Peter Kreeft writes that “Calvary is judo.”
It’s my understanding that in Judo you use the other person’s momentum and force to pull them off balance. So Kreeft’s analogy of judo and Calvary seem apt. Nothing about Jesus’ life or the Cross seem to be about force.
Jesus’ denied the use of force throughout his life. Here are some of the places in the New Testament where Jesus is seen advocating for a place of weakness rather than authority or power.
- Turn the other cheek, Matthew 5:39.
- Not my will but yours be done (said to God before the cross), Luke 22:42.
- The last will be first, and the first will be last, Matthew 20:16.
- The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 1 Corinthians 1:18.
- The son of man has no place to lay his head, Luke 9:58.
The evangelical world often ignores this idea, as when they lobby for their agenda. Or when they demand conformity to their way of seeing things. Or when they run for political office to gain power. In the New Testament you never see Jesus using this strategy. No cozying up to Herod or throwing a soiree for local pollical figures.
Jesus’ way of working was 180 degrees from those who think that strength and power are essential for achieving what God wants. Jesus believed that the mission of God is accomplished by the quiet working of godly people: including the rejected, loving the unlovable including your enemies, not seeking revenge, and going the extra mile.
In one of the great ironies of the gospel was Jesus’ comparison of the great kingdom of God with things that are extremely small in their beginnings.
Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” Matthew 13:31-33.
Jesus might have also said, “The kingdom of God is like Judo that doesn’t use bravado or might to achieve its mission.” Truly.
O God of small things, help us to see that in the world of the kingdom, small is good. May we not resort to the usual human ways of evaluating the worth of a gesture or plan. Indeed, you took extremely insignificant events and people to accomplish world changing ends. In Jesus’ name. Amen.