This year we focused on six key relocations of Jesus’ life, using them as a framework to illustrate God’s heart for justice and story of restoration that spans from scripture all through history and up to this present moment. We unpacked Jesus’ moves from heaven to earth, from Israel to Egypt, into the wilderness, from places of power, towards Jerusalem and towards resurrection.
FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH
At the centre of our Christian story is the incarnation, as Jesus ‘relocates’ himself from heaven to earth. This movement is infused with God’s heart for justice as a humble response in compassion and action to a broken and weary world. Jesus moves from a position of glorious power to a position of profound vulnerability.
His very first breaths are in solidarity with those on the margins, being born into poverty to a family rejected and shamed by its own community, against a backdrop of oppression and Empire.
From Israel to Egypt
Under the oppression of Empire, Jesus and his family are forced to relocate from Israel to Egypt to flee genocide. The narrative drips with symbolic irony – God’s own son seeking safety in the very land that so deeply enslaved his ancestors.
Jesus becomes a refugee, and in so doing experiences what it is like to rely upon the mercy of those who so often withhold it. At the beginning of his story he encounters the darkness of displacement and the reality of being helpless under the power of another. The justice journey is never a straight path. It is rarely clear cut.
Into The Wilderness
The story of Israel has always been a story of God moving with his people in and out of the wilderness. It was a place that took them out of the ordinary of their lives and brought them into a space where everything was stripped away. A place where they were able to look at themselves soberly and afresh. In this way, the wilderness represented for them a place of ‘liminality’. Liminality is when what is old has come to an end, but what is new has yet to start.
While often uncomfortable, this liminal space can be one of shifting identities, of letting go of hurt and pain, and through that discovering new dreams. And as for Israel, so for Jesus. Our justice journey so often involves the need for similar spaces of liminality, of time to process what has been lost and broken, and prepare in hope for what lies ahead.
From The Places of Power
The Gospel of John records for us the intentional movement of Jesus at the start of his ministry from the location of power in the temple to the places of greatest suffering in Judea, Galilee and Samaria. Jesus intentionally shifts the focus of power away from the established structures and towards the forgotten and hurting. In so doing, Jesus drives a stake deep in the justice ground – power must be subverted and redirected if shalom is to come.
Jesus models an outworking of justice where simply meeting felt need is not enough. His justice requires a radical reworking of the direction of power – as the ‘weakness’ of the cross will so beautifully demonstrate.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time, he does so to the sound of both worship and weeping. The disciples celebrate with psalm and song at the arrival of their messiah, while Jesus wails tears of pain at the spiritual blindness of his beloved city. And this contrast between worship and weeping sits over everything that comes next – his anger at the hypocrisy of the temple, his humility in washing his disciples’ feet, his anguish and fear in the Garden of Gethsemane, his peaceful acceptance of his arrest and trial, and ultimately the love he pours out in his self-sacrifice on the cross.
In this love, Jesus empties himself of all power and completely gives himself over to the will of his Father. Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem marks our own journey in justice – to bring worship and weeping side by side as we empty ourselves of our pride, selfishness and power.
Jesus’ death and resurrection presents for us a critical turning point in our understanding of justice and the work of restoring shalom. There is an intentional relocation from the old ‘home’ of death into a new ‘home’ of hope and life. Resurrection meant the old story did not have the last say, but a new story was beginning that would have eternal and cosmic significance.
As the church we have made a home in many unjust realities – colonised readings of Scripture, patriarchy, exploitative relationships with land, partisan politics, racial hierarchy, and so on. These homes must die in order for new ones to live. The end of our story gives us this hope – a new city, a new home, coming to earth for all to live in through peace, provided for by the victory of Jesus.