The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘Gospel

Tantalized by the writing of N.T. Wright

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Mm-mm. . .

I just read a first chapter full of promise.  Know the feeling?  A chapter that makes your heart beat faster, for you catch a glimpse—as if peering through the woods—of what you’ve been looking for? Many of you know.

The book is N. T. Wright‘s The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. A few (of many) quotes that have left me tantalized:

We have been taught by the Enlightenment to suppose that history and faith are antithetical, so that to appeal to one is to appeal away from the other. […] When Christianity is truest to itself, however, it denies precisely this dichotomy—uncomfortable though this may be. […]  Actually, I believe this discomfort is itself one aspect of a contemporary Christian vocation: as our world goes through the deep pain of the death throes of the Enlightenment, the Christian is not called to stand apart from this pain but to share it. [15-16]

I am someone who believes that being a Christian necessarily entails doing business with history and that history done for all its worth will challenge spurious versions of Christianity, including many that think of themselves as orthodox, while sustaining and regenerating a deep and true orthodoxy, surprising and challenging though this will always remain. [p 17]

Many Jesus scholars of the last two centuries have of course thrown Scripture out of the window and reconstructed a Jesus quite different from what we find in the New Testament. But the proper answer to that approach is not simply to reassert that because we believe in the Bible we do not need to ask fresh questions about Jesus. […] And this process of rethinking will include the hard and often threatening question of whether some things that our traditions have taken as “literal” should be seens as “metaphorical,” and perhaps also vice versa. [17]

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Palm Sunday Rebellion

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Here’s the last half of my Palm Sunday sermon.  In the opening, I talked about how obvious it must have seemed to Jesus’ Palm Sunday followers that he was beginning a military coup.  Find out why at Disclosing New Worlds.


Sagrada Familia #6
Image by Alex Millà via Flickr

There’s no question in their minds that Jesus is there to conquer. And Jesus has intentionally played the part. He knows the local puppet governor will hear. He knows the Roman military machine will hear. And he knows he’s throwing rebellion in their faces.

How will tyrants respond? Think of shouts of “Free Tibet!” in Lhasa.  Or the student uprising in Tienanmen Square. Or singing the Chechen national anthem in public in Chechnya. Peasants pitching rebellion are crushed without mercy.

Extra troops were in Jerusalem during the Passover, in preparation for this very kind of thing. Passover, after all, was about the liberation of the Jews from a foreign government. The Romans would be putting on a show of force.

He’s come to wage war, all right – but no one is understanding what kind of war he’ll fight. The Romans are small potatoes to him – he’s waging war on death and darkness and power, and he’ll defeat them all.

But the crowd’s expecting literal war. And that’s not what Jesus does.

Hosanna filio David
Image by Lawrence OP
via Flickr

How strange it is that everybody there makes that mistake, and we study it, and wonder how they can have missed it. And then our generation reads Revelation’s war-talk and assumes without question that Jesus’ will return in the future to fight a violent war. As McLaren observes, when Jesus comes back to fight, his mighty sword comes out of his mouth! I want to smack my head. How could I have overlooked the obviously metaphorical language used there?

Could we still be like the 1st century crowd, expecting Jesus to bring war? Could we be making the same mistake?  Doesn’t it matter that warfare is completely inconsistent with everything Jesus demonstrated?

But here’s another strange thing: It’s all outside the city.

See the last verse? He goes to the temple, looks around, heads for Bethany. Once inside the city, the acclaim is gone.

Outside of it, the crowds adore him. Inside of it – in the seat of religious power and government power – nobody shows up. As Lawrence Moore writes at Disclosing New Worlds: Read the rest of this entry »