by Dr. Levi Oracion
[These Bible Studies were presented at the 13th URM
Committee Meeting which was held in Korea from 19-24 April 1982]
I. EXODUS 3:1-19
"One day as Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law
Jethro, the priest of Midian, out at the edge of the desert near Horeb, the mountain of
God, suddenly the Angel of Jehovah appeared to him as a flame of fire in a bush. When
Moses saw that the bush was on fire and that it didnt burn up, he went over to
investigate. Then God called out to him, Moses! Moses!" "Who is it?"
Moses asked. "Dont come any closer," God told him. "Take off your
shoes, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your fathers - the God of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Moses covered his face with his hands, for he was afraid
to look at God.)
"Then the Lord told him, "I have seen the deep sorrows of my
people in Egypt, and have heard their pleas for freedom from their harsh task-masters. I
have come to deliver them from the Egyptians and to take them out of Egypt into a good
land, a large land, a land flowing with milk and honey the land where
the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites live. Yes, the wail
of the people of Israel has risen to me in heaven, and I have seen the heavy tasks the
Egyptians have oppressed them with. Now I am going to send you to Pharaoh, to demand that
he let you lead my people out to Egypt.
"But Im not the person for a job like that!" Moses
exclaimed. Then God told him, "I will certainly be with you, and this is the proof
that I am the one who is sending you: When you have led the people out of Egypt, you shall
worship God here upon this mountain!"
"But," Moses asked, "If I go to the people of Israel and
tell them that their fathers God has sent me, they will ask, Which God are you
talking about?" What shall I tell them?" "The Sovereign God," was the
reply. "Just say, I Am has sent me! Yes, tell them, Jehovah, the God of
your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you. (This is my eternal name, to
be used through-out all generations.)
"Call together all the elders of Israel," God instructed him,
"and tell them about Jehovah appearing to you here in this burning bush and that he
said to you, I have visited my people, and have seen what is happening to them there
in Egypt. I promise to rescue them from the drudgery and humiliation they are undergoing,
and to take them to the land now occupied by the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites,
Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, a land "flowing with milk and honey."
The elders of the people of Israel will accept your message. They must go with you
to the king of Egypt and tell him, Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us
and instructed us to go three days journey into the desert to sacrifice to him. Give
us your permission.
"But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go except
under heavy pressure."
This is a passage familiar to all of us, it is about the call of Moses.
I would like to inject a little note of conservatism into URM by discussing the call. We
demand that theological students who come to us should have experienced a call. Nowadays,
people do not speak much of the call. They would rather speak of the decisions they would
like to make for themselves in their own lives. Moses, in this particular instance, was
enjoying a life of relative ease, security, and comfort.
You would recall the earlier passages that describe how Moses got into
trouble by killing an Egyptian. Someone had seen him and this report had reached Pharoah
who started to look for Moses and kill him. Moses fled to the Land of Midian. There he
assisted some women by drawing water at the well and was later requested for by the father
of these girls. Eventually he married one of them and begets a son. So now, he is a family
man, settled very nicely and comfortably in Midian. He must have enjoyed that particular
phase of his life very much. It was out of this situation that God called him.
One of the things that we see is that God calls us when we are usually
in a situation of ease, comfort and security. Everything is very nice, then suddenly the
call comes. It is not easy to answer the call because of the baggage that we have with us.
Moses had with him a growing baggage - the sheep that he was caring for, the wife, the
child, plus all the other things that are probably not described here anymore. So, it was
not easy for him to answer that call. In any case, it came when he was having things
growing for him in a very nice way.
We do not bother with Gods call very much any more. We are very
scientific, rational people. We would rather determine things through feasibility studies;
through our ability to deal with facts; even the future is a matter of scientific
management for us. There is a new science called the science of futurology. It is
mans management of the future.
I think theologically, we can distinguish two ways of understanding the
future. One is the future which we bring about by our own planning and decisions. But I
think the Bible speaks of another kind of future a future which God Himself brings
to come to past. I think they are two different things. One is the future of man, the
other one is the future of God. It is to Gods future that we are called. Perhaps we
may ask the questions: Who is the caller? What is the call?
