Monday, September 16, 2013

Calling Down Fire (part 5 of 6)

So, given the prevailing sense of the “Roman peace” (pax Romana) when Jesus’ disciples arrive in a village and in a house and say “May peace be on this house,” one can almost imagine them being met with some trepidation.  Again, this is not un-familiar.  It is not difficult to envision the people, as they receive this greeting, thinking “Great, more peace,” as they entertain what they know and perhaps have experienced to be Caesar’s notion of peace. 

Then, when those same disciples go out into the public square and begin speaking of the kingdom of the Creator God that has come upon them (heaven has invaded earth and the Creator God is ruling the world through the true Son of God, Jesus the Christ of Nazareth), that message of peace, coupled with kingdom, could very well continue to invoke thoughts of Rome’s crushing domination and their means of establishing peace and extending their kingdom.  This, of course, is where attentiveness to the sick comes in as being dramatically important to the kingdom message, as it was and would never cease to be a distinctive badge worn by the disciples of the Christ. 

Naturally, the distinction is drawn because the usual, traveling preacher would pay little if any attention to the sick, as there would be almost nothing to be gained from them financially.  Similarly, the Caesar or his representative also cared little to nothing for the sick, as those that were sick to the point of being an unproductive subject of the empire, could very well be looked upon as nothing more than a burden that members of the local populace were all to happy to shift to Rome. 

Still, even with the healing of the sick (conscientiously serving them and attending to their basic needs so that they might recover their health and so be healed, and this alongside recoveries that could be described as nothing short of miraculous) accompanying the message of the rule of the Christ on earth, this preaching of the kingdom of God that had come, as indicated and proved out by the Resurrection, could create a natural skepticism and induce a “here we go again” attitude amongst the populace, as they would be fully cognizant of the Caesar’s methods that would be meted out to those that rejected the message. 

In this light, what is it that Jesus tell His disciples?  He says, “whenever you enter a town and the people do not welcome you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you’.” (10:11a)  This was a different approach.  This was certainly not a calling down of fire.  Far from it.  When heard within the appropriate context, it hardly even sounds like the invoking of a curse.  Where Caesar would have whetted his sword with blood (which would then need to be wiped off) and left men, women, and children lying in the dusty streets for their rebellion in rejecting him, Jesus suggests a different though significant, symbolic action.  

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