We have become accustomed to hearing of a pandemic within the pandemic. As the majority of the world was locked down in their homes the rate of those who experience domestic violence rose sharply.
Maybe you are reading this and the words domestic violence make you shake with fear even after many years. A person you loved hurt you.
I heard yesterday how friends had stopped in their car at some traffic lights and across the road a man was screaming and banging on the door of another car with the woman trapped inside. The trauma of seeing violence has a lasting effect but being the victim of violence can destabilise the rest of a person’s life.
The World Health Organisation define violence as “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”
Physical or psychological; death or deprivation. We understood at an early age what violence is.
Let’s now look at the next thing Jesus said in the context of speaking to the crowd of John the Baptist in the ear-shot of John’s disciples. It is one of those verses that are difficult to understand:
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it” (Matthew 11 v 12)
Some interpret this positively in that since those wilderness baptisms and call to repent, people have been entering the new kingdom with courage and enthusiasm. It certainly can be understood that way.
However, I am more in favour of understanding it negatively. In that John is in prison under the threat of Herod Antipas who would soon move violently to have him killed. Jesus is stating a matter of fact. Those in this new kingdom have been and will continue to experience violence.
Are you suffering at the hands or the voice of someone? Maybe you are in the pulpit today and you carry fear of who is in the pew. Perhaps you are fearing the pulpit? Traumatic that this may be but it is still the shallow end of what happens to local churches at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists in places like north-eastern Nigeria on an ongoing basis.
Jesus simply seems to state the fact. It is part of the course of being a member of the kingdom. Violence occurs.
John the Baptists isn’t in prison because he has done anything wrong or that God has deserted him because of sin. He is there because he is part of the kingdom.
Jesus could also be indicating that he too would be experiencing violence soon himself.
Herod not only arrests but will behead John and he will then seek to kill Jesus, mocking him, dressing him up as a royal in one big humiliation. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea will wash his hands of Jesus. The Jews hated him for his disgraceful behaviour towards their Temple. He brought in the Roman standards into their Holy City; put golden shields of names and images of Roman deities in the Temple and according to Luke’s gospel he killed men in their Temple worship and mixed their