Jesus - rebel, radical, or revolutionary?
Jesus – rebel, radical, or revolutionary?
The first three words of the Bible are well known, even to those who do not identify themselves as Christians. They are “In the beginning (Gen 1:1)”. This is a simple but deeply profound opening phrase which impacts many areas. It settles many scientific questions about origins. It addresses many areas of belief about God and everything. It shows us that God is self-existent, eternal, and the Creator of all else (Ex 3:14, Is 44:24, Jn 1:3 & 10, Col 1:16-17). It is not only the beginning of the physical creation of the earth and its atmosphere. We do not know exactly when the angels were created, but God is the Creator and Lord of the invisible world as well as the visible (Rom 1:20, Col 1:16).
The beginning Genesis 1:1 speaks of is also the foundation for the beginning of many things we read about later in the Bible, especially in the first 12 chapter of Genesis. The word genesis means beginning. In these chapters we read of the beginning of man, marriage and the family, deception and sin, death, languages and therefore nations, and the nation of Israel. A very significant beginning is the beginning of the value system of the world as directly opposed to that of God. God introduced choice to Adam in placing the two specific trees in the garden of Eden – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:9-17). From that point on man has had to make a choice between God’s values which come from His holy nature (2Pet 1:1-11), and making up his own set of values which have no real foundation at all other than sin. This is what the serpent presented Eve with (Gen 3:1-7). Adam and Eve chose to make their own value system without the governance of God. It was much more than just a dietary choice of different fruits. It was choosing obedience to the word of God or rebellion against Him. They chose sin. Thus began the conflict between these two value systems – God’s value system which is expressed in the holy scriptures, and man’s worldly system of self and rebellion against God. There is much foolish talk today about non-binary systems of gender identity, but the crux of the whole matter of life is very binary. We choose to believe God or man. We choose truth or lies, light or darkness, obedience to God or rebellion against Him, the Bible or man-made religion. This is a summary of the history of man from the beginning up to today and until the end of the world.
There are many characterizations of Jesus Christ. This is not new. There were false versions of the Messiah before Him (Dan 11:36-39, Acts 5:36-37), and the Lord predicted there would be many impostors to come after Him (Mt 24:4-5 & 23-27). There were and are (Gal 1:6-9). This will culminate in a man called the antichrist (Dan 9:26-27, Mt 24:15, 2Thes 2:1-12, Rev 13, Rev 19:19-20, etc.). John also wrote of this man and added that there were already many who represented him and his opposition to God, and the true doctrine of the identity of Christ (1Jn 2:18-23, 1Jn 4:3, 2Jn 7). There are many labels put on Jesus Christ. We should generally dismiss those placed on Him by those who do not even profess faith in Him. However, those who claim to represent Him and preach His word also put labels on Him. Some may be accurate, but many are not. Some people call Him a rebel, a radical, and a revolutionary. What do these words mean, and should they be used to describe Jesus? Although we should be aware of culture, it is not the basis of truth. The Bible is. Webster’s dictionary gives us a four-part definition of culture:
a: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group
also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life)
shared by people in a place or time popular culture Southern culture
b: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or
organization a corporate culture focused on the bottom line
c: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity,
or societal characteristic studying the effect of computers on print culture Changing the
culture of materialism will take time …—Peggy O'Mara
d: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the
capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations”
Culture has many weaknesses. It is usually based on man and not God. Man is inherently fallible (Jer 17:9-10). Culture changes over time and place. History shows us the disastrous failure of man in all times and places of building societies based on himself. Every major civilization rises and falls because its foundation is not the word of God. Every individual life does the same (Mt 7:24-27). The only sure foundation is Jesus Christ and His word. Cultures come and go, but the word of the Lord endures forever (Is 40:7-8, 1Pet 1:23-25).
