The topic for my Advent study this morning was "Jesus as revolutionary." As one expect, I found conflicting commentaries on this topic. It seemed to me that many writers were imposing what they wished to see in the teachings of Jesus, interpreting Jesus' teachings to fit their views, finding in them what they wanted to find. Some saw Jesus as little more than a reformer of Judaism in Roman-occupied Palestine, while others saw Jesus as a rebel who sought the radical restructuring of society. Like some commentators that I read, I believe the truth lies somewhere in between.
Certainly, Jesus sought to free Judaism from the legalism that obscured the true purpose of the law. He included at least one zealot in his inner circle of disciples. He treated women, members of reviled ethnic and social groups, and the outcasts of society in ways that scandalized the orthodox religious leaders. He refused to conform to the expectations of those who were seeking a politico-religious champion, making it clear that his kingdom was something completely different.
It was through the power of love, a love that is concerned with right intentions from which flow right actions, that Jesus sought to change the world. This was a different sort of revolution. It was a revolution that believed the world could only be transformed one heart at a time, that peace was more powerful than war, that forgiveness was more powerful than retribution, that service was the path to greatness.
Was Jesus' revolution successful? It continues today and, for those of us who seek to follow Jesus, it is succeeding insofar as we allow our hearts to be transformed by the work of God in them.