MJMA: Okay, so the acronym doesn’t slip off the tongue as well as MAGA (though I must say I found the acronym MAGBA to be funny: “Make American Great Britain Again”).
But, and here is the kicker, I can see Jesus’ disciples and many others in Israel believing that Jesus was going to MJGA.
Now, I am not denouncing MAGA (though I am not a supporter). I am merely trying to point out that the Jewish people at the time of Jesus wanted to Make Jerusalem Great Again. And for them, that meant liberation from Rome, the installation of a Jewish King in Jerusalem, and the establishment of a nationalistic state. This is eerily similar to MAGA Christianity.
NB: Now, it should be noted that there was not a consensus opinion within the Jewish world at the time of Jesus with regard to the nature of the kingdom or the future messianic reign. Nonetheless, we can be quite certain that our modern, Western framing of the kingdom of God is most certainly anachronistic.
Jesus was establishing an earthly kingdom
Now, and again the irony is thick, many evangelicals don’t realize that Jesus was establishing a kingdom on Earth—even though the Lord’s Prayer explicitly states that this was His aim!
For many evangelicals, the kingdom of God (or “kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew’s gospel) was a purely spiritual kingdom. For many evangelicals, Jesus only reigns in a heavenly kingdom. Although someday, after He raptures us up, He will come down and destroy the earth and create a new one. That kingdom, it is often suggested, will be a physical, earthly kingdom—though that kingdom will not be on this earth because this earth will have been destroyed.
NB: I have noted in previous posts that my wife and I are really enjoying “The Chosen” series. I have done my best not to watch them from a NT scholarly perspective. After all, I think the writers should have the artistic license to portray the events the way they deem best. I am good with that. However, I was a little disappointed when, in one of the episodes from season 3, Jesus began to preach a form of the modern-Westernized version of the gospel. In it, Jesus claims that the kingdom was “spiritual,” which for most evangelicals, and I suspect the producers of The Chosen, means that Jesus was not concerned with this world or its redemption. (Why do we not realize that Jesus’ resurrection was the ‘firstfruit’ and that our resurrection and the resurrection of the creation will follow?)
Sadly, the evangelical narrative too often sees MAGA interests as corresponding with kingdom interests. And I want to assure you that the two interests could not be more fundamentally opposed.
BTW If my comments on MAGA are offensive you should note that I ripped on Biden in my post 2 weeks ago. I am an equal-opportunity offender.
It must be noted that Jesus indeed claimed that He was establishing a kingdom that would overthrow Rome.
Why did the people reject Jesus?
As we read the Gospel we realize that the people loved Jesus. How could they not? He taught wonderful (and needless to say, “harmless”) things, such as, “Love your neighbor” and “Give without expecting anything in return,” and He healed many and cast demons out of others. They even hailed Him as the Messiah/Christ when He entered Jerusalem triumphantly (Mark 11).
Why, then, did they turn on Jesus?
The answer is fairly simple (not really but let’s pretend): Jesus wasn’t the kind of King they wanted and His kingdom wasn’t what they wanted.
This is evident in Jesus’ first public teaching (at least it was the first in Luke’s version). In Luke 4, Jesus goes into the synagogue in Nazareth and flat out affirms that He is the Messiah/Christ (Luke 4:16-30). Now, many of you have heard this story before.
The traditional explanation (shall I say, the “Sunday School” version) claims that it just so happened that the day’s reading was Isa 61:1-2 (not likely true), which was read aloud (note that only Isa 61:1-2a was read) and then proclaims that He is here to fulfill it.
Then, we are commonly told, Jesus goes on to tell a parable of sorts based on the stories of Elijah and Elisha. Then the people try to throw Him off the brow of the hill into the Kidron Valley below.
This version, however, fails to account for Luke 4:22, “All were speaking well of Him . . . and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” Such a response serves as a stark contrast to Luke 4:29, “They got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.”
Notice that the people of Nazareth’s first response was not to reject Him as the Messiah. They were simply surprised that one of their own (“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”: John 1:46) was the Messiah. It was a sort of, “Who would have believed that Joe’s kid is the Messiah? I went to school with Him!!”
The problem was what Jesus said next. Note, “all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things” (Luke 4:28; emphasis on “these things” is mine).
What things? Well, to keep it simple, the these things refer to Jesus’ explanation in Luke 4:24-27 that His kingdom was going to include the Gentiles (nations).
Why then was He killed?
It is my conviction that Jesus was rejected and killed not because they didn’t like His claims that He was the Messiah, but because they didn’t like the kind of Messiah He claimed to be.
What I mean by this is two-fold:
1) Jesus claimed that His kingdom would include the gentiles (the nations); and,
2) Jesus claimed that His kingdom would be established by loving one’s enemies and dying for them.
I’ll unpack these two statements in future posts.
At this point, let me note that the popular evangelical narrative mentioned above has more in common with Rome, the powers in Jerusalem, and the desires of many within the Jewish world, than with the message of Jesus.
This might be hard to swallow, so I’ll let you sit on this for a bit.
How does this affect our understanding of the war in Gaza: 2 thoughts
The narratives we often believe tend to reflect a good person v bad person approach. Of course, I (we) are the good people. And they, whoever the “they” are, are the bad people.
This means that when it comes to the war in Gaza, our first inclination is to determine who are the “good” and who are the “bad.” And you might think it is easy, Hamas is the bad and Israel is the good. I get it.
- I would like to suggest, however, that we (Christians) need to start by understanding that in any such conflict, there are people—moms and dads; sons and daughters; husbands and wives—who are dying. Israeli and Palestinian moms and dads and sons and daughters.
- Jesus’ ethic and the kingdom that He proclaimed was fundamentally opposed to MJGA. So when we approach the conflict in Gaza as though one side is right and the other is wrong, we are fundamentally at odds with Jesus.
NB: This issue runs so deep for so many that I can see some being offended by what I have just said. Some might be squeamishly saying, “The Israelis were innocent victims of a terrorist attack,” and others might be saying, “The number of Palestinian lives lost greatly exceeds the number of Israeli lives.” But I just want you to sit with this for a minute. People have died, many innocent people. And more people will die if we do not stop this.
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