What is a rebel, and was or is Jesus one? Webster says a rebel is:
a: to oppose or disobey one in authority or control
b: to renounce and resist by force the authority of one's government
a: to act in or show opposition or disobedience
rebelled against the conventions of polite society
b: to feel or exhibit anger or revulsion
rebelled at the injustice of life”
What is a radical? Webster says:
“a: very different from the usual or traditional : EXTREME
b: favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
c: associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change
d: advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs
the radical right”
What is a revolutionary? Webster says:
“a: of, relating to, or constituting a revolution
b: tending to or promoting revolution
c: constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change
a revolutionary new product”
In order to properly examine the question of whether or not these words apply to Jesus, we must remember the context of the two conflicting value systems which are also called worldviews. God instituted His value system first. He is the only Creator, Lord, Savior, and heavenly Father. As such, He has the right to make the rules, and His rules are not grievous (1Jn 5:1-3). They are for our benefit in this life and the next (1Tim 4:8). God has nothing to gain at all. He is God and cannot be anything else. He cannot increase or decrease. He is not benefitted when we do what is right in His sight. We are (Ps 50). His commandments are based on His holiness, His truth, and His love for us. We can either believe He intends our best interests or we can believe that we can do better ourselves without Him. So far man has a dismal track record of trying to be his own god, and it will not improve.
Was Jesus a rebel, radical, or revolutionary against the original, correct order? Was He even one against the system of commandments in the Old Testament which was upgraded by the new covenant He brought? Not one bit. He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:17-19)”. He told the ten lepers to “Go shew yourselves unto the priests (Lk 17:14)” according to the law of Moses (Lev 14:2). Everything He endured was to fulfill the prophecies about Him (Lk 24:25-27 & 44-46). Jesus IS the fulfillment of the Old Testament (Gal 3:24). When the Lord spoke against the religious leaders in His day, He was not preaching rebellion against authority nor against the law of Moses. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Mt 23:2-3)”. He preached against their hypocrisy, not God’s order. The Pharisees were out of God’s order, although they claimed to be its main proponents. Jesus was the Word made flesh (Jn 1:1-14). He was God’s order manifested perfectly for the first and only time in a man. He came to restore God’s original order and value system and help man receive an even better covenant than the law of Moses. That is the theme of the book of Hebrews. There was nothing wrong with the law. It was man’s failure to keep it that was the problem (Rom 7:14). Jesus came to empower us to do it through His Spirit (Rom 8:3-4, Heb 8:7-10).
Was Jesus a rebel, radical, or revolutionary against the value system of this world and the hypocritical religious system men had turned the law of Moses into? Yes, but only in the context of the conflict between those things and God’s system. What the world usually associates with the terms, rebel, radical, and revolutionary is not who Jesus is. What was called the counter-culture of the 1960s was not an attempt to establish the kingdom of God in the earth. It was just one system of rebellion against God fighting against another. Both sides were right about some things and wrong about others. They were both busy pointing out each other’s shortcomings which doesn’t accomplish anything worthwhile on its own. It was not much different than what was going on in the days Christ was here. There were some “anti-establishment rebels” fighting against the hypocritical establishment. However, rebellion for rebellion’s sake serves no purpose. Being an “anti” just for the sake of it leads to no meaningful improvement. Jesus Christ is the only way, truth, and life (Jn 14:6). If we want to effect any meaningful improvement, we can only do it through Him (Jn 15:5). When the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch (Mt 15:14). A kingdom divided against itself falls (Mt 12:25).
Christians need to be careful how they portray Jesus to the world. This is especially critical in a “post-Christian, post-Bible” society. When there is a void in knowledge of the Bible, lies come to fill the void. There is a saying in science that nature abhors a vacuum. This is also true in the spiritual realm. When there is a void in people that should be filled by God, evil and deception come to fill it (Mt 12:43-45). Only a Biblically accurate portrayal of who and how Jesus Christ is will do. Any other is nothing but a false Christ. We need to pursue a relationship with the real Jesus according to His own Word - the Bible. We can know Him for who He really is (Phil 3:10).