Tuesday, January 31, 2012

N.T. Wright on Jesus' Kingdom versus Caesar's Empire

Suddenly, as we watch what Luke is doing, the scene ceases to be a romantic pastoral idyll, with the rustic shepherds paying homage to the infant king. It becomes a fairly clear statement of two kingdoms, kingdoms that are destined to compete, kingdoms that offer radically different definitions of what peace and power and glory are all about.

Here is the old king in Rome, turning sixty in the year Jesus was born: he represents perhaps the best that pagan kingdoms can do. At least he knows that peace and stability are good things; unfortunately he has had to kill a lot of people to bring them about, and to kill a lot more, on a regular basis, to preserve them. Unfortunately, too, his real interest is in his own glory. Already, before his death, many of his subjects have begun to regard him as divine.

Here, by contrast, is the young king in Bethlehem, born with a price on his head. He represents the dangerous alternative, the possibility of a different empire, a different power, a different glory, a different peace. The two systems stand over against one another. Augustus' empire is like a well-lit room at night. The lamps are arranged beautifully; they shed pretty patterns; but they haven't defeated the darkness outside. Jesus' kingdom is like the morning star rising, signalling that it's time to blow out the candles, to throw open the curtains, and to welcome the new day that is dawning. Glory to God in the highest - and peace among those with whom he is pleased!
N.T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer

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