A couple of generations ago, Martin Marty was the very prominent and distinguished and brilliant church historian on the faculty of the University of Chicago. He was also a columnist for a journal, land a frequent author of articles. But what made him so much fun was his puckish and unpredictable sense of humor. It was during a presidential campaign in the early 1970s that he wrote an outrageous and imaginative article in which  Jesus, in a post-resurrection appearance, was pursued by a political group to run for president. (My memory is that Jesus was reluctant, but acceded to their proposal for some reason knowing he could never win an election.)

In this imaginative episode, the reporters were trying to find out what his platform would be. Jesus’ response was brief: “I thought I made that quite clear when I was on earth!” As they pressed him, he kept responding to how much that was done in his name had nothing to do with what he taught, and was often a contradiction of his teachings. That article is a bit dim in my mind these decades later, but the essence of its insights comes to mind in our present confused and distressing political scene when so many misappropriate the name of Jesus in an attempted justification of policies that are the obverse, the exact opposite, of what Jesus taught. Consider, that Jesus inaugurated his public ministry with the announcement that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.   (Luke 4:18-19)

This was his announcement, at the very beginning of his messianic ministry, of the platform of God’s new creation, of his messianic kingdom. It is focused on healing he brokenness and distressing helplessness of so many. And, as if that were not enough, Jesus concludes his public ministry, just before his crucifixion, with a statement of what it is that he expects from those who are his followers in verification of their understanding of his Kingdom agenda (check yourself against this). It is that they, like he, would care for the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the poor and naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. It was his infinite love and compassion for the helpless and hopeless of our communities being incarnated through his disciples.

This was his platform. Toss in his twice repeated sermon (the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke) and you get a brilliant and unmistakable statement of the agenda of Jesus for his people: radical and unselfish love and caring.

This being so evident, for those who profess to use a Christian label to justify their political and economic agendas, who seem to be indifferent to his humanitarian agenda, those who are filled with being against all of those evidences of compassion in our present scene, … proves how very deceived they are in even beginning to understand the platform of Jesus. “Why do you call me: Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say.”

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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