In the case of Moses, it is very clear because it is written down very
plainly here in Exodus. But what is it for us. Again, I guess it would profit us a bit if
we take a look at what has happened here.
The caller is of course, God. He is holy and His call is a holy one. It
is described here that the ground on which He stands is holy - there was a bush which was
burning and it was not being consumed. These are strange things which do not fit into the
scheme of things that we understand.
Again, this is an attack on our devotion to factuality, our commitment
to scientific technology. It doesnt mean that we should throw these things out of
the window, but what it says is that Gods reality is much larger than our own
rationality. The holy that comes to us is not given to us for our own scientific
management. We have to be open and listen to the call.
The call is a holy one because the caller is holy. Here, there is a
little bit that is very much familiar to us. The call is a call to serve people who are
afflicted. The Lord says, "I have heard the cry because of the taskmasters. I know
their sufferings." It is interesting to note that the story of exodus is a historical
one. I suppose the stories before this may not be so historical and may be suffused in
mythology, even perhaps in theological speculation. When God bursts into human history, he
comes forth as a liberator. This is how God appears in this particular passage. This is
how God appears, in fact, in the whole Bible. He is so different from the God that we know
in philosophy books. In other traditions, He is a God who is a subject of much
speculation. He is served by meditative acts and theologians and philosophers seek to
determine his being by making an analysis of things around Him.
But not so the God of Isaac, or Jacob, or Abraham. He comes as the
liberator of the oppressed. This is the kind of call which Moses heard, and the call has
not changed since then. It is still the same. We know for a fact that at this time in
Egypt, there were many racial and ethnic minority groups which Egyptian rulers had
gathered into Egypt in order to work on her great monumental projects. The pyramids, the
sphinxes; these great projects which are still around that were built by the Egyptians
were built because of forced labour that Egypt had collected around her.
This was not only the tribe of Israel, there were many other peoples in
Egypt at that time. There were the minorities the oppressed people of the land.
They were valuable only because of the work they can do. They were nonpersons. They
had no rights, they had no dignity, they were not free. They were just as good as slaves.
And it is to these people whom God has come and promised a deliverer Moses. I do
not see any difference between the call of Moses and the call that God gives to us now.
Because it is very much the same. We have mighty nations of the earth which have gathered
in her midst, minorities who are being oppressed. Even their very own people are pushed to
the peripheries of her political and economic life. They are made to work, and to live
miserable lives. The cry that they give is Gods call. It is futile and senseless to
think of Gods call as coming out of some strange mystified experience like a bolt
out of the blue. But it is very definite, very concrete, and a very historical call, which
we hear from the lives of our own people.
II. LEVITICUS Chapter 25
While Moses was on Mount Sinai, the Lord gave him these instructions
for the people of Israel:
"When you come into the land lam going to give you, you must let
the land rest before the Lord every seventh year. For six years you may saw your field and
prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, but during the seventh year the land is to
lie fallow before the Lord, uncultivated. Dont sow your crops and dont prune
your vineyards during that entire year. Don t even reap for yourself the volunteer
crops that come up, and dont gather the grapes for yourself; for it is a year of
rest for the land. Any crops that do grow that year shall be free to all - for you, your
servants, your slaves, and any foreigners living among you. Cattle and wild animals alike
shall be allowed to graze there.
"Every fiftieth year, on the Day of Atonement, let the trumpets
blow loud and long throughout the land. For the fiftieth year shall be holy, a time to
proclaim liberty throughout the land to all enslaved debtors, and a time for the canceling
of all public and private debts. It shall be a year when all the family estates sold to
others shall be returned to the original owners or their heirs.
"What a hapy year it will be! In it you shall not sow, nor gather
crops nor grapes; for it is a holy Year of Jubilee for you. That year your food shall be
the volunteer crops that grow wild in the fields. Yes, during the Year of Jubilee everyone
shall return home to his original family possession; if he has sold it, it shall be his
again! Because of this, if the land is sold or bought during the preceding forth-nine
years, a fair price shall be arrived at by counting the number of years until the Jubilee.
