Friday, November 11, 2005

Search for the Historical Jesus 7

"Why is he always going somewhere rather than being settled in one place and letting crowds come to him?" (Crossan --all material in quotes from now on will be from John Dominic Crossan, unless I provide another reference).

There appears to be two answers to a question about the continuous itinerancy of Jesus:

>>>It was functional, e.g. Paul's travels were a practical necessity. He had large distances to travel. He had to check in with the various churches he established to see how they were doing.

>>>It was a "programmatic part of his radical message".

Crossan believes that this "itinerancy" is a segment of the radical egalitarianism a core element in Jesus' teaching. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is not something "out there", but something within ourselves and something that society can become. Radical Egalitarianism is shown not just by itinerancy, but by Jesus' practice of "Open Commensality*," a dramatic physical event that shows the essence of The Kingdom.

In the period which Jesus lived, there was little or no middle class. The upper class were the rulers and the wealthy. The lower class were the aartisans slaves, peasants, destitute. What made this society "work"-- albeit rather miserably -- was the corresponding roles of Patron for the upper classes and Client for the lower classes. Part of the prevailing ethic was that those with more power and money had some kind of responsibility to use their influence to assist those they chose as their "clients".

Of course, this simply solidified the division of the Haves and the Have Little or Have Nothings.

Jesus was a healer and a teacher. The behavior expected of him was to settle down in one spot, preferably, his home town ---certainly the view point of his family. There he would assume the role of Patron. His clients --- those traveling miles to see him to be taught and/or healed. This would be good for the town or village -- bringing in those who needed lodging, food and other supplies. However, if Jesus made this kind of decision, he would not be exhibiting radical egalitarianism. In fact he would be acquiescing to one of the unjust society's chief features: Patron and Client.

There are several places in the Gospel in which it seems clear that Jesus' family was not too pleased with him. Their chief complaint may have been he would not settle down in Nazareth to become a Patron and --his family members the "brokers" for the clients pouring in.

As Crossan puts it, "....for Jesus, the Kingdom of God is a community of radical or unbrokered equality in which individuals are in direct contact with one another and with God, unmediated by any established brokers or fixed locations."

*(Open Commensality is Jesus' practice of having meals with all classes of society sitting together and absolutely no sign of rank. Sometimes called the "open table".)

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