There are many reasons why Jesus was and is still considered a revolutionary. Many claim that Jesus had a political agenda. He claimed to be God incarnate who came to redeem his people and set up his Kingdom on Earth. This in itself was enough to bring about contention with religious authorities of the day. Much of what Jesus practiced during his earthly ministry went against the religious practices that had been strictly enforced for generations. He proclaimed salvation by grace instead of the works based plan enforced by the Pharisees (Ephesians 2: 4-5). He was criticized for performing miracles on the Sabbath, and for offering salvation even to the Gentiles. He kept company with sinners and taught forgiveness instead of revenge. He consistently rendered the religious leaders humiliated and speechless when they chastised him. Yet, he loved and gave his life for them no less than any other sinner.
In the modern day protestant church, we learn that it is by grace we are saved and not of ourselves. It is not because of any works we have done. Instead, it is a gift from God therefore; we cannot boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). This teaching has been passed down through generations. It is radical and changed the course of history. Men can not work their way to God. It is impossible because there is no one righteous (Romans 3:10-24). Jesus changed the world because he taught mankind that the only way to God is through the Messiah (John 14:6). This teaching frustrated the religious leaders in the New Testament era. It contradicted everything the Pharisees believed about God and Heaven because they taught that man should live by Old Testament Law (with a few minor adjustments of their own). Christ’s message caught the attention of the rebellious. This message gave and continues to give hope to the hopeless. It drew the Gentiles to Christ. They realized that he alone was the Savior. For those who still had doubt, Jesus performed miracles that appeared to be unorthodox.
One such miracle took place on the Sabbath. There was a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees asked if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. (They did this in a spirit of accusation.)
Jesus answered, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” With the Pharisees anger burning against him, Jesus then instructed the man to hold out his hand and it was completely healed (Matthew 12:9-13). Jesus reached out to the meek and humble in spirit.
It was from this pool of unlikely candidates that Jesus chose his followers. Society’s rejects were those that he reached out to and spent his time with. It was their lowly state that made the message of Christ so appealing. His life was extraordinary and unexpected. The Messiah, the King, and the Redeemer expected by the Jews was not a lowly carpenter. Jesus introduced a new way of thinking and understanding that would continue to bring about change long after his death and resurrection.
The teachings of the Christ continue today. So do the practices of pious, legalistic religious leaders. We are a people with a Savior whom we still reject, mock, and crucify on a daily basis. Faithful Christians are still mocked and persecuted for following the teachings of the Greatest Revolutionary of all time. More often then not, it is the educated legalistic religious leaders who instigate persecution of the saints.
The heathens of Christ’s time on earth did not have access to the Holy Spirit like we do today. The Spirit came in Christ’s place to dwell in every believer. Yet, even today we have the same problems with religious leaders and politics in the church. Even with the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, we mock the lowly, avoid the needy, and seek the things of earth (health, wealth, and prosperity). We seek to please our flesh and rely on ourselves instead of God. We can not plead ignorance as an excuse. We have the living, breathing Word of God available to us every moment of every day. A very disturbing question is raised when I think of Christ returning again. Will we recognize him or will we reject him yet again?
If Jesus returned today, he probably would not respond to our society much different than he did the first time. However, the next time he comes he will come as Judge, not Redeemer (Revelation 20:11-15). The religious community has adapted the ways of the world to a point that it can be very difficult to tell the saints from the sinners. But, this will not be a problem for the Son of God who knows our hearts. Religious leaders are still rejecting the needy and neglecting the poor. We are still the same people only more depraved than ever. We have not learned form the mistakes of the Patriarchs. We have so much more available to us for understanding and knowing God. We have access to the same power that raised Christ from the dead. We have witnessed the miracles and can experience the Holy Spirit living in us, yet we remain self-centered instead of self-sacrificing as God is. The religious of today often behave no better than the self-righteous, pious leaders in biblical times. Jesus would contend with them the same way he did the Pharisees in his day. However, he would also display deep love and mercy to the poor in spirit.
Even in modern day society, it is those who are lowly and meek in spirit that follow hard after Christ. It is the true followers who are persecuted by the self-righteous. The Messianic teachings still prevail as truth and are still revolutionizing the world in more ways than can be accounted for. Just as the wickedness and depravity of our generation might cause Jesus to react in anger, so the repentant heart of one sinner continues to cause such great celebration.
The Kingdom of God exists in his people. It was God’s plan to send Christ to unite mankind as one with him through the Spirit. Those who do not know Jesus can not comprehend this. The Jews believed the Messiah had come to conquer their enemies and set up a kingdom from an earthly perspective. The Kingdom he came to set up is not one that man can understand apart from the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God already exists in the hearts of every believer where God himself reigns. God’s Kingdom is the governing of the Holy Spirit uniting mankind as one body. Sadly, just as it happened in biblical times, today there are many who do not understand nor believe this concept. It is up to the Christian community to be Christ to the lost and hurting.