If the Jubilee is many years away, the price will be high; if few years, the price will be
low; for what you are really doing is selling the number of crops the new owner will get
from the land before it is returned to you.
"You must fear your God and not overcharge! For I am Jehovah. Obey
my laws if you want to live safely in the land. When you obey, the land will yield bumper
crops and you can eat your fill in safety. But you will ask, What shall we eat the
seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year? The
answer is, I will bless you with bumper crops the sixth year that will last you
until the crops of the eighth year are harvested! And remember, the land is mine, so
you may not sell it permanently. You are merely my tenants and sharecroppers!
"In every contract of sale there must be a stipulation that the
land can be redeemed at any time by the seller. If anyone becomes poor and sells some of
his land, then his nearest relatives may redeem it. If there is no one else to redeem it,
and he himself gets together enough money, then he may always buy it back at a price
proportionate to the number of harvests until the Jubilee, and the owner must accept the
money and return the land to him. But if the original owner is not able to redeem it, then
it shall belong to the new owner until the Year of Jubilee; but at the Jubilee year it
must be returned again.
"If a man sells a house in the city, he has up to one year to
redeem it, with full right of redemption during that time. But if it is not redeemed
within the year, then it will belong permanently to the new owner - it does not return to
the original owner in the Year of Jubilee. But village houses are like farmland,
redeemable at any time, and are always returned to the original owner in the Year of
"There is one exception: The homes of the Levites, even though in
walled cities, may be redeemed at any time, and must be returned to the original owners in
the Year of Jubilee; for the Levites will not be given farmland like the other tribes, but
will receive only houses in their cities, and the surrounding fields. The Levites are not
permitted to sell the fields of common land surrounding their cities, for these are their
permanent possession, and they must belong to no one else.
"If your brother becomes poor, you are responsible to help him;
invite him to live with you as a guest in your home. Fear your God and let your brother
live with you; and dont charge him interest on the money you lend him. Remember
no interest; and give him what he needs, at your cost: dont try to make a
profit! For I, the Lord your God, brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the
land of Canaan, and to be your God.
"If a fellow Israelite becomes poor and sells himself to you, you
must not treat him as an ordinary slave, but rather as a hired servant or as a guest; and
he shall serve you only until the Year of Jubilee. At that time he can leave with his
children, and return to his own family and possessions. For I brought you from the land of
Egypt, and you are my servants; so you may not be sold as ordinary slaves, or treated
harshly; fear your God.
"However, you may purchase slaves from the, foreign nations living
around you, and you may purchase the children of the foreigners living among you, even
though they have been born in your land. They will be permanent slaves for you to pass on
to your children after you; but your brothers, the people of Israel, shall not be treated
"If a foreigner living among you becomes rich, and an Israelite
becomes poor and sells himself to the foreigner or to the foreigners family, he may
be redeemed by one of his brothers, his uncle, nephew, or anyone else who is a near
relative. He may also redeem himself if he can find the money. The price of his freedom
shall be in proportion to the number of years left before the Year of Jubilee
whatever it would cost to hire a servant for that number of years until the Jubilee, he
shall pay almost the amount he received when he sold himself; if the years have passed and
only a few remain until the Jubilee, then he will repay only a small part of the amount he
received when he sold himself. If he sells himself to a foreigner, the foreigner must
treat him as a hired servant rather than as a slave or as property. If he has not been
redeemed by the time the Year of Jubilee arrives, then he and his children shall be freed
at that time. For the people of Israel are my servants; I brought them from the land of
Egypt; I am the Lord your God."
YESTERDAY we took a look at the call of Moses and saw that the God
who called him is the God who liberates. God is He who comes to free His people. Here, God
is not only the liberating God, He is also the God of order and justice. He does not
simply set His people free, in order to do what they like upon the land. He imposes an
order whereby Gods justice acts as a restraining force upon Gods people so
that they will not become tyrants. It is fascinating to see how the Hebrite faith had such
a comprehensive scope, so much so, that it embraces everything in the lives of Gods
people. Here, we have the land being discussed. There is a basic relationship between land
and faith. Land, of course, is part of creation, and faith arises from the covenant.
