A Remix of TobyMac and Luke’s and John’s Churchy Jesus

One of the current mantras in American theological education is globalization, and rightly so.  Globalization should be built into the DNA of every congregation of followers of Christ.  The world of Jesus was a world replete with views of globalization.  Alexander the Great had created a world of globalization from Albania to Afghanistan and the Romans from the Thames to the Tigris (for Roman globalism see Oster, Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible, pp. 29-40).

Roman Emperor Holding the Whole World in his Hand
Roman Emperor Holding the Whole World in his Hand

In fact, globalism was an integral part of Roman politics and theology and contributed to the Roman State’s hostility and aspersions toward the church’s geopolitical Jesus.  Buddhist “missionaries” had come to the Mediterranean before the time of nascent Christianity.

There exists a Greek navigation guide from the mid-first century AD, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, that demonstrates Roman sea trade into sub-Saharan Africa as far south as Tanzania and as far east as Sri Lanka and eastern India.  In addition, the very presence of silk garments in the Roman world testified to the existence of China and the famous Silk Route, since it was not until centuries later, when China lost its monopoly on silk, that the West could produce its own silk.

When Dr. James Allan Francis, a Baptist minister, presented his essay (eventually) called One Solitary Life, he could not have known that it would become a Christmas classic.  Nor did later believers realize the profound accuracy and significance of his words,

He never went to college.

He never put his foot inside a big city.

He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

Map of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Wikimedia Commons

Jesus’ provincial travel resume of “he never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born” stands in stark contrast to Paul and his co-workers, the itinerant Jewish exorcists of Acts 19, the tens of thousands of pagans and Jews who sailed in and out of the Herodian port at Caesarea, the first century AD, Lycus Valley merchant, Titus 
Flavius Zeuxis who made 72 journeys from his hometown of Hierapolis to Rome on business (according to his epitaph preserved in Hierapolis).

Had it been within the purview of Jesus’ divine calling to reach out to pagan sinners, it would have been relatively easy for him to travel the less than 30 miles from Nazareth to the major port city of Caesarea Maritima and to catch one of the many ships that would take him to Alexandria, Corinth, Ephesus, Athens, or Rome.  What God did through Jesus to ignite the fuse of the Abrahamic Great Commission (Gen. 12:1-3) apparently required that Jesus not wander too far from home, which meant Christ, unlike Paul and virtually all Diaspora Jews, had little opportunity to mix and mingle with those who represented the seamy underbelly of pagan life and idolatry.

It is the uniform theological outlook of the New Testament that Jesus did exactly what he was supposed to do by his ministry primarily among the Jews in the Land of Promise and that the church did exactly what it was supposed to do by both declaring a divine globalism and living in a way that was commensurate with its declaration.  It is certainly significant for us that neither the Gospels, nor Acts, nor Paul, etc. see a need, either doctrinally or missionally. to re-locate Jesus in the world of the Diaspora.  If all of the canonical writers were at peace in confronting their own world of paganism with a Christ that never rubbed shoulders with true paganism, then, perhaps we could also.

6 thoughts on “A Remix of TobyMac and Luke’s and John’s Churchy Jesus

  1. And this calls for us to call our people to be faithful where they are, a bloom-where-you-are-planted approach. Missions is a wonderful calling, but it can be done anywhere, domestic or foreign. We’re all called to mission, some here, some there. These last two posts have been quite insightful. Thanks.

    1. Terrell,

      Sometimes the “folks in the pew” don’t see how historical studies can help their view of things in the Bible; sometimes they are not given examples so that they can see this. Probably all of us need to do a better job on this important issue. Thanks for continuing to visit the blog!


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