Wednesday, August 31, 2011

172. Jesus, Galilee and a Missional Hermeneutic

This week I have been reading through the gospel of John with two questions:

1. How does the Person of Peace strategy show up?
2. What are the geographical patterns of his ministry?

I had an epiphany in regard to the second question this morning, so thought I would share. Jerusalem is obviously a pretty hot place in the gospel of John. Several major blocks of teaching take place there as a result of conflict with the Pharisees. However, another place that features regularly in John (as well as the other gospels) is Galilee. The question is...why? Why does Jesus spend so much time in Galilee?

Well, there is a good amount of conjecture here on any ones part when it comes to answering this question. I want to jump in the party and con-ject something of my own; propose an idea.There is some talk these days of developing a missional hermeneutic which basically amounts to reading the Bible through the lens of the Missio Dei, the sent nature of God, and therefore his people. In essence, what this missional hermeneutic is aiming for is an apostolic reading of the text, which is, linguistically and etymologically, the same thing as reading the text missionally.

So how would a missional hermeneutic answer this question? SWell, just like in the movie National Treasure when Nicholas Cage pulls out the ocular device that has different colored lenses to see the writing on the constitution, we have to acknowledge that we all tend to the read the text with glasses on. So what would it be like to read the text from a missional (apostolic) lens? I want to suggest one answer in relation to the place that Galilee occupies in Jesus ministry.

Here is a go at it. What if Jesus spent a lot of time in Galilee in order to lay the ground work for an easy North West expansion of the gospel outside the boundaries of the Holy Land after he left? This is the trajectory of the churches expansion according to the book of Acts. What if Jesus, among other reasons, spent time in Galilee because it was a portal through which the church would need to travel in order to go global. What if Jesus, in view of his vision for the movement to transition form local, to regional to global (Acts 1:8), strategically spent time in Galilee to ensure the optimal environment was in place for the gospel to make it outside the boundaries of the Holy Land and into the North Western parts of the world?

Galilee, while still being a part of the Holy Land was truly at the edge. It was surrounded by three different foreign territories. Jesus' time in Galilee undoubtedly laid a foundation that was later built upon by the twelve, Paul and Barnabas, and those in Acts 8 who scattered beyond Samaria to Antioch. (Side note: Antioch, btw, was the gateway out of the holy land into "pagan" land from a Jewish nationalist perspective, which is why James, the nationalistic leader in Jerusalem is so territorial with it in regard to kosher, table-fellowship and circumcision as discussed in Galatians 2).

Looking at the significance of Galilee for Jesus is typically done from a more prophetic angle: Jesus engages the poor, marginalized, and and common people, away form the centers of power in Jerusalem.  Like most interpretations, I think there is a lot to this prophetic angle on Jesus' preoccupation with Galilee. Evangelistically, it could be argued that Galilee was a lot more receptive to the good news of the kingdom than the other regions. This would be an evangelistic hermeneutic at work. From a missional (apostolic) perspective, I think he could have been doing strategic groundwork for the gospel to travel across this landscape and break into the northwest regions of Europe more readily.This is the trajectory of the extension of Christianity after all. It wold square well with Jesus own words in John 4 when he says:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

In the book of Acts, when it comes to the extension of the gospel outside of the boundaries of the city of Jerusalem, the church is quite literally entering into a harvest in which they have not worked for. This work was done by Jesus in Samaria and Galilee during his ministry, and the church reaped the reward for it form Acts 8 onward.

So some personal application here to apostolic ministry. Some apostolic ministry will be more foundational in nature. It will lay the groundwork for movement to take place, but that movement may not come to fruition in their season of work in that area. The movement may be catalyzed later. The thing about foundations is that you can not see them, but they are critical to the building project. No foundation, no sustainable building.

A word of encouragement to the apostle who is laying foundations, but not seeing the kind of movement you would like. Lay the foundation well. It will be used and built upon later later by others. This foundation will determine the parameters and capacity of the superstructure. As Paul says in I Corinthians 3, be a wise architect (master builder) and lay a good foundation, girded and anchored in Jesus, the greatest leader of the greatest movement ever.

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