Between these two realities creation and covenant oscillates the life of the
A noted theologian said creation is the external basis of the covenant,
whereas covenant is the internal basis of creation. You cannot have a tighter relationship
between reality and faith such as what you find in the faith of the Hebrews. The land is
to be understood entirely from the perspective of faith, and faith becomes somewhat
useless, some kind of a mockery, if man does not have his land.
Here, even the land is given a year of rest, a sabbath. It did not
arise from any understanding of the organic or physical ability of land to yield produce,
but this arises out of a perception of faith that everything must be given rest. To rest
is to re-create. To rest allows both land and people to gather themselves together and
celebrate the goodness of God. The identity of a people is closely tied up with the land.
There is no more miserable community than a landless community. There is no covenant by
which it will be implemented if you have no land. It is very important that one should
have a specific, geographical space that one should call ones own. That particular
space which allows one to give expression to ones relationship with God. Without
that, man becomes almost nothing.
A deeper look into the passage would indicate that the Hebrew faith has
a very profound understanding of man, in relation to property, the whole question of
economics. It allows for the industry, the vision, the enterprising character of some
people, so that it is possible for them to increase the land that they own. On the other
hand, it also allows for people who are slothful and idle. They may lose their patrimony.
You do not have a very rigid, social and political economy. There is much room for
freedom. One can go up, one can go down, but there are limits set by the covenant. Man is
not allowed to go on a rampage of greed so that he would own everything in perpetuity.
Neither is a man allowed to simply lose his patrimony altogether. The
covenant also restrains that, because of the Year of Jubilee. In the 50th year, the
trumpet is blown and everyone returns to his land. His property and inheritance goes back
to him, and justice is once more restored. We have been seeking for some form of economy
by which we can ensure both justice and freedom in our societies. I think here is an
instance of that. Its physical arrangement may no longer be applicable to modern life
because our existence today has become very complex indeed. There are basic principles in
the passage from which we may learn.
There is a careful and dynamic interwining of justice and freedom in
society. I think if we try to look deeply into his formula, arising as it does from a very
profound understanding of man, we may be able to arrive at a more just solution to our
economic and political problems.
Another thing is that there is no institution of absolute property. The
land is mine, said the lord, and it cannot be sold in perpetuity. One of the evils of
liberal democracy is the institution of property, especially of absolute ownership, and
that with this concept, one can sell ones property, one can give it away, one can
let it stand idle, or one can destroy it. These are all possible under the concept of
absolute ownership of property.
Here, there is no such idea because it is the power of God that
prevails. He is the owner the land we occupy is His. The Israelites are reminded
that they are strangers and sojourners with God. That too, is an interesting idea because
it breaks with the concept of being tied to the land. In a sense, man is identified with
his land, in another sense, he is sojourner one who goes from one place to another,
so that man breaks away from a point in geography in order to realize his authentic being
with God. In this sense, one can see the futural character of the Hebraic faith. God is
always in the future which is ahead so that it does not allow us to stand at one
particular place and become stagnant. We have to move. I believe that this passage has
some very important things to say to us. Perhaps I have not said them all. There may be
other things here I am sure there are many other things which I have not seen. But
I think the close intertwining of faith, economics and politics can be seen so that faith
is not simply mans affair with God. It is his affair with the totality of existence
and of reality. We see also the sanctity of land in relation to people who have been
assigned to till it. There is the notion that no one should be alienated from his land.
There is the understanding that man can only fulfill his religious vocatiop (or humanity)
in relation to a particular geographical space. Then, there is the notion of justice that
man should always return to his property, that he should never be entirely alienated from
it. Then there is the understanding that in the end, God is all and in Him, man finds his
future and his total property.
