The Powers and the Story of Jesus’s Death
- “The story tells us that the logic of retribution was an instrument of the fallen Powers, not God–and that Jesus’s followers should see in the story a direct refutation of that logic.” (AK location 2600)
- “We have not resolved the issue of salvation until we face the fact that people resist God’s love.”
- Jesus faced resistance from three types of sources:
- 1. Cultural exclusivism: the interpretation of the Torah by the Pharisees
- 2. Religions institutionalism: temple practicies
- 3. Political authoritarianism: the government of the Roman Empire
- “The law, temple, and empire may be understood in terms of the Powers analysis developed by Walter Wink.” (AK location 2611)
- “Wink presents the Powers in terms of the basic social structures of human life.”
- “The Powers rely on belief. As long as we believe in their ultimacy, trusting in them for security and meaning, the Powers rule. Jesus challenges human beings to change our allegiance.” (AK location 2632)
- “That Jesus died as he did shows that the logic of retribution reflects a rejection of God’s will, not its fullfillment.” (AK location 2643)
- “The Gospels understand Jesus’s death as the key event in the story they tell. My question is this: why is Jesus’s death so important to this story?”
- Jesus’s death links with salvation in that:
- 1. it exposes the fallacy of the logic of retribution
- 2. it exposes the direct link between this “murderous” logic and the institutions that exploit it
- 3. it exposes that the spiral of violence set loose by this logic may be broken only by non-retaliation and mercy in the way Jesus embodied them
- 4. it sets the stage for God’s act that vindicates Jesus through his resurrection
Setting the Stage: Birth Narratives
- Matthew and Luke’s birth narratives foreshadow coming conflicts, particularly King Herod’s response to the knowledge of Jesus’s birth.
- Temptations of Jesus as recorded in Luke. Luke points to coming conflicts when he concludes after the temptations: “When the devil had finished every test, he departed until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)
- Luke then goes on to the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry in his home and after an initially positive response Jesus pushes the issue with two examples of how God’s blessing came to Gentiles in the time of the past prophets Elijah and Elisha, in part due to the hard hearts of the Hebrews. The synagogue is filled with rage and seek to kill Jesus.
- In this section Grimsrud focuses on Jesus’s interactions with the Pharisees, with the conflict between the two increasing.
- “Jesus makes clear an inevitable, unavoidable link between following his way and conflict with the Powers that were so hostile to him. The inevitability of conflict reflects the nature of the Powers. They will not relinquish their domination without a fight.” (AK location 2796)
- “When they [the Pharisees] criticize him for welcoming so-called ‘sinners’ and those labeled ‘unclean,’ they reveal that their own priorities lay contrary to the actual priorities of God.” (AK location 2826)
- Luke 11:45-52. “Jesus links himself with the prophets of old who were killed by the lawyers’ ancestors in Israel. Understandably, given the vehemence of Jesus’s critique, Luke reports that the lawyers and Pharisees ‘begin to be very hostile toward him…'” Luke 11:53-54 (AK location 2849)
- “The die is cast. Jesus faces deadly foes”
- “The system is corrupt; the hold of the Powers must be broken. And conflict will grow, because the Powers will not surrender.” (AK location 2863)
Jesus’s Final Days
- Begins with Jesus’s entry in to Jerusalem in a kingly manner, although rather than with a show of power, he road on the back of a donkey.
- Jesus’s opponents change from the Pharisees to the chief priests and Sadducees, the temple authorities.
- Jesus then moves on to the temple. Jesus charges that the temple has become a den of robbers. “Unlike with the Law, Jesus seems to see the temple as a dead end, not a structure that can be restored to an original, life-enhancing purpose.” (AK location 2926)
- “So when he curses the fig tree, drives out the merchants, tells the parable of the vineyard, and predicts the actual physical destruction of the temple, Jesus sets himself firmly against the religious structures that dominate his culture. Jesus exposes the collaboration of religious institutionalism with political authoritarianism–and thereby makes clear that both stand in opposition to Israel’s true God.” (AK location 2955)
- “Pilate mostly, though, treats Jesus as a tool to manipulate the Jewish leaders and to transfer the crowd’s support for Jesus into support for Rome. Pilate’s intention is not placate ‘the Jews’ but to humiliate them.” (AK location 3027)
- Grimsrud then details how Pilate manipulates the Jewish authorities to get what he wants, a public confession from the chief priests of the emperor’s sovereignty. “The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king by the emperor'” John 19:15
- “Jesus was one of those thousands of Jews executed publicly on crosses, because what they represented had to be suppressed in order to safeguard law and order in the Roman state.” (AK location 3055) (McClaren, Pax Romana)
- “How is the story of Jesus’s death related to the Bible’s portrayal of salvation?” I believe that at the heart of the saving relevance of the story we find an exposure of the Powers of cultural exclusivism, religious institutionalism, and political authoritarianism as responsible for Jesus’s death. They too easily become idols that claim trust that is due God alone. As such, they become the very forces from which God’s saving work means to liberate human beings.”
- “The resurrection adds a profound message of vindication to the entire story.”
- “From start to finish, Jesus’s message totally reinforced the original story. His resurrection vindicates this message. (AK location 3083)
- “Jesus died to illumine the ages-old truth–God’s mercy seeks healing for all who trust in it. This mercy perseveres even in the face of the powerful violence of its enemies.” (AK location 3095)