The Politics of Jesus - Review
The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder is an interesting read that challenges the traditional Christian views on power, social responsibility, and violence.
Howard’s Thesis Question for the work is best put on page 22
“I propose to read the gospel narrative with the constantly present question, is there a social ethic?” I shall in other words be testing the hypothesis that runs counter to the prevalent assumptions: the hypothesis that the ministry and the claims of Jesus are best understood as presenting to men not the avoidance of political opinions, but one particular social-political-ethical option.
Oftentimes, I find myself reading the Bible with some of those assumptions. What if some of Jesus’s teachings aren’t just spiritual but also point us to practical behaviors that are drastically different then today’s?
While reading Yoder’s work, I found the first four chapters to be a watershed of pacifistic interpretation of the gospel narrative. My favorite example Yoder gives is the idea that the temptations of Jesus in the desert correspond the attributes of kingship. (pgs 32-35), temptations are in Luke 4:1-13
- Temptation of Bread -> A king feeds his people / CEO provides paychecks
- Temptation of Kingdoms -> Kings gain political power and nationalism / CEO help expand market share and promote the brand
- Temptation of jumping off the temple and being caught by angels -> Kings claim divine heritage to improve their power / CEO’s speak at conferences, sit on boards, claim educationally elite lineage to expand their personal projection
(I added the CEO stuff, Yoder doesn’t make any CEO claims. I was just thinking of this in the modern day without ‘kings’ in the west - who are the primary authorities in the world? CEO’s and Government officials).
The third point is super interesting because Yoder points out that jumping off the highest point of the temple would have Jesus literally floating above the temple. It would have been Jesus’s messianic moment. His ‘first coming’. He would have fulfilled Malachi 3:4 by coming “suddenly to his temple to purify the sons of Levi”. Instead, Jesus rejects every opportunity to show divinity: (Nazareth, cross, Pharisees, Romans)
Instead, Jesus uses miracles to aid the troubled.
Yoder says it best on page 134:
“Servanthood replaces dominion, forgiveness absorbs hostility.”
In conclusion, the above contains only several brief examples of Yoder’s views. THe book abounds with insight on the mission of Jesus and Yoder adds fascinating takes on the Garden of Gethsemane prayer and the Coin Question. If you or anyone you know is at all interested in both faith and politics, I think The Politics of Jesus belongs on any Christians bookshelf whether you agree with Yoder or not.
Thank you for giving us the Scripture to aid in the leading of our lives. Guide us through the trap of believing that Your Word is merely spiritual and allow us to take appropriate action when necessary.