Ty Soupidis’ blog ‘Jesus, Masterchef & the Power Apron’ raised the issue of what Jesus would do if he wore Matserchef’s Power Apron. The heart of the issue was the way that Jesus understood power. This reminds of some lectures I have heard from Eugene Peterson in which he compares the way Jesus lived with other leaders of his time. What is most interesting is how Jesus’ way is radically different from each of these.
Herod is a key political figure who directly influenced Jesus’ life. During his reign, he was interested in gaining and keeping power. Herod achieved this, particularly in his last years, through the use of violence. He was known for being oppressive when confronted by any kind of opposition. He ordered massacres, executions and treachery. He had family members murdered, a fact so widely known that Caesar thought that it was better to be Herod’s pig than his son. He had a fortress built for his burial and to ensure there was mourning throughout Israel, ordered for Jewish elders to be executed.
Caiaphas was the high priest during the time of Jesus. The Jewish priesthood had been sufficiently corrupted by this point and was a religion for the elite, it was in a sense a commodity to be traded to exploit and oppress. Caiaphas was well-off and based on archaeology he had a lavish lifestyle. For him it was important that he entered into a plot to kills Jesus. Priests served the purpose of helping people meet with God. The problem for Caiaphas was that he was more interested in himself than others. In contrast Jesus’ way wasn’t a path of privilege but of self-sacrifice.
Josephus was a Jewish historian who was born shortly after Jesus died. Although he was a leading thinker in Judaism, he turn-coated to Rome in order to save himself. From that point on he no longer represented the Jewish people but the interests of Rome. As far as Josephus was concerned, he did whatever it took to keep himself alive. Again what a comparison to the self-sacrifice of Jesus.
The Pharisees were a good group of people in some senses. They were interested in trying to restore Israel’s relationship with God. The problem was in doing this they became oppressively legalistic. They were interested in Laws and definitions. In doing this they lost what it meant to be in a living relationship with God. They didn’t get Jesus because they only knew how to use technical language. This was radically different to the story-telling language of Jesus which invited people to join him.
The Essenes were a radical religious group in Israel who fled to find an ascetic spirituality in the wilderness in response to the debasement of the priesthood. They became a community of strict rules with no place for sin and in doing so were a spiritual elite. They were determined to prepare the way for the Messiah to come. They foresaw a cosmic battle between good and evil in which good would triumph and usher in the Messiah. They looked to discover where and when this would happen. In doing so they didn’t engage with society or history but were observers of it. Jesus didn’t do this. Jesus stepped down from heaven and entered into the messiness of the daily life from which the Essenes fled.
The Zealots were passionate people. They were determined to gain Jewish independence by using armed force. The world of Jesus’ day was violent and the zealots added to this violence. This was not like Jesus and his followers. They were united with a fiery passion but they didn’t rebel. They didn’t use violence (when Peter cut someone’s ear Jesus put it back on) but were marked by their love and commitment.
The life that Jesus chose is diametrically opposed to other’s around him. Herod, Caiaphas and Josephus were each more influential in their lifetimes than Jesus but Jesus didn’t follow the way they chose. Each of these men were interested in what benefited themselves, but Jesus was not. Instead his life was marked by self-sacrifice and serving others. The Pharisees and the Essenes were an attractive way of practising religion but Jesus didn’t follow them. While the Pharisees were elitist, Jesus embraced all people. While the Essenes rejected the Temple and the world, Jesus showed God’s love for others in these environments. The Zealots did whatever it took to achieve a revolution, Jesus didn’t. When they used violence, he used love and mercy. The way Jesus chose to live was one of self-sacrifice. It was one of putting others first and serving them. It was one marked by love.
Jesus called people to follow him – he still does. It meant walking in his steps, living the way he lived. The question for everyone, both Christian and non-Christian, who’s way do you follow?