Monday, March 25, 2013

Measure Given, Measure Received (part 2)

The fact that there are both Jews and Gentiles in Jesus’ audience, based on geographic references, is an important point and must be taken into consideration as His words are examined.  Not only are there Gentiles present, but sight of the fact that Jesus is speaking (and his hearers are hearing, and Luke is writing) in Roman-controlled territory must never be lost.  It is Rome that is in power here.  Israel is subject to Rome.  The neighbors of Israel and any roaming Gentiles in Jesus’ audience are subject to Rome.  Luke himself is subject to Rome.  The individual to whom Luke purportedly writes (Theophilus) is quite possibly a high-ranking Roman government official, himself subject to Rome/Caesar. 

If Theophilus is part of a community of Jesus followers (those that confess that it is Jesus that is the true Savior of mankind, rather than the Caesar), then that community is also subject to Rome.  This is an altogether important consideration.  Those that read the Gospels must attempt to situate themselves alongside those that are in this situation of subjection, while also hearing Jesus according to the narrative that Luke has constructed for the hearing of these words, and the story of Israel (the covenant people).   

Consequently, for quite some time and up to that day, there was a strong under-current of revolutionary fervor against the Roman oppressors.  Naturally, this would have been widespread, but owing to Israel’s self-understanding that they were the unique covenant people of the Creator God, and their expectation that their God was going to act on their behalf, Israel’s fervor for revolution of some kind seems to have been almost always near the boiling point.  The Creator God’s people (Israel/Judah) wanted to escape from Rome’s oppression, and Rome was their enemy.  Holding that fact in mind as an attempt to examine the text is undertaken, allows more and more adding of a tremendously important historical realism to the situation, and makes the reader open and aware of the strong probability that there are most likely Roman soldiers present and within ear-shot of Jesus. 

Why would such be the case?  Well, it’s not difficult to image this being the case, as to this point in the narrative as presented by Luke, Jesus has invoked near-riots in Nazareth, has attracted crowds in Capernaum, has begun calling together a close-knit and hand-picked group of chosen followers, has managed to convince a tax collector to leave his work and follow Him, and He was regularly drawing attention from the religious leaders.  All of these things, taken together, could very well be viewed by the Romans as the beginnings of yet another messianic/revolutionary movement that was designed to come against their rule by force of arms.   

Thusly, it is quite reasonable to presume that the Roman authorities, working in conjunction with their client authority figures in Israel who would be dramatically, and from their viewpoint, negatively affected by any type of revolution, would have heard reports about this Jesus fellow.  It is reasonable to suggest that they would have had their collective eye on Him at some level.  By this time in their imperial expansion, the Romans would have had plenty of experience in identifying and dealing with those that opposed them, especially in Palestine, and would certainly be keeping a watchful eye on situations that might quickly escalate (again, in concert with those that they placed in power).  Large gatherings of a diverse group of people around a charismatic and dynamic individual could certainly be one of those situations.  So as not to give Rome a reason to move against Him, one can imagine that Jesus takes all of this into consideration and is going to be measuring His words quite carefully.     

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