N.T. Wright on Jesus’ Battle
I came across this reading this morning in my Bible reading plan for Lent on YouVersion. This is written by New Testament scholar N.T. Wright and the associated passage is Matthew 12:22-50:
Just in case anyone thought that the vision of a gentle, humble Messiah meant that he would be a pushover for every evil power that came along, the present passage sets the balance straight. One of the things everyone knew about the coming Messiah was that he would fight God’s battles and rescue his people. The Bible had said so.
But what is the real battle? For Jesus, it wasn’t the battle they all expected him to fight – with the occupying Roman troops, or with Herod and his supporters, or perhaps even with the Sadducees and their would-be aristocratic clique in charge of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jesus’ followers probably thought he would fight one or all of them. Having watched as he did many other remarkable things, it was quite easy for them to believe that he could fight a supernatural battle against these natural enemies. Jesus himself spoke, later on, of being able to call several legions of angels to his help.
But on that occasion he refused; because that was the wrong sort of battle to be fighting. In fact, as gradually became clear, the real battle is against violence itself, against the normal human wickedness that shows itself in the desire for brute force to win the day. If you fight fire with fire, fire still wins. And Jesus has come to win the victory over fire itself, over the rule of the bullies and the power-brokers, in favour of the poor, the meek, the mourners, the pure in heart. It is precisely because Jesus is right in the middle of the real battle that it is vital not to confuse it with other battles.
It continues, getting more particular with that passage, but I absolutely loved especially that last paragraph. We routinely get caught in the wrong battles but if we take Jesus (and the rest of the New Testament) seriously, we need to realize that other people are never the enemy. Like us, they are victims of the real enemy and that enemy wins when he gets us fighting each other instead of him.