III. ISAIAH Chapter 53
"But, oh, how few belive it! Who will listen? To whom will God
reveal his saving power? In Gods eyes he was like a tender green shoot, sprouting
from a root in dry and sterile ground. But in our eyes there was no attractiveness at all,
nothing to make us want him. We despised him and rejected him - a man of sorrows,
acquainted with bitterest grief We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when
he went by. He was despised and we didn t care.
"Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was
wounded and bruised for our sins. He was chastised that we might have peace; he was lashed
- and we were healed! We are the ones who strayed away like sheep! We, who left Gods
paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us!
"He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he never said a word.
He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so
he stood silent before the ones condemning him. From prison and trial they led him away to
his death. But who among the people of that day realized it was their sins that he was
dying for that he was suffering their punishment? He was buried like a criminal in
a rich man s grave; but he had done no wrong, and had never spoken an evil word.
"Yet it was the Lords good plan to bruise him and fill him
with grief. But when his soul has been made an offering for sin, then he shall have a
multitude of children, many heirs. He shall live again and Gods program shall
prosper in his hands.
"And when he sees all that is accomplished by the anguish of his
soul, he shall be satisfied; and because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant
before God, for he shall bear all their sins. Therefore I will give him the honors of one
who is mighty and great, because he has poured out his soul unto death. He was counted as
a sinner, and he bore the sins of many, and he pled with God for sinners."
"The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new contract
with the people of Israel and Judah. It wont be like the one I made with their
fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt a
contract they broke, forcing me to reject them, says the Lord. But this is the new
contract I will make with them: I will inscribe my laws upon their hearts, so that they
shall want to honor me; then they shall truly be my people and I will be their God. At
that time it will no longer be necessary to admonish one another to know the Lord. For
everyone, both great and small, shall really know me then, says the Lord, and I will
forgive and forget their sins."
It is the fashion among conservative theologians and most of our church
people, to interpret the passage in Isaiah as a literal prediction ie that Isaiah was
gifted with a special vision in the future to see exactly the details of the coming
savior. There seems to be much to be said for that kind of interpretation because there is
an uncanny similarity between this passage and the life and ministry of our lord, Jesus
Christ. There is almost a one-to-one correspondence between this passage and the gospel
accounts. To say, so; to simply believe that this is the case, would take away from Isaiah
his profound theological struggles with his own historical situation. Besides, as we have
seen, revelations in the Bible does not normally occur that way. Revelation is always a
revelation in history. It does not simply come as a sudden, instant enlightenment. I would
like to think that the prophet, in looking at his own people and trying to understand the
covenant that God had made with them, has zeroed in on the remnants which had remained
faithful to God and yet were the ones who bore much of the oppression, exploitation and
wickedness of the powers that be. By looking at the remnants, I am supposing he had
perceived both the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of those who ruled over them. In seeing
that, he begun to perceive the remnants as having some predemptive qualities. It is out of
this that he personalised and individualised his reflections upon the remnants into the
Suffering Servant, and thus we have now the passage in Isaiah.
This is not a very original interpretation. I am sure there were others
who had interpreted thus. I am sure Isaiah had asked the question: Why does God not
liberate His people now? Why is He taking so long? Isaiah must have reflected upon the
liberation that God was to bring to His people. Must we think of liberation as taking the
form of releasing people from bondage, such as economic or political liberation, or
liberation holding to the categories or terms of the potentates of the earth, or is there
a deeper kind of liberation which is now happening among Gods people? I am sure that
the prophet in his struggle with the problem had seen that there was a deeper, spiritual
kind of freedom that God gives to His people, which would be the basis of a more
comprehensive, total freedom. So, the Suffering Servant is an expression of this kind of
liberation. It may have everything the world abhors and would never wish to be. But it is
free from all forms of bondage that bind the world. To see the cleansing, the explosive
power of its tragic condition is to experience the freedom that it knows. I would like to
reiterate that by looking at the Suffering Servant, we are exposed into things that we so
seriously lack. The bankruptcy of our spiritual and moral life, especially for those who
are responsible for the suffering of the Servant. We receive this kind of judgement. But
to those who are attracted to the seeming beauty of the Suffering Servant are given the
power to make conquest of the suffering, which is the beginning of the authentic
liberation. The fact that Gods people are directed to liberate the worthless
elements of our society says something very profound to us. We should not think of
liberation primarily in terms of the wisdom of this world but in terms of Gods
justice and righteousness. The oppressed of the earth have also a liberating power. To be
able to identify with the cry redeems us from our inhumanity and bestows upon us a new
valuation of things that can undermine the powers of this world. It is thus that the
wretched of the earth becomes our liberators. They allow us to plunge into that spiritual
depths of our humanity.
