The Historical Jesus

I’m reading a book by Dominic Crossan titled The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. The first half of the book is spent trying to get at what life would have been like for a, well, a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. He spends time with source documents from the time before Jesus’ lifetime, during his lifetime, and after his lifetime, as well as with the canonical Gospels and other gospels and letters that did not make the cut into Scripture.

Parts of the introductory material were boring (to use a technical theological term!), but some parts were veryinteresting. I’m currently in the 12th chapter titled Kingdom and Wisdom. Crossan has been discussing the parables about the kingdom, and one thought in particular struck me.

He writes about the various levels of meaning in ascribing the kingdom of God to children, and he develops three thoughts in particular:

– A kingdom of children is a kingdom of the celibate (since children are seen as “asexual or presexual or nonsexual”)

– A kingdom of children is a kingdom of the humble (as opposed to the disciples who were arguing about who would be the most important in the coming kingdom)

– A kingdom of children is a kingdom of the baptized (emphasizing the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus where a newly born child is compared to a newly baptized Christian)

But the one that hit me the most was this one:

– A kingdom of children is a kingdom of nobodies.

He writes that infanticide was common in Greek and Roman and Egyptian cultures, especially for the less desirable female children. For most adults, being compared to children was like being compared to someone who did not matter, who could not make decisions, who could not help provide effectively for their family, who could not do very much.

In accord with the concept of honor and shame that permeated Mediterranean culture at the time of Jesus, calling his followers to be childlike was not first an invitation to humility, celibacy or baptism: it was an invitation – a demand – to overturn the approved mores of a society that put eminent value on adults and very little value on children. Jesus was asking his followers to give up their political, social, religious and monetary power in exchange for the powerlessness of children.

I believe that this call – this challenge – still applies to us today. We are called not to put our trust in our own power – we are called not to give ultimate power over to our society, our government, our parents, our spouse, our church, our friends, our job. We are called and challenged to live as nobodies in a world that often overlooks those who do not blow their own horn. And we are called to do this so that we can claim ownership in the kingdom of God that is at once permeating our world and yet to come.

Blessings & Peace,