Discipleship Redefined

From Justo Gonzalez’ commentary on Luke:

Throughout the Gospel, Jesus has been teaching a different way and a different measure of success: the last shall be first; the least are the greatest; the poor own the kingdom of God; the hungry will be fed; woe to the successful, to the rich and to the full.… Now he applies the same measure to his own ministry and messiahship, which he redefines in terms that are as contradictory of common wisdom as is the declaration that the poor are blessed. The Son of Man—himself—he declares, “must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” In other words, the road to true victory leads through the horrible defeat of the cross. The redefinition of messiahship immediately leads to a redefinition of discipleship. Those who follow Jesus are following one who marches inexorably toward the cross. The only way to follow him is to take the same path. The saying of Jesus about his disciples taking up the cross has been turned into a call for accepting whatever evil or sufferings befall. Thus a parent whose teenager child is going astray will be heard to say: “This is my cross.” And the same comment is made with reference to chronic diseases, grief, unrelenting enemies, and so on. There may be a place and times for resigned acceptance of unavoidable suffering, but this is not what Jesus is talking about. Although a cross certainly involved suffering, when Jesus spoke these words it was simply an instrument for applying the death penalty, very much like the electric chair, the firing squad, or the gibbet in later times. It was freely employed by Roman authorities to punish those who rebelled against them, and to deter others from following the same path. It was certainly a means of torture and death; but it was also a sign of resistance to established authority, and an instrument of shame, as one hung naked and pitiful for all to see.

© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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