At this juncture, Jeremiah 31 acquires a special significance for us.
This passage speaks of God making a new covenant with His people. The old one would no
longer be effective. It was written on tablets of stone. It was something objective,
external which God imposed upon His people. But the new covenant would be something quite
different. It will no longer be external because it will be written upon the hearts of
men. There are various ways by which men will relate to the will of God. There are those
who say that we have nothing to do with it, and we will live by our own will. Still, there
are those who say that Gods will is something that is outside of us, external to us.
Therefore if we receive it, it is with an act of submission. It is some kind of slavery
also, even if it does come from God. There are those who say that there is what the
prophet Jeremiah is saying. I think Jeremiah had basically the same profound insight that
Isaiah had. When Gods people began to hear His call in the cry of the oppressed and
exploited elements, God no longer directs them from the authority of the old covenant but
from the new - the one written upon the hearts. When they give obedience to it, then they
are the manifestation of Gods spirit among the ranks of fallen humanity. URM is
therefore justified when it says "struggling with people is living in Christ".
One must go about the identification with people and throw oneself in this struggle in the
spirit of Christ.
IV. JOHN 1:1-18
Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always
been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is nothing exists that
he didnt make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His
life is the light that shines through the darkness and the darkness can never
God sent John the Baptist as a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is
the true Light. John himself was not the Light; he was only a witness to identify it.
Later on, the one who is the true Light arrived to shine on everyone coming into the
But although he made the world, the world didnt recognize him
when he came. Even in his own land and among his own people, the Jews, he was not
accepted. Only a few would welcome and receive him. But to all who received him, he gave
the right to become children of God. All they needed to do was to trust him to save them.
All those who believe this are reborn! not a physical rebirth resulting from human
passion or plan but from the will of God.
And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and
was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory the
glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father!
John pointed him out to the people, telling the crowds, "This is
the one I was talking about when I said, Someone is coming who is greater by far
than I am for he existed long before I did! " We have all benefited from
the rich blessings he brought to us blessing upon blessing heaped upon us! For
Moses gave us only the Law with its rigid demands and merciless justice, while Jesus
Christ brought us loving forgiveness as well. No one has ever actually seen God, but, of
course, his only Son has, for he is the companion of the Father and has told us all about
JOHN makes a very bold departure from the theological traditions, even
from the basic theological principles of his own people. The fundamental element in Hebrew
theology is that God is God and man is man. There is nothing in the world or reality that
could bring them together as one. Yet, John in one bold stroke brought God and man
together in this passage before us, and his whole gospel is an elaboration of this
declaration. This was not easy for the Jews to understand. In fact, this was blasphemy.
One of the charges brought against Jesus was the fact that he claimed he was the son of
God, or that he accepted that confession pertaining to his person. Now, it is quite common
for Christians to accept the incarnation. We do not have any problems with it. It is the
basic article of our faith. But there is a distortion that takes place because we simply
regard it on the level of a universal principle that God became man, that He identified
Himself with man.
Here, man is taken in a universal sense. But historically, this was not
what happened. What happened was that God identified Himself with a particular man - a
poor man who comes from a poor family, who was a member of a poor and insignificant
country. I think that this should be insisted upon in order that the sharpness of the
meaning of the incarnation would not be lost to us.
