The Revolutionary Vision of Jesus

Rodney D. Coates* ~


I never saw a contradiction between the ideas that sustain me and the ideas of that symbol, of that extraordinary figure, Jesus Christ. 
Fidel Castro

There are many who will condemn me as a heretic –both within the church and among so called progressives – for declaring that Jesus was a revolutionary and had a revolutionary vision for the world.  Yes, Jesus –that Jesus that we celebrate, that we proclaim, and that we have been labeled as his followers – the Christ (or Promised one).  And even though I will be condemned, well so also was Jesus, and even though they will try to crucify me, well so was Jesus, but I will not stay down, as well as Jesus –for his teachings continue to ferment change, rebellion, and revolution –some 2,000 years after they were spoken.  I will begin with the beginning of his ministry, where he identified his vision.  It is this vision which clearly articulates his revolutionary stance.  In Luke 4:14 we note:


14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 "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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."(Luke 4:14-21, ESV)


His mission

1)     Proclaim good news to the poor

2)     Proclaim liberty to the captives

3)     recover sight ot the blind

4)     set at liberty those who are oppressed


Not only did he identify with the poor, the helpless, but he also identified with those imprissioned and were oppressed.  Jesus, a member of an oppressed group was from the least of those groups –Nazareth.  What do we know of Nazareth –as Jonathan said “Can anything good come from Nazareth”,.  Nazareth was a ghetto, one of the least among the opressed.  And Jesus never lost sight of an outcast among the outcast.  Jesus who proclaimed that “  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 18:25)” set himself against a religious ideology that had increasingly become obsessed with materialism and the objectification of religion.  Hence, he was appalled at how the temple had become prostituted to the materialist interests of the Sanhedrin.  Consequently, he marked himself for death when he in concert with the religious leaders had defiled and corrupted the Holy temple with their greed. (John 2: 13 - 22. Matthew 21: 12 - 13. Mark 11: 15 - 17. Luke 19: 45 - 46.) 

If we examine his mission statement, perhaps we will learn more about this Jesus.


1)     Proclaim good news to the poor


What was this good news to the poor.  Perhaps we need to go back to Isaih, fore it is here that we can understand not only the context but also the intent of Jesus’ revolutionary vision.  From Isaih condemned the religious and political hyprocrasy of the Theocracy when he charged that:


They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans. Isaiah 10:2


"The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. Isaiah 41: 17


Share your food with the hungry, take the poor and homeless into your house, and cover them with clothes when you see [them] naked. Don't refuse to help your relatives. Isaiah 58: 7


So clearly, this Jesus was committed to a vision that challenged a materialist obsession that had pervaded the Temple, his people.  He was also challenging a perversion  of religion whereby the poor, homeless, and downtrodden were blamed for their situation.  He ostensibly blamed  the social structure, and those in leadership for the destitution so pervasive in these lives.  And what of his second mission statement, how might this be understood.


2)     Proclaim liberty to the captives


Political, economic, social, cultural, and racial captives throughout the ages have found comfort in these words. Liberation theology, slave rebellions, social transformations have all been launched with these words.  Even past this if we consider the thousands of prison ministries, teen shelters, homes for sexually abused, and the like that have taken this as their mission statement –the power of this vision becomes clearer when take a look at the entire phrase.


to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.


Captives made explicit reference to slaves and prisoners to those detain.  In a society –both then and now where people could be bound as slaves, where a whole system was predicated on a military, industrial,prison complex where slavery and prison labor accounted for not only a tremendous amount of human misery but also imperialist exploitation –this was truly a revolutionary call to action.  The Jewish and Roman state could not have doubted the insurectional appeal of such a proclamation.


Jesus’ third mission statement demonstrates his consistent concern with those who were not only ill but suffered from were disabled.


3)     recover sight ot the blind


We see in the ministry of Jesus a not only compassion but action with respects to the disabled.  Disability was not something that merely deserved our charity, but our active involvement with.  While others would shun these, Jesus would embrace them.  


And lastly, what more revolutionary could you hope for when one considers his final mission statement.


4)     set at liberty those who are oppressed


The oppressive system imposed by both Roman Imperialism and the Jewish Temple were not only apparent but invassive.  All aspects of Jewish life were edominated by this oppression.   Jesus in this mission statement not only alligned himself with the downtrodden, but also proceeded to began a ministry to the oppressed. Many have argued that we may draw a pedagogy of social justice by reading, understanding and implementing not only his teachings but his parables.   


Ultimately, Jesus understood that actions speak louder than words.  When asked by his friend, cousin John the Baptist (who had been marked for marterdom) are you the Christ -0 Jesus reponds:


Luke 7: 22 So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.


The clarity of Jesus’s vision and ministry has been obscured not only by ideologues but also much of the organized church that has in many ways bastardized the message.  But clearly, as we look throuhgout acts we note that the early followers of Christ were commited to selling all that they had and distributing it to the poor, tending the sick and shut ins, serving the widows and orphans, and attempting to bring the Kingdom of God (i.e. the Good news) to the lives of the all.


More later…///


Note: Rodney D. Coates is a professor of sociolgy and he can be reached at

The song that lies silent in the heart of a mother sings upon the lips of her child..

Kahlil Gibran



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