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Jesus Christ Revolutionary

David Cowles

Jun 1, 2024

“He cured the sick and fed the hungry…because it was the right thing to do, here and now, and because it demonstrated what might be possible, universally, in a time to come.”

There is scant scriptural evidence to suggest that Jesus thought violence was an acceptable mechanism for social change; he intended his Kingdom to be a Reign of Peace. But violence is not a prerequisite for guerilla war, as we shall soon see. 

Jesus’ ministry began on a sour note. After fasting for 40 days in the desert, wrestling with his own ego and with The Opponents (Satan’s) clever temptations, Jesus returned to his hometown, prepared to save the world.

Imagine his enthusiasm as he strode into the local synagogue! Jesus’ years of study and prayer had led him to one simple conclusion: Now was the time to inaugurate God’s Kingdom on Earth! He even had tee shirts made: “If not now, when?”

Ok, now…but how? Fortunately, Jesus had a revolutionary platform already laid out for him (3,000 years before the Communist Manifesto); it’s called the Book of Leviticus. Jesus trusted Leviticus; and why not? It was a tightly choreographed reenactment of Leviticus that caused the proletariat of Jericho  to rise up…and walls of that great city to tumble down. (Joshua 6: 24) The name ‘Jesus’ is a Hellenized form of ‘Joshua’. Perhaps Jesus saw himself doing in Jerusalem, and who knows, even in Rome, what his namesake had accomplished at Jericho. 

“You shall count seven weeks of years – seven times seven years – such that the seven weeks of years amounts to forty-nine years…You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you…In this year of Jubilee, then, each of you shall return to your own property…The land shall not be sold irrevocably; for the land is mine and you are but resident aliens and under my authority.”  (Leviticus 25: 10)

Every 50 years all productive property (e.g. agricultural land, Marx’s means of production) is to be redistributed equally among all the ‘citizens’ of Israel. Jubilee is the sign, the pre-condition, and the first stage of the inbreaking of God’s Kingdom. 

So, Jesus entered his local synagogue and, in front of friends and family, began reading from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim, ‘a year acceptable to the Lord’ (aka a Jubilee).” 

So far so good, but Jesus couldn’t let it sit there. He had to add, cheekily, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4: 18 - 21) In other words, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and I am proclaiming a Jubilee, to begin right here, right now!

Jesus withstood the temptations of Satan, but he could not resist the lure of a short cut. Yup, he was human alright! Why spend 3 years in the wilderness running from the authorities only to end up hanging on a cross? Why not just cut to the chase? 

What could possibly go wrong? Jesus was among friends, after all. Well, those so-called ‘friends’, neighbors, and fellow worshipers, chased him out of town and nearly threw him off a cliff; that’s what could go wrong! Clearly, the 1st century Galilean Bourgeoisie were no more eager to share their wealth than 21st century One Percenters. Time for Plan B!

For the next 3 years, Jesus wandered the highways and byways of Palestine, still calling for Jubilee – the reign of justice and peace – but less directly. The essence of Jubilee is the reversal of the hour glass. Those who have accumulated wealth and enjoyed its fruits must now return their original capital to its original owners. This message can be effectively conveyed via pithy aphorisms (e.g. the Beatitudes) and encrypted parables. 

Jubilee is a unique concept in the history of social science. It benefits the dispossessed. But not entirely at the expense of the possessors. It’s not a Zero Sum Game! A sparsely regulated economy has allowed the generation and preservation of wealth – all of which its owners are entitled to keep; it’s just necessary to rebalance the game board, going forward.

Moses got the idea for Jubilee from a Mutual Funds prospectus: “Past results are no guarantee of future performance.”

This is not the Chinese Cultural Revolution, it is not Stalin’s gulags, it is not Pol Pot’s policy of de-urbanization, it is not even the Babylonian Captivity; in short, it is not the persecution of the bourgeoisie that many radicals so eagerly await. It’s not even class war; it’s simply the restoration of primal balance. 

Jesus never got over his rude treatment at the hands of his neighbors. He realized in an instant that wealth is thicker than water, friendship, or even blood. For the next three years he agitated for social reform, but he no longer overtly called for Jubilee. Instead, he tried to demonstrate to folks what it would be like to live in a re-balanced world: He cured the sick and fed the hungry…because it was the right thing to do, here and now, and because it demonstrated what might be possible, universally, in a time to come. Teaching by doing! 

