. Yet, He never backed down and He never changed His mission. Even when His own followers were concerned about His approach and counseled Him to change tactics, He was unwavering in the message He came to bring.
That radical message was that there was another Kingdom at work beyond the kingdoms of men. The systems that controlled them were but poor imitations, and the governments of men were actually subject to the only one that truly mattered. Those they had looked to as the rulers of their existence were being shown as the hypocrites they were, and the people were now offered a choice. They had been created for something far higher and a mission far greater than that which they had been told. If they would believe in His message and embrace the call, God’s people could alter history and change the world forever. It was this message that burned in His heart and made Him revolutionary to all who knew Him.
It was only after Jesus’ resurrection that many of His disciples finally understood. It was only then that they connected the dots and saw the real revolution He had started. He was not starting a war in the natural as they had hoped. It was a spiritual battle for all ages that had to be fought on His terms and in the power of His Spirit. It was a battle for Kingdom authority – right in the midst of enemy occupation.
The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! (Psalms 110:2)
This kingdom clash continues in our day. Our spiritual adversaries have continued to oppose Jesus’ revolutionary message throughout the generations. Though cultures and traditions have evolved through time, the same methods of manipulation and control are being used by His enemies. Satan’s hopes of ruling the earth have continued unabated and the followers of Jesus must speak the same revolutionary message. His voice must be heard to declare a greater Kingdom at work. Though religious and political spirits continue to strip us of authority and threaten us through guilt and shame, the Champion of Hosts is cheering us on.
But this battle will require a Church that embraces revolutionary voices and heralds their message just as much as she champions social justice and acts of mercy. It will require spiritual leaders to recognize those with mantles like John the Baptist whose voice cried out in the wilderness – yet was unwelcome inside religious circles. There are radical changes that must be made in the days to come just as in Jesus’ day. Not only in our political systems, but in religious ones. Mindsets and belief systems that are born from tradition more than from the Spirit need to be overhauled. Doctrines of man that are void of spiritual power must be traded for life-giving truths that set men free and transform society. Will we embrace these changes with renewed vision, or blacklist those who dare question what’s always been?
And for those who carry this zeal of the Lord, it will require a grace like Jesus to demonstrate both truth and mercy as equally necessary and equally holy. It is this divine combination of unlimited mercy and righteous zeal that will set apart the true revolutionaries of today. May we recognize Jesus’ presence now and not miss our opportunity to alter history and change the world forever.
Harold and Martin answer so many questions that I wrestled with for 50 years of Christian life and ministry. Aligning Scripture with historical New and Old Testament events, they clearly present ideas that both challenged and strengthened my end-times understanding and expectations. (Tim Matteson, Pastor)