3. Exploration into Alternative Religio-cultural Assertion 

The militarized Roman colonial power of Jesus’ time, in collaboration with the domesticated Palestinian religio-cultural elite, trampled upon all indigenous economic resources and communitarian ethos of the common people in the name of promoting Pax Romana. Both the alien and native ruling class were highly insensitive to the cultural sensibilities and popular religiosities prevalent among the marginalized (ptōchoi and ochlos). On the other hand, the radicals, advocating vehement protest against the colonizers, took to armed confrontation against Roman forces resulting in recurring blood-shed of the masses with the repression of the military intervention of the rulers.

Against this wounded historical scenario, Jesus, the committed rebel, proclaimed the reality of the outburst of the compassionate justice of the divine order, called the ‘kingdom of God’.[3] It was said to be dwelling in the hearts of the ordinary folk as a grace-filled reality of the given past (‘Time is fulfilled…kingdom of God has come near’- Mk 1:15) embedded in the present context (‘is among you’- Lk 17:21) with gradual blossoming forth in future (‘your kingdom come’- Mt 6:10). This sense of hope and happiness, though snatched away from the least by the evil powers, should be recuperated. Such was the fundamental orientation of the reign of the living God as envisaged by Jesus with the following movement on the historical plane here and now:

Movement From

From the brokenness of the Body, Mind, Spirit, Life and Cosmos crushed unto Death

Movement Toward

Towards becoming activated
by the life-giving spirit of the Living God 

Whenever this concrete life-affirming movement took place, Jesus celebrated it exuberantly. It is with this life-generating spirit and life-promoting determination that God is living and reigning was his irrefutable conviction.

Jesus never converted the reality of the ‘reign of God’ into an intricate ideology to be debated, an elaborate constitution to be discussed, or a meta-narrative to be recounted. He did not give his life for an ideology, constitution, or meta-narrative. Rather he garnered all his energies to enable the marginalized people to claim their rightful place in the world at once wounded and wounding. In all his matter-of-fact interventions, labelled as mighty deeds, grand signs, or he minutely identified that the ‘reign of God’ gradually sprouting and blossoming forth. He expected that these gradual and continual movements of promoting the culture of life has to be experienced as the unconditional love of God both at individual and collective levels. The positive strokes like ‘stretch out your hand’ (Mk 3:5), ‘your faith has made you well’ (Lk 17:19), or ‘get up and walk’ (Jn 5:8) were the hall marks for enlivening those who were groomed in the culture of self-hatred. The people like the Samaritans, women, and differently abled, chronically sick or dying destitutes counted as irretrievably polluted untouchables were affirmed with motherly care and fatherly compassion as a full-fledged member of Jesus’ community.

Jesus did not project the ‘reign of God’ sprouting and yielding as the performance of a super star. Each of his socio-political and religio-cultural intervention in the broken world of his times eventually was made to be communitarian task, be it healing or exorcism, washing of the feet, egalitarian sharing of breaking, or good-news-ing the nations. The political alliance required for his praxis, Jesus seemed to have carefully and perceptively chosen with appropriate discernment. He did not join hands with any of the following groups as his partners for his collective socio-political and religio-cultural interventions:

1. Dominating Powers -> The imperial Roman colonizers, Herod the fox
2. Opportunist Powers -> The self-righteous and profit-oriented persons 
3. Weaponry Powers -> The underground groups advocating attacks with arms
4. World-negating Powers -> The sects obsessed with individualist holiness

Alliance with any of the above groups would not render justice to the unorganized ordinary folk (ptōchoi/ ochlos)[4] who experienced irreparable damage by various dominant groups. Physical torture, guilt feelings, violent blood-shed, and obligatory pollution were the respective painful effects from these powers imposed upon the common people. The common folk that Jesus had alliance with in the public space had no centralized powers, self-righteousness, lethal weapons, or self-pontificating holiness. His active alliance with the broken people empowered them with the dynamic process of gradual politicization awakening them with the spirit of self-confidence and self-empowerment from with.

In contrast to any restricted fellowship with exclusive attitude and colonial dismissal of egalitarianism, the Eucharistic culture set afloat by Jesus had the orientation of voluntary offer of one’s life own life for upholding the spirit of koinoniafor ensuring the union of minds and hearts. Accordingly the love of the neighbour as the uncompromising expression of the love of God demands every human person of good will to become a Good Samaritan to one another. And every person is challenged to become the Son of Man, not to be served but to serve others with the spirit of becoming the ransom for many. This is how the humans could become the human family of co-heirs of one God who is the only Father/ Mother of all brothers and sisters.

The Samaritan women and men, relegated as untouchable creatures are looked upon by the Eucharistic ethos as respectable dialogical partners (Jn 4:1-42). The utmost humanitarian sensitivity of the “untouchable” Samaritan to reach out to the faceless and nameless victim on the roadside is emphasized in contrast to the self-designated “purity” of the priest and the Levite (Lk 10:25-37). Jesus’ sensitivity has the courage to publicly acknowledge the Samaritan’s spiritual dignity in gratefully acknowledging the gift of healing received from the divine (Lk 17:11-19).

When Jesus’ disciples wish to call “fire from heaven” over the Samaritans for not readily welcoming the people of Jewish origins into their villages, they are educated with a rebuke in line with the Eucharistic culture of inclusion (Lk 9:51-55). Similarly, Jesus accepts the great faith of the gentile Canaanite woman and grants her petition (Mt 15:21-28; Mk 7:24-30). In the first Eucharist Jesus willingly offers himself to cleanse the dirty feet of the friends-to-be-sent-as-servants (Jn 13:1-11), emphasising that the “servants are not greater than the master” (Jn 15:20).

The universal salvation for all could be realized only through the salvation of the little flock and the little ones. The culture of power accumulation by Pharaohs, Monarchs, Pilates, and Herods has been dismissed and every powerless empty stomach is to be been filled with abundant gifts of divine providence. The self-emptying cross becomes the spring board for the celebration of the empty tomb. This indeed is the power of the powerlessness.

[3] V. R. Krishna Iyer, ‘Remembering a Glorious Rebel’. The Hindu- Daily Newspaper, Chennai Edition, December 24 (2008).

[4] A. Byung-Mu, Jesus and the Minjung in the Gospel of Mark, in Rasiah S. Sugirtharajah, Voices from the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World, Maryknoll: Orbis, 2016, 145-161.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply