Saturday, June 16, 2007

Jesus, Kings, and Service

Jesus told James and John that in order to be great leaders in the kingdom they would have to become servants. This advice was counter intuitive in the entire Mediterranean world. In fact, even the Bible has some pretty strong things to say about servants who become leaders. For example, Proverbs 30:21-22, "Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: A servant who becomes king..." Or Ecclesiastes 10:16, "Woe to you, O land whose king was a servant ..." Hence, there is almost no precedent for Jesus' advice to the ambitious brothers. However, there is an interesting statment in the Old Testament. After Solomon died, his idiot son Rehoboam took over. Jeroboam appears to have been leading a rebel faction which demanded some tax relief from Solomon's grandiose self-promoting empire building. Rehoboam asked his father's advisers what to do, and here was their response: 1 Kings 12:7, "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants." Rehoboam spurned this advice and instead followed his peers' counsel to prove himself tough. As a result, the Twelve Tribes of Israel were torn in two by a nasty civil war from which it never recovered. Had Jesus considered himself God's envoy to establish the Kingdom of God, had he considered himself Yahweh's vassal ruler, and had he ever read this passage (all three are most probable), then his advice to James and John comes with a striking precedent. Jesus established Twelve Apostles as leaders of the Twelve tribes. Thus, at some level, he envisioned a restored Israel. It thus makes sense that his political praxis would follow the spurned advice at the pivotal national crisis that destroyed its original unity. It appears that Jesus' advice is not, after all, merely about spiritual humility but was an actual vision for national Israel.

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Blogger Thom Stark said...

Nice post, Mark. I've plugged it here.

June 16, 2007 at 7:00 PM  

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