JESUS, THE JEWISH HERO?
While I have the privilege to write for this bulletin, I intend to give a series of short proofs concerning the deity and the person of Jesus. Was he really God in the flesh? Can we trust that Jesus actually set foot on Jerusalem soil? Let’s examine the arguments together.
Did the gospel writers invent Jesus as the embodiment of Jewish national ideals? Was Jesus the ideal Jew, a hero of Hebrew legend? Even at first blush, the answer appears to be ‘no’.
The Gospel writers act and sound as Hebrew as can be. They were Jews by heritage and men of their day. As untrained writers, their imaginations were bound to their literary and philosophical culture as every man is bound to his DNA. Could they have completely cast off their cultural chains to invent Jesus, the obvious opposite of the ideal Jewish deliverer, the Master of virtues which have spanned many ages and cultures?
Though a Jew by blood, Christ was no Jew in thought or teaching. Jews often saw other cultures as inferior to their own. By contrast, Jesus was “as broad as humanity” (Atticus Haygood, Man of Galilee). Others valued status, but Jesus gave welcome to the lowest of the region. To be elite in Jerusalem was to appear most pious toward God; Jesus was found frequently at the table with sinners. The religious majority believed unshakably that law-keeping was the way to salvation; Jesus preached a love that was principally meant to redeem the broken and unholy.
Early Jewish culture was unified by one indisputable characteristic: a hatred for the oppressive Roman government. Surely a figure brought forth from Hebrew imagination to be the defender of Israel would have released his zealous patriotism into overwhelming and justified hatred for Rome. The Messiah's first order of business would have to be the subversion, weakening, and eventual overthrow of The Eternal City (a name given to Rome by 1st century poet Tibullus). Not so with Christ. Though he loved his people and was touched with great pain over their torturous oppression, his message demanded that his followers love their enemies. Though he claimed all authority in Heaven and on earth, he required his disciples to submit to local and national authority. To Jews who waited eagerly for the restoration a sovereign nation, Jesus gave the charge to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God through the amplifier of patient and joyful suffering.
Was the Jesus of the Gospels invented to be the crown of national Hebrew imagination? Reader, judge for yourself. "Perceiving then that [the Jews] were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself (Jn. 6.15).”