The questions that initiate the conflict stories in the Gospels are many. Mostly they are asked by groups—religious leaders, disciples, the crowd of listeners. Behind every controversial situation is a question which proclaiming or practicing the Gospel has raised. There are questions prompted by Jesus’ own behaviour. There are other questions prompted by the behaviour of Jesus’ disciples. There appear to be questions prompted by controversy over the understanding of what following Jesus entails. Finally, there are questions designed to trap Jesus.
As we study these stories we will recognize that most of the issues involved are still more or less with us today. Are we still not troubled by what is or is not appropriate on the “Sabbath,” that is, proper worship times and practices? Or Christians who worry that all this talk about grace and forgiveness means disregard for law and order and promotes moral laxity? Because of so-called “family values” some Christians are disturbed by Jesus’ apparent disregard for the traditional family. We still debate what influence and role the Gospel has in politics, in shaping society, in education and certainly in economics. Can one be a Christian and a free market, corporate capitalist?
God’s purposed realm of grace is a “happening” that we are living in now with good cheer and eagerness. Is the message of this new way of doing things the underlying catalyst for conflict? YES. Once again we learn how Christ and his Gospel is turning this whole world, our whole world, upside down.
“Christians…are not simply witnesses to God’s reign and tokens of its realization. They are at the same time representatives of a misused creation, the spokesman of all who are oppressed, the people of the desert who remind everyone that Egypt must be finally abandoned, and that salvation is to be found only in the exodus.”
Ernst Käsemann: “Jesus Means Freedom,” p. 140