In a far corner of the Roman Empire, a native Jewish teacher led a grassroots spiritual revival among the working class people across the Galilee and Judea with sermons advocating personal devotion to God that manifests in obedience to God’s command to love our fellow-man and even our enemy. This Jewish teacher was a carpenter by trade, and a prophet as evidenced by great miracles, who treated others with compassion; even the Samaritans (the outsiders), and the Romans (the oppressor). As this teacher began amassing followers, some declared him to be the Messiah of Israel: the one who would liberate the nation from the oppression of Rome. But this teacher defied the desires of his followers, encouraging them to pay their taxes to Caesar while giving God honor through their personal devotion. When pressed to lead a revolt against Rome, he hid himself, staying out of the political spotlight, content to lead the people in a grassroots spiritual revival. His purpose wasn’t political, it was spiritual: it couldn’t be accomplished through political policy, only through the conviction of individual hearts.
What was his Purpose? Fostering restored relationship between the people and the Creator of the Universe. Ever since the last prophet in Israel completed his work, the nation was waiting for the day when the Messiah would be revealed: the one who would lead the people back to God, who would teach the people the ways of God, who would possess the power of God to perform miracles. And on the day when this teacher fed over 5000 people with bread through a miracle performed in the name of God, the people knew they had found their Messiah. But, the crowning of their Messiah as King would not come to pass as the teacher would not permit it. This Jewish teacher who came as a Prophet like Moses would not bring liberation from Rome, but redemption from sin. Israel was a nation called into relationship with God, but relationship with God came at a price: holiness. Holiness isn’t cheap: God gave Israel a law that no man could live up to, and a system of atoning sacrifices for Israel’s inevitable transgressing of the law. These sacrifices required the death of a substitute as death is sin’s natural consequence, but these sacrifices pointed to the promise of a coming new covenant: a different covenant than the Mosaic covenant, a covenant where the law is written on the hearts of men rather than on tablets of stone. This Jewish teacher preached the present Kingdom of God; a Kingdom under this new covenant. When those who ate the miraculous bread asked the teacher to give them more, the teacher told them that He was the bread of life: that they must eat his body and drink his blood in order to have life. Many, who believed in him, left him and didn’t follow him any longer. They didn’t understand that the teacher knew it was his death that would bring in this new covenant; that it was his death that would make the final atonement for sin; that it was his death that would bring Holiness to all who would believe and accept his teachings.
The teacher was part of God’s plan to change the world. God’s plan wasn’t political: it was individual, personal, and spiritual. A groundswell movement of Jews who went to their bloody graves believing with full confidence that their teacher was the Messiah, and that God had raised him from the dead three days after he had been crucified. A movement that spread across the entire Roman Empire and beyond, not through political coercion, but through the individual testimonies of believers whose lives expressed a personal devotion to God that manifested obedience to God’s command to love their fellow-man and even their enemy. This Jewish teacher changed the world but it wasn’t through coercion or political prowess: it was through the lives of regular people living with personal devotion to God who rejected evil in the midst of a corrupt world, did good whenever they had the opportunity, and demonstrated love for their neighbors: both good and evil.
This movement has lasted nearly 2000 years: it is global; crossing all geographical, linguistic, ethnic, and socio-economic boundaries. Persecution has only fueled it. When nations have adopted it, politicized it, and coerced their citizens to accept it, the true movement has gone underground: surviving and thriving in the shadows until persecution brings open revival. Nothing has stopped it, and nothing can stop it. Why? Because nothing can thwart God’s plan to redeem the world; to restore all things: Tikkun Olam.
Do you know this Jewish teacher?