Pentecost +13 - Year C
“I came to bring fire to the earth. . . .” brings a direct line to the current number 1 best seller in hardback non-fiction — Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan.
Here are two paragraphs from page 120:
The Kingdom of God is a call to revolution, plain and simple. And what revolution, especially one fought against an empire whose armies had ravaged the land set aside by God for his chosen people, could be free of violence and bloodshed? If the Kingdom of God is not an ethereal fantasy, how else could it be established upon a land occupied by a massive imperial presence except through the use of force? The prophets, bandits, zealots, and messiahs of Jesus’s time all knew this, which is why they did not hesitate to employ violence in trying to establish God’s rule on earth. The question is, did Jesus feel the same? Did he agree with his fellow messiahs Hezekiah the bandit chief, Judas the Galilean, Menahem, Simon son of Giora, Simon son of Kochba, and the rest, that violence was necessary to bring about the rule of God on earth? Did he follow the zealot doctrine that the land had to be forcibly cleansed of all foreign elements just as God had demanded in the scriptures?
There may be no more important question than this for those trying to pry the historical Jesus away from the Christian Christ. The common depiction of Jesus as an inveterate peacemaker who “loved his enemies” and “turned the other cheek” has been built mostly on his portrayal as an apolitical preacher with no interest in or, for that matter, knowledge of the politically turbulent world in which he lived. That picture of Jesus has already been shown to be a complete fabrication. The Jesus of history had a far more complex attitude toward violence. There is no evidence that Jesus himself openly advocated violent actions. But he was certainly no pacifist. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34 | Luke 12:51).
This passage certainly is a passionate, zealous one. How are you reading it today? How are you interpreting this passage and Jesus in light of it?
I recommend the book to you. There is not any new material here, but Aslan does put together a very readable and persuadable argument that is worth looking at in yet another day of zealotry, imperialism, and generalized terror in and by a security state.