Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jesus as Our Liberator from the Crowd

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38, New Revised Standard Version).

Olympian leaders use us like sheep. They keep us sheepish, regularly shear us, and finally eat us (consuming our remaining vitality).

Jesus is different. He has compassion for us. He identifies with us, wades into our midst, suffers with us, even suffers in our place and on our behalf.

Jesus doesn’t address us as a crowd. He never crowds us together into stadiums for an evangelical crusade. He doesn't lump us together or strip our identities of everything but their lowest common denominator.

Present in our midst, Jesus individuates us. He breaks the spell cast over us by the Olympian gods through the crowd. He encourages the Christian personality of each of us. He strengthens our ability to live as the unique, precious, and irreplaceable witnesses Abba created us to be.

Unlike our more familiar Olympian leaders, he doesn’t organize us or exploit us. He doesn’t whip us into an emotional frenzy and then lead us charging toward some near or distant goal. To him, we are not means to some other end.

To our Christian personalities, being with him is our goal as well. He came to be graciously present with us. He enables us to respond with gratitude to him. Thanks!

According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus came to Jerusalem only once and this visit had disastrous consequences for him. Before that, if we wanted to be with Jesus, we had to inconvenience ourselves a bit. We had to join him by a lake, on a hill, in the countryside, or in some unimportant rural village. We had to pack up our inner demons and quiet desperation and carry them to him. If we did, he freed us from them by taking them upon himself. He disenchanted us.

When we returned to our cities, when we reimmersed ourselves in the crowd, we did so with personalities liberated—at least momentarily—from the gods and their charms and spells. We did so without the illusions we once shared with everyone around us. The meaning of everything had changed.

(Today we continued our reflections on Jacques Ellul's The Meaning of the City [Eerdmans, pp. 129-135]. Today's biblical quote was from the New Revised Standard Version.)

Copyright © 2014 by Steven Farsaci.
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