Friday, March 1, 2013

The Jesus Scandals

Was the life of Jesus scandalous? According to David Instone-Brewer it was. In the context of modern scandals like we see on the news it wasn’t, but certainly it was in the minds of 1st century Jews and pagans who were not prepared for the claims of Christ. According to Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jews and a scandal to the Gentiles.

Instone-Brewer takes the reader back into the culture of first century Palestine and examines the life and ministry of Jesus in that context. His dubious birth claims, his questionable associations and his unorthodox teachings – all accepted by moderns who have had 2000 years to examine them – were quite scandalous to those early hearers.

The Jesus Scandals is divided into 3 sections, all dealing with how the message and ministry of Jesus was viewed as radical in the context of his life and culture. The first section is called “Scandals in His Life” and it covers such things as his questionable birth, his life as a single man when marriage and family were the norm, and his shameful execution as a common criminal.

Section Two is called “Scandals among Jesus’ Friends.” In this part, one reads of those people with whom Jesus’ associated. The Pharisees continually harangued about the cadre of people who were attracted to Jesus. That Jesus would associate with such people was a scandal in itself.

Section Three is “Scandals in Jesus’ Teaching.” These are perhaps the “scandal’s” with which most of us are more familiar. During his ministry, Jesus taught on a variety of topics, all which seemed to contradict the teaching of the Pharisees and confound and amaze his hearers. Some of these include divorce and remarriage, dishonesty, cursing, and “the unpardonable sin.”

The Jesus Scandals reminds us that his teachings are still scandalous and becoming more so as our culture embraces pluralism and postmodern ways of thinking. Jesus brought a radical message that when understood is still scandalous.

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