Why Jesus Crossed The Road
(Based on the book by Bruce Main)
Part I: Why Jesus Crossed the Road
Part II: Roadblocks to Road Crossing
Part III: Jesus’ Crossings – Race, the poor, spiritual exclusivity…
A. The Road of Cultural Worldview
a. Conflict with and Crossing the Cultural difference and Road to the Romans
i. Living Under Rome Occupation (p. 98)
During Jesus’ life and ministry, Israel was occupied territory ruled by a foreign force. The Roman military cruelly controlled what the nationals did. Jewish political leaders were mere puppets of the empire, the Temple priests were co-opted by Tome to keep the masses calm. For example, if a Roman soldier asked a Jew to carry his equipment, the Jewish citizen was required by law to carry it a mile. These were sixty-to eighty-pound bags—not counting weapons! There are historical records of whole villages fleeing at the sight of approaching soldiers, just to avoid being conscripted or having their animals seized. There was definitely no love lost between the two sides. Any Jewish tax collector who worked for Rome was despised and hated, for every Jew knew that his hard-earned tax money was sent to Rome to finance the emperor’s affairs. Then, too, subversive Jews who challenged the system of Roman imperial rule were subject to the most brutal form of execution: they were hung on a cross. Citizens understood the consequences of stepping out of line. (Matthew 9: 9-13).
ii. Jesus and a Roman Centurion – Matthew 8: 5-13 (97).
Here Jesus crossed the road of cultural worldview and political ideology. The Roman soldier’s belief system entirely contradicted the teachings of Jesus and the worldview of most Jews. Rome, the most powerful, oppressive, and violent empire in the ancient world for the five centuries prior to Jesus’ day, was a movement rooted not only in military force, but in a kind of imperial ideology that validated their conquests.
The contrasts to Jesus’ teachings are striking. He taught that for Jew there was one God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Romans taught that the emperor was the son of god, the savior and redeemer, the lord of all—not an ordinary king.
Jesus believed that the land Israel possessed belonged to the Jews; Rome believed it was theirs. Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth; the last will be first; if you are slapped on the right cheek, you must offer the other as well. Rome taught that might makes right, that only the strong prevail, and that using military force and violence is the best way to treat an enemy. Rome’s marching orders were peace by whatever means needed. Jesus’ marching orders were peace through love.
The two belief systems could not have been more at odds.