The social setting Jesus of Nazareth was born into was much like our own. It was a hot bed of political and religious tension.
Jesus cut straight through this milieu to the heart of the matter. The image of him turning over the tables on the Temple portico, touching both the political and religious arenas in which it sat, is a perfect metaphor for what he was about. Overturning/challenging the political and religious order…by his challenge to the religious rulers who did the bidding of the Roman authorities. At heart the turning over the tables sent a message that people matter more than powers of exchange or submitting to antiquated religious practices. We see this throughout the gospel narrative. A Jesus who walked, talked, ate and drank with all manner of society, even women and tax collectors! Because the Jewish authorities and the climate of the time stigmatized both. But the man from Nazareth saw each as an individual, not a label which was to be kept separate from the dominant social order. There was essentially no distinction in lst century Palestine between the religious and the political structures. I suspect that is why many authors see Jesus as being a revolutionary or political activist. But he was not. His words and actions confronted both with their own behavior, and attitudes, their own words and actions. It was a challenge by example. By being who he was.
But I guess if you set about to engender a new way of being in a culture embedded with rules and rituals then you might tend to view him as political. His message, his very person, challenged both Rome and the Sanhedrin.
Religious persecution was rife. Something unfortunately we are all too familiar with today, thanks to our ever-vigilant, ever-present media. Have we returned to the dark ages?
We have shrunken to a micro-cosm of ourselves. One that can be viewed within the parameters of a 22 inch screen or a 2 x 3 inch smart phone. Our reach is large; but our vision has narrowed. Our portable screens have diminished how we view the world. Big problems flash on a small screen and pass before our view. Nothing lasts for long. 15 minutes of fame is more like 7 minutes of notoriety. It is easy to forget. Our minds do not dwell or contemplate any one matter for very long. We are on to the next text, tweet, and photo bomb. We keep up with family and friends by logging on to Facebook. We are in information overload so that we no longer retain any real knowledge. Our minds are not expanding but shrinking to the size of a media screen. I am so dependent on my smart phone. Sad to say, it is my connection to the world of others. We connect but don’t communicate. These things are not (all together) bad. It’s how we use them. How we have come to value them and what they have replaced in our lives.
Perhaps during this Lenten season when some ‘give up’ things in the hopes of making ourselves better, perhaps we could focus more on others, pay attention to the world around us, listen to the birds singing in the morning, just sit and be. And see what happens. Invite the great Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Jesus that he left with us, into our midst and see if that doesn’t make a different in our day. Jesus paid attention. To who he was. To others. To the religious and political climate about him. And he went to the synagogue and spoke about the scriptures. He sat on a hillside and told stories. He sat in a board near the shore and took in the world about him; all those in need of him. Perhaps we might look at following Jesus in this way. Bring ourselves to the heart of the matter. To pay attention.