Friday, August 29, 2008

Objecting to Jesus?

Why on earth would the Jewish leaders object to Jesus exorcising a blind/mute (Matt 12:22)? Was this not an act of compassion? Would this not improve the Jewish community? Would this not lead to the praise of God? Actually, it led to the following question: "Could this be the Son of David?" with all its Messianic overtones. The leaders objected, not to an act of kindness, but to the fact that Jesus overstepped his bounds. Only certain "approved" exorcists were allowed to tinker with the social order, declare people healed, and reestablish community relationships. Simply put, Jesus assumed authority and thereby threatened their leadership.

This is clearly seen in Jesus' claim to have bound Satan as a prelude to inaugurating the kingdom of God. One might see this as merely a spiritual battle between good and evil inanimate forces. Such an anachronistic interpretation misses the point. Jews of the second temple period understood human governments to be the product of supernatural power carried out through human envoys. Hence the king of Israel was supposed to be Yahweh's representative and Rome, obviously, was of the Devil. Hence, when Jesus clearly demonstrates his authority over demonic forces, it sets the stage for a political confrontation with the powers under Satan's spell. No wonder they were quick to label Jesus as an envoy of Satan. If they lose that battle, the accusation will come back on them.

So what's the point? Our activities of compassion--those that welcome to the table ones oppressed by the Devil--are not harmless to the social order. We threaten to reorganize society by the power of God vested in us. So now, let's tinker away.


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