How Rebellious Was Jesus?

Jesus is serious. John Dear became convinced of that during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the summer of 1984, as Israeli jets flew above him and dropped bombs on Lebanon. It was a few months before Dear entered the priesthood, and he had been meditating at the Chapel of the Beatitudes above the Sea of Galilee, he writes in Jesus the Rebel, Bearer of God’s Peace and Justice.

Dear looks to the gospels to explain his understanding of Jesus’ seriousness. He highlights specific narratives—from the beginning of Christ’s public ministry through the crucifixion and resurrection and post-resurrection appearances—to develop a portrait of Jesus who is beloved and contemplative. He is also radical and committed to nonviolent acts of resistance to an evil, militaristic state and the hypocritically pious authorities of his institutionalized religion. Christ’s example of revolutionary nonviolence, the author believes, calls all who would be his disciples to resist similar evil and hypocrisy.

Dear—a peace activist, author of several books on the theology of nonviolence, and director of the interfaith pacifist group Fellowship of Reconciliation—writes resolutely and directly without resorting to the latest divinity school lingo. He possesses a wonderful ability to make the gospels plain and accessible. His commentaries are enlivened by his years of studying the gospels—and trying to live their full implications. The balance of study and the lessons derived from experience—his own and that of others he believes exemplify gospel nonviolence—yield some uncommon insights that compel the reader to see the gospels in new ways.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2000
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