Turn What Cheek?
Doug: This is Douglas Norris with JNN, the Jerusalem News Network, reporting on a most unusual event. I'm standing outside the Governor's Headquarters where the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, stays when he is here in Jerusalem. An unusual trial is occurring inside. As TV cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom, I must depend on my reporters who have been inside. Art, what is happening now?
Art Hammar: Well, Doug, I've never quite seen anything like it. An obscure itinerant teacher from the northern province of Galilee is on trial. He was brought to Pilate by the High Priest and his Council who have asked for the death penalty.
Doug: The death penalty! Isn't that severe?
Art: Yes, but you see, the High Council doesn't have the authority to invoke the death penalty, so they brought him to Pilate, the Roman Governor. But, what is intriguing is that the charges they are bringing are not very convincing to the Governor, so Pilate is trying to get to the bottom of it. And, the prisoner is being uncooperative. He won't say anything in his defense.
D: The Galilean is not defending himself? Doesn't he have a lawyer?
Art: No, there's no lawyer, and no followers either. You recall the large numbers of followers who greeted him Sunday, calling him "king," shouting "Hosanna," waving palm branches? They are not with him now; or, if some of them are in there, they are not very vocal.
D: But, what is strange is that the accused is not defending himself against the obvious trumped up charges by the High Council. Thank you, Art, for your eyewitness report. Let's pursue this further. What we have here is a man who came from Galilee with a sizable following, entered Jerusalem in a flurry of glory and triumph, was arrested last night, found guilty of blasphemy by the High Council, and now is being tried by the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. I have another JNN reporter here with me who has covered several of the incidents in which this Jesus was involved the last few days. Challen, why is Jesus not defending himself? Is he trying to avoid controversy? Avoid conflict? Is he submitting rather than fighting? Why is he not resisting?
Challen Yee: Doug, I'm not sure why he's not defending himself, but he certainly is not a man who wants peace at all costs. Since coming to Jerusalem, he has been at the center of controversy. He has argued with the Sadducees, outwitted the Pharisees, and attacked the Scribes. He told the crowds on Wednesday, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!"
D: Certainly not the way to win friends and influence people!
Challen: Definitely not! Nor is Jesus a man who avoids controversy and conflict. Based on what I've seen this week, Jesus is a strong, courageous leader with a brilliant legal mind, and afraid of no one.
D: Thank you, Challen. I've just been handed a note. A young boy who was an eyewitness of Jesus' puzzling behavior in the temple is willing to be interviewed. What is your name, son?
Matthew Laws: My name is Matthew. My Dad says Jesus is a troublemaker, and more power to him!
D: I understand you were with your folks in the temple when Jesus caused quite a commotion. Can you tell us what happened?
Matthew: Boy, you should have been there! It was something! All of a sudden this man, Jesus, began tipping over tables. Money fell on the floor. Pigeons that were being sold for sacrifices flew away. Then Jesus blocked the door so no one could bring anything else in. My Dad said Jesus "imposed sanctions!"
D: Were people upset?
Matthew: I'll say. The vendors, traders, and priests were sure mad, but they didn't dare do anything to Jesus because the people were all cheering. So the priests had little meetings in the corners.
D: Thank you, Matthew. The picture we are seeing is hardly a man who wants peace at all costs, hardly one who submits. That makes it all the stranger. Why is a man like Jesus not defending himself? He obviously has courage, is not afraid of authority, so why is he not defending himself? Another of our JNN reporters has been interviewing some of Jesus' followers, trying to get some insight into the man's thinking. Renae, what can you tell us?
Renae Extrum Fernandez: Well, Doug, I've just left the underground meeting place where most of Jesus' followers have been in hiding from the authorities since his arrest. I can tell you the mood there is a somber one as they discuss the course of events over the past few days. Apparently Jesus often had some very disturbing things to say about how he would be rejected, would suffer and even die. It is as if Jesus knew this would be the outcome, yet he didn't try to resist or escape it. Another thing which is very much on his followers' minds is a controversial teaching of Jesus where he advocates one should confront an enemy without resorting to violence, but without submitting either.
D: What do you mean?
Renae: Jesus' disciples refer to this teaching as "Turning the other cheek." Jesus said, "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also."
D: That sounds to me like he is telling us to submit, avoid conflict, and obtain peace at any cost.
Renae: Oh no! Not at all! Perhaps I can demonstrate to help you understand. Now, as you know, when a master disciplines his servant, he expects the servant to offer the right cheek. The same goes for a husband who disciplines his wife, a parent a child, any superior who disciplines an inferior. Now, if I'm in this position, you cannot strike me with your left hand, since it is unlawful for you to use your left hand for anything other than unclean tasks. Neither can you hit me with your fist because the blow would glance off. Therefore, in this position, the slap of discipline is always a backhanded slap, intended not so much to injure, as to remind me of my inferior status. When I receive a backhanded slap, Jesus does not suggest that I hit you back; obviously I am no match for your superior strength. Instead, Jesus would have me turn my left cheek to you also. Do you see what happens in this position?
D: Well, then I'd have to hit you with my fist!
Renae: Yes! If I turn my left cheek to you, then, rather than simply being humiliated by a backhanded slap, I can challenge you to meet me as an equal! With my left cheek exposed, I am saying to my superior, Go ahead, hit me again. But, this time hit me as an equal, one just as important as you! I'm not going to let you demean me! I deny you the power to humiliate me! You can't walk all over me! But, of course, no superior would stoop to equality with an inferior. So, it's unlikely you would want to hit my left cheek.
D: Thank you, Renae. That was a fascinating demonstration. Jesus taught a new 7way to resist evil and fight what is wrong. What Jesus might be doing inside the courtroom now, by not defending himself against the charges, is turning the other cheek. By not fighting the authorities on their terms, either in legalese battle or with violence, Jesus is forcing them to execute him. And the execution of an innocent man, a man who went about doing good, exposes--for all the world to see--the insensitivity, injustice, evil, and depravity of the executioners. Eventually, if enough follow Jesus, the system will collapse. If Jesus is not careful he will end up on a cross outside the city wall on Golgotha. Or, is that what he wants? Is dying on a cross--defenseless, vulnerable, humble--his strategy to overcome evil? I wonder what his followers will now do? It will be interesting to see how they respond, for Jesus said, "If you would be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me."
© 1991 Douglas I. Norris