According to Torah, the Levitical Program was forged in the Wilderness of Sinai; it served as a sort of Constitution for Israel’s fledgling theocracy. The New Testament recapitulates the Levitical program. We read that Jesus fed 5000 people on 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (5 + 2 = 7). We need some understanding of Hebrew numerology to appreciate this fully.

7 is a sacred number: 7th day = Sabbath, 7th year = Sabbatical, 7th Sabbatical → Jubilee. In Hebrew numerology, 3 represents the spiritual whole (proto-Trinity), 4 represents the material whole (proto-Earth). Therefore, 3 + 4 (7) or 3 x 4 (12) = the entirety. Jesus seated the 5000 in groups of 50 (the Jubilee number) and when they had finished eating, the “scraps” filled 12 baskets (the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the 12 apostles, 3 x 4). Here’s the math:

(5 + 2) = 7 /5,000 = 12.

So at one level at least, the Gospels are telling us that a return to the Levitical program could feed the whole world indefinitely…and still produce a surplus. But that doesn’t work for us! We prefer state socialism…or laissez-faire capitalism. Scarcity is the humus of authority after all!

But back to Jesus. He’s officially on the run now. He’s effectively banished from his home town. That means he’s cut-off from family and any friends he might have once had. He’s ‘unhoused’ and has no visible means of support. He’s a vagrant and, apparently, a revolutionary. Not a good combo! Just ask any Hippie from the ‘60s. 

What’s an able bodied, socially outcast, homeless man in his early 30’s to do? Network, of course! Tricky without social media, but Jesus finds this is something he’s good at. In no time, he has recruited 12 men and boys (along with many of their spouses, siblings, and parents).

Together they formed a sort of ‘guerilla gang’. They travelled from town to town, offering wisdom, performing good deeds, confronting the elite, challenging norms…and dodging the law. To what can I compare this lot: Robin Hood’s Mary-men, Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, Abbie Hoffman’s Yippies

According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ band roamed the hills of Galilee, Syria, Southern Lebanon and the East Bank for the better part of 3 years, his retinue alternately swelling to thousands and shrinking down to just the High Command (Peter, James, John & Jesus). Typical of a guerilla leader, or of a 21st century marketer, Jesus ‘popped-up’ suddenly and briefly at spots all over Northern Palestine.

Jesus ‘sightings’ abound. First, he is on one side of a lake; next morning, he pops up on the opposite shore. He crisscrosses the Sea of Galilee like Washington crossed the Delaware. One minute he is in a village, next he’s on a mountain. He is alternately running from his supporters…and his opponents. And everywhere he goes, he keeps a low profile and commands those he helps to keep silent; but clearly, we can all feel it, the forces of ‘reaction’ are closing in, the noose is tightening, something will have to give and soon.

So Jesus decides it’s time to make his move. Call it his Tet. An offhand remark from, who else, Peter, sets events in motion, “We here have left everything to become your followers.” The troops are growing restless. The enormity of their sacrifice is beginning to sink in. Move now or risk defections. Now!

So Jesus channels Shakespeare’s Henry V…and the Book of Job (Epilogue): “I tell you this: there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive in this age 100 times as much – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land - and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10: 28 – 30)

The next line in Mark is among my favorite in all Scripture: “There they were, on the road going up to Jerusalem, Jesus leading the way; the disciples were filled with awe, while those who followed behind were afraid.” (Mark: 10: 32) What a sight this would have been! Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, out to save the world.

Jesus is no fool; he knows what’s what and he makes sure his followers know as well: “We are now going to Jerusalem…the Son of Man will be given up to the chief priests and the doctors of the law; they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the foreign power (Rome). He will be mocked and spat upon, flogged, and killed…” (Mark 10: 33 – 34)

Jesus may have been a guerilla warrior, but he was not without resources. Although his message appealed to the dispossessed, he had a cadre of well healed donors and friends among the apparatchiks. His arrival in Jerusalem was well planned – down to secret rooms, spies carrying water jugs, and the 1st century version of a ticker tape parade. Palms & Psalms! 

Jesus’ 3 year guerrilla campaign in the North had paid off. What happens next is well known. It constitutes Part Two of The Jesus Story; I will not retell it here. 


David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at


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