"...and on earth peace among men on whom God's favor rests"

From a conversation today...

I agree that intervention was clearly part of Jesus' ministry. And maybe provocation, too, depending on what you mean by that. I don't rule out either intervention or provocation, it's just that there are many ways to intervene and many ways to provoke, and I don't see Jesus intervening and provoking in many of the ways I see political activists (or even CPT) doing it.

One of the biggest differences is that I don't see Jesus coming into a place and attempting to make it peaceful, or free of conflict. He said, "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." And I think your two examples (the incarnation and passion week) demonstrate this well. As far as I can tell, those places did not immediately or in the long term become more peaceful places after Jesus' intervention there. The most obvious impact, actually, seemed to be that they became more violent (I'm thinking of Herod's killing of the children and the crucifixion). And the conflict in Israel seems not to have abated much since then.

If Jesus' goal was to "make peace" in the way political activists try to do it, then he wasn't much of a success. But then he even said that wasn't his goal. What Jesus did succeed at, though, was what he said he was doing: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you." Jesus demonstrated the fearless peace of God and he passed it on to everyone who would accept it from him. Not a peace that exists only when conflict has been quelled, but a peace that exists in the midst of conflict, the kind that existed in Jesus even when his actions actually resulted in greater conflict around him.

The key to this apparent contradiction, I think, is that Jesus seems to have always expected his followers to be a small minority. So the peace they experienced and demonstrated would certainly affect those around them, but it wouldn't determine the overall way society acted. They wouldn't make the world a peaceful place. (Only a place that now had a few more peaceful people in it.) More likely, as Jesus predicted, there would be more conflict because society would attack the new "outsiders" in its midst.

I can also see Jesus provoking, but I don't think his entry into Jerusalem was intended to provoke the authorities to arrest and kill him. Maybe he knew they would be offended and would choose that moment to act against him; but I don't think his triumphant entry was about the authorities. I think it was about declaring the truth clearly, while he still had the chance (since they already wanted to kill him). And I think it was for the people who waved palms and shouted hosanna and laid their coats before him. That the authorities would likely respond badly was a sad side note, but Jesus was not deterred by that. To make this action primarily about provoking them seems to greatly diminish the meaning of his prophetic act.

And I don't believe Jesus would intentionally provoke anyone to do evil. Do you? I can't say the same of some activists who seem to want to be thrown in jail, or score some damning video footage...