Last week in the White House the most powerful political leader the world has ever known set out his mission on financial reform.
Here is one extract that states the problem he would tackle: “We simply cannot accept a system in which hedge funds or private equity firms inside banks can place huge, risky bets that are subsidized by taxpayers and that could pose a conflict of interest. And we cannot accept a system in which shareholders make money on these operations if the bank wins but taxpayers foot the bill if the bank loses.”
Jesus of Nazareth in AD 30, at the very beginning of his public life, also set out his mission – and the problem.
The place: not the White House but at a small synagogue (a Jewish teaching place like that at Red Houses, St Brelade) in a small town called Nazareth in a small country that is present day Israel. Present: not the great and the good but townsfolk. Refreshments: none. Strategy: not a call to rally support for himself (and votes) but a go-it-alone statement, even a statement (take a close look at the words in bold above) that he would be doing Almighty God’s purpose.
Barack Obama’s words in connection with banks had immediate effect. Public esteem for the US President ratcheted up. But US$ 15,000,000,000 was knocked off the value of bank shares almost instantly.
Similarly, at Nazareth AD 30, there were ups and downs. The “up” arose when his hearers realised that Jesus’ mission statement, written 740 years earlier and preserved in their National Archives, heralded their Messiah.
Luke, his biographer, records that, on hearing Jesus say, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”, ‘all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.’
But, as with the US President last week, the down was to follow. “Is not this,” they questioned (wink, wink), “Joseph’s son?” (Mary, Joseph’s wife was found to be with child before they were married.) They decided that they would need a lot of proof, a lot of Know Your Customer checking, a lot of miracles, before they - in this his home town - could accept this man.
What is a world leader to do in these circumstances? Some really great things are needed to rally even the doubters. Do them well before the next election. Barack Obama will release the legislative details very soon.
But Jesus? In AD 30? He reminded the synagogue people of two incidents in those same Israeli National Archives, one from 870 BC; the other from 850 BC. In the first incident there were many widows in Israel at a time of severe, continuous drought and famine but none were fed by Elijah whom God sent to Israel – instead a widow in another country (Sidon, today the third largest city in Lebanon) was fed.
In the second, there were many lepers in Israel at the time but none were cleansed by Elisha whom God sent to Israel – instead a foreign army commander from Syria (same as present Syria) was cured.
It seems that this world leader intended to lead by being rejected (so as to complete his mission of true blessing to others) and not be being powerful.
There in Nazareth that Saturday in AD 30 he was forcibly taken to the top of the nearby cliff so they could destroy him. But no. Not then. Later.....
Later, so that, when finally destroyed by the sin and evil of others, he would be able, through that cross, to forgive the perpetrators and bring good news to the poor; liberty to the captives and sight to the blind.
Do you see?