For a long while, theologians debated as to how this passage is to be
understood. In fact, courses are still being given in theological seminaries only on the
first 18 verses of John. I took one of this in the University of Chicago. We are closer to
the truth these days when we speak of the meaning of incarnation as signifying that God
has identified Himself with man. At this point, I would like to say that one must not make
an immediate universalisation of Gods identifying Himself with man but it must be
insisted upon that it is with the oppressed, with the poor. This was the case with Jesus
When Christ came upon the scene, the structure of society was pretty
much the same as what we have in our own days, especially in Asian countries. For
instance, in His time, there was the establishment also the high priests, the
Sanhedrin, the Roman Governor, they all belonged to the establishment. There were also
those who did not belong to the establishment but wanted to accommodate them in their own
understanding of things. So, we have accommodators also in our own day. These are the
hierarchy of our churches who would want to cling to the faith and at the same time would
want to provide justification for whatever power in their midst. The Sadducees, the
Scribes, the Pharisees, tax collectors all faithful members of the Jewish faith
belonged to these.
Then, there was the group who wanted to immigrate out of society. I
believe that John the Baptist was a member of this group. If you read the Bible, you will
find out that John the Baptist makes an appearance every now and then. He comes out from
some forest and from there makes his denunciations upon society. And a fourth group was
the revolutionaries. We also have the revolutionaries in our own day. This was the Zealots
who also wanted to take the Kingdom of Heaven by force and establish it here on earth.
Jesus did not identify himself with any one of these groups. There is a fifth group
whose existence was hardly countenanced by the system of the day. This was the poor, the
outcasts. People who did not even have the privilege of being religious therefore,
in the understanding of the society of the day, people who could not even hope and thus,
had no participation in the coming Kingdom of God.
The structure and stability of society, in a way, was provided for by
its religious beliefs. The high priests, the Sanhedrin and those who belonged to the top
of Jewish society were considered as the central elements of Gods kingdom, and when
the kingdom comes, they would be the first ones to go in. The others that followed the
train would go in according to their religious importance in their own society. The
outcasts and the oppressed could not even be admitted at all because they could not
practice the basic essentials of their religion. How can a poor man offer sacrifices? He
has nothing to sacrifice. He has no time to go to the synagogue and pray. He is simply
left alone by his own society. And Jesus identified himself with this group. And when he
made a declaration of the gospel, It came as a thunderbolt because he made a radical
reversal of the valuation of society because he said the Kingdom of God belongs to the
poor, and that a camel has a better chance to pass through the eye of the needle than for
a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I think that is why they killed Jesus. He
proclaimed a highly subversive gospel and therefore the rulers of society could not
withstand his presence and the only way by which they can have the cake and eat it also is
to eliminate Jesus immediately.
It is thus that Jesus identified himself with the poor. It is with this
kind of incarnation that you have to contend with a non-philosophical understanding of the
incarnation. When we say today God is with us, what we are affirming is that this is the
God which directs us always to the poor. We are given strength and being and the reason
for our existence. It is simply directed to that. I dont see how we can escape this
powerful theological logic that is embedded at the very heart of our faith the
faith of the incarnation.
The basic realities of faith that we have in the Bible the
incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, even the second coming are all of a
piece with this movement of God in the direction of the poor. It was the incarnation that
led Jesus to his crucifixion and it was the redeeming logical God that is embedded in this
too, that was proclaimed as the power of God in the resurrection. Those who are hopeless
in this world continue to have hope because of the second coming of Christ.
I think this particular passage has a very wide compass, and it
provides the basic theology for URM. We do not have to go to peripheral passages in the
Bible to justify our reason for being and the kind of work we are doing, but we have to go
right into the very center of our faith to find out that this is what gives us basic
motivation the form as well as the process of our involvement in society, because
Jesus identified himself with the poor out of love. Identification is the basic form of
communication but it is not that which would allow the identifier to be carried to the
excess of those with whom he identifies. Because there is an element of justice in
Gods incarnation and that is his love for the other. That was why Jesus was willing
to lose his own life that others may have it. May all of us have this sense also as we go
about our work.