August 1, 2012

The Least of These III: Advocate For The Poor: Jesus

Jesus: Advocate of the Poor and Initiator of the Kingdom

This then leads to the postulate that Jesus’ presence literally reverses the effects of the Fall. Through Jesus the current social disorder is turned on its head and therefore morphs into social order in a manner similar to what could’ve been expected had the fall of humanity never occurred. In the eschatological long-view, this is also the way it will be in the end when the Kingdom arrives in full or end times eschatology is fully realized. So as Jesus Christ does, so too should his believers do likewise. Not because the believer will be the one to commence or to usher in the Kingdom but rather through the believer(s), changes initiated by Jesus Christ on the Cross can begin to take affect through the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer (Kuzmic 18). This teaching of the equalizing of the social order is even found in Jesus’ verbal teachings which we will learn of later.

To understand the profound love of God and His willingness to reach the lost we must comprehend and appreciate is the ministry of Jesus early on and where Jesus comes from in terms of the onset of His ministry. He came from Galilee which is pretty much a backwater of little significance even in Israel let alone the Roman Empire (Batey 4). He is the son of a carpenter (Joseph) who is of the lower social class in terms of economic status. It is stated by Jesus himself concerning his social status and lack of earthly prosperity that…

Luke 9:58 ~ “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Jesus’ ministry is primarily to the downtrodden and the forgotten of society (Batey 2). Jesus literally lives out the ministry that He teaches. As Paul later says, He became the weak for the weak to save as many as possible.

1 Corinthians 9:22 ~ “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

We can see from his ministry that he has a heart of God because He is God. Even a precursory glance at the Gospels or a perusal of the New Testament show Jesus and his ministry were largely directed to the social and economic periphery: the sick, the crippled, the poor, the prostitutes and those that were ostracized in society like tax collectors. He primarily (but not exclusively) reached these people by becoming like these people. He was God but He humbled Himself taking on the form (μορφὴν) of not only a man but He took in (“ἐν”, Greek) the heart or likeness of a servant (Philippians 2:7-8) (Nestle et al 518-519)

Misplace Loyalties and Greed

Other things we should note in Jesus’ ministry is a call for deeds reflecting genuine justice and mercy (heart change) such as the ones in Matthew 23:23:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

We see something similar in Luke 11:42-43

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.”

It is in these types of passages that we see Jesus being exceptionally hard on those that were religious but had a callousness of heart towards the poor and did things without love (Batey 17). He literally condemned piety that was without concern. A religiosity without mercy or grace was antithetical to what Jesus was teaching and living out in His ministry. This attitude was clearly not in the Spirit of Christ nor Kingdom mentality.

James 2:13 ~ “…because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment."

Jesus was making it clear that to be in the Kingdom with Him was to not only have faith in the sovereignty of a compassionate God but to also be a reflection his sovereignty as compassionate vessels of His will within the very unjust social order they were to stand in contrast to. It is the axiomatic “faith without works is dead” from James 2 (Batey 18). The idea of believers as a vessel of God’s will is of course is mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…”

On the other hand, cold-hearted procuring of possessions and wealth while others suffer and misery abounded was evil (not to mention a lack of spiritual fruit) because is disregarded kind-heartedness and benevolence which should’ve been and obvious by-product of a Christian. Jesus taught just the opposite in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus specifically told people to seek the Kingdom of God first and everything else you needed would be given to you for doing so (Matthew 6:33). So by callously accumulating wealth not only would people be driven by evil in their greed, they would be unfaithful in their practices too, by failing to trust God to do what He promised to a believer for the obedience of seeking the Kingdom (Batey 17). We need only look at Judas Iscariot to see the antithesis of Kingdom or Christian values in terms of misdirected intentions. He sold the Son of God into the hands of the authorities for 30 pieces of silver.

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