Citizens of a New Kind of Country
A reflection on the life and politics of Jesus by Lyndon Perry
I’d like to tell you about a man who was born in Palestine a number of years ago. He was seen by more than a few as a revolutionary figure. A Yassar Arafat, if you will; a polarizing figure who spoke of a new government for Israel. This really disturbed the higher-ups, of course, but excited many of the common people who had been living like refugees in their own country – occupied territory! – for many years.
It’s strange, the story of this man. Predictions about him becoming a kind of prime minister, king even, of Israel began when he was born. His mother Mary, for instance, believed God was going to throw princes from their thrones so that her son could reign. His uncle, Zechariah, called him a political savior - like King David of old. When he was born he was even named Yeshua, or Joshua, which means “God will save.” (Of course, we know him by way of his Greek name, Iesous, or Jesus.) It was prophecy fulfilled: this Yeshua was destined to save his people from their oppressors. At least, that is what so many people believed.
You see, foreign armies had occupied the Eastern Mediterranean Seaboard for nearly 400 years. The enemy’s presence was a constant reminder of their once free nation. And the people were bitter, some were divided. All anticipated a day when things would be better.
Yeshua grew up with much the same anticipation, but he was not bitter or alone. There was his cousin, John. They were likely good friends. They must have played together, talked with one another, dreamed of the future – a future where God would rule through one person chosen especially for the task. A messiah. They yearned for this future and had a feeling that they were going to be a part of it somehow.
As John and Yeshua grew they saw the political climate of Israel change. Revolutionary groups sprung up, died away, and sprung up again. Would-be saviors were killed and their cause humiliated. Yet one loosely organized underground resistance force gained strength and numbers. They were known as the Zealots. Their purpose was to overthrow their oppressors and reestablish a government by the people, for the people - the chosen people!
Neither John nor Yeshua joined the Zealots but each knew the day was coming when they would have to act, when God would call upon them to fulfill their destinies as agents in the new government. So they continued to talk and dream and prepare. For they would have to be ready; one day they would have to act.
One day John did.