Jesus came from the most troublesome of all the Jewish districts, Galilee, with its unique social and political character. The term “Galilee” was associated in popular consciousness with Judas the Galilean and with other leaders of insurrection. From Galilee arose all the revolutionary movements which disturbed the Romans. It was the scene of guerrilla warfare and of nationalist uprisings. The years from AD 30 to 70 were seething with revolts. To be a Galilean at all was to be suspect. Pilate had mixed the blood of Galilean rebels with sacrifices (Luke 13:1). Yet we are constantly misled by hymns which speak of “Sabbath rest by Galilee and calm of hills above” when in fact Galilee meant trouble.
As a child, Jesus would have witnessed the destruction of the town of Sepphoris, a few miles from Nazareth, and the annihilation of its population. This was the geographical context of Jesus’ birth. He was born in the specific circumstances of a census, which had been set-up in order to implement the poll tax. Ninety per cent of the population of Galilee were peasants. These oppressed peasants were “the people” who, according to the gospels, heard Jesus gladly. There was high unemployment, with many looking for work, and the violence
went far beyond Herod’s slaughter of innocent children.
This climate of colonial rule, oppressive taxation, accumulating debt and bankruptcy, forced migration and revolutionary uprisings, formed the background to Jesus’s proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14)
Gathering around himself a rabble of fishermen, Zealot sympathisers and various riff-raff, he moved through this troubled region, teaching, healing, setting people free.
The common people heard him gladly.
The religious authorities saw him as a serious threat (too liberal and radical).
The Romans saw him as subverting the lawful rule of Caesar.
Conrad Noel described Jesus as “a rebel born in the shed of a public house, who called his king a silly jackal, who broke the conventions of society, who defied the world, broke the law, and was hunted by the police.”
Kenneth Leech – “We preach Christ Crucified: A Kingdom not of this world”
Mark 10: They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher”, they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don't know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?” “We can”, they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Hard it is, very hard,
to travel up the slow and stony road
to Calvary, to redeem humanity; far better
to make but one resplendent miracle,
lean through the cloud,
lift the right hand of power,
and with sudden lightening,
smite the world perfect!
Yet this was not God’s way
who had the power,
Yet set it by, choosing the cross, the thorn,
the sorrowful wounds.
REFLECTION: “This is the leap into the Kingdom of God freely given,
the kingdom which even prostitutes and publicans
will enter ahead of you if you have trusted
in your own presumed righteousness.
This is the Kingdom,
the triumph of those on the margins,
the last and the least.
This is the Kingdom,
where the race for money and comfort
does not exist,
only the pursuit of mutual service and love of neighbour.
How extraordinary, to see all our values reversed,
to see the mighty tumble from their thrones,
as Mary sings in her Magnificat.”
Carlo Carretto – “Why, O Lord?”
“God is calling us to a radical conversion
and to a depth of trust in him
which will allow his power to be released in our weakness,
his wisdom to be revealed in our bewilderment,
his trust to break through our disillusion.”
Gerard Hughes, “God of Surprises”
Deliver us, O God,
from politics without principles,
from wealth without work,
from pleasure without conscience,
from knowledge without character,
from commerce without morality,
from worship without sacrifice,
and from science without humanity.