Humbly I propose an idea considered heretical in some circles: Jesus never intended to be a revolutionary.
If your first reaction is to dismiss this, please give it a chance. However, if you find yourself getting angry, you could wander over to Hot Topic and consider the various mounted revolutionaries hanging on their walls. Is the revolutionary Jesus you follow a social crusader who has become a marketable fad? Is Jesus your Homeboy? Some pop-culture icon to be worn all day? If so, you’ve missed the point of who He is and what He accomplished.
If revolutionaries are trendy by trying to be “edgy,” Jesus was not a revolutionary.
Jesus was not-counter culture. He, being Truth, was the standard for culture. Jesus, part of the eternal Godhead, predated first-century Palestine. How could He be “counter” to anything? Everything existing in His day was a perverted, corrupted form of what God intended: absolute goodness. The moment sin emerged and forged its way into God’s universe, culture has been steadily de-evolving from the axiom of God’s declaration: “It is good.”
Our goodness is not His goodness. Rather than becoming the poster child for counter-cultural movements, Jesus did something quite unexciting: He restored normalcy with the Father, offering communion and restoration between displaced and kidnapped offspring and their heartbroken, relentless Father.
If revolutionaries are different for the sake of being different, Jesus was not a revolutionary.
Jesus’ central goal wasn’t political. I understand this is a loaded topic. For those who shackle Jesus to their ideologies, this thought is terrifying. Jesus declared His kingdom was not of this world. If it were, His followers would have fought.
Jesus’ primary concern wasn’t popularity. Sometimes He fled the spotlight and retreated to secluded ministry. Often, He brazenly confronted injustice and its perpetrators. But Jesus was neither a compassionate conservative nor a bleeding-heart liberal. He wasn’t a pacifist; He was a peacemaker, teaching it isn’t enough to want to live peacefully, but that people need to actively pursue peace. Mandating the love of our enemies was not political jargon. He spoke about an infusion of hope and impartation of justice into a society that was breeding futility and corruption. Claims that any political ideology summarily contains the endorsement of Jesus are outlandish at best and manipulative at worst.
The treatment of the poor raises issues amongst those who make Jesus a civil rights leader. He didn’t come solely to elevate the platform of the poor, confirming this by telling His disciples that money spent on Him by an adoring woman was more worthwhile than giving it to the poor. He was to be worshipped as the Savior, not as a social reformer. This statement influences a great deal of why I think Jesus never intended to be a revolutionary.
There will always be poor and Jesus was not an idealist: While living in reality, He presented an escape from it. He understood the conditions this side of eternity would never be utopian; we must improve the quality of this life for others, but know that an eternal focus supersedes our own agenda.
I admit this is easy for me to say. I’ve never suffered or seen my family go hungry. But no matter how much I want Jesus’ mission to be social, I can’t fully subscribe to this theory. Am I chaining Jesus’ relegation to this planet to my hopes or am I chaining my hopes to the understanding that Earth is not our last stop? I can’t get away from the thought that relieving temporal suffering is as important as offering eternal life.
While spawning the ultimate revolution, Jesus understood His purpose was grander than anything we might attempt to label. He came not to start a revolution, but to transcend every action committed since: He brought salvation. His resurrection changed EVERYTHING, becoming the launch-pad for hope and unfathomable wonder.
I’m not implying Jesus never caused revolution. I’m proposing it was never His ultimate goal. From Matthew to John, He helped people understand that life was incomplete without relationship with the Father. He elevated the role of women and proposed radical ethical and moral changes. He preached love for the unlovable, showing that motives of the heart are more important than actions. He demonstrated injustice must not be tolerated and there are ways to change things without violence … it’s called accountability for our actions. But, that’s not the reason He came. He came so we might live one day with the Father and until then, we would know how to live with each other.
Was Jesus a revolutionary? It depends on your definition. I have not defined it, because it means many things to many people. Instead of defining it, I’ll ask us not to limit Jesus to the word. He’s more than a hip way to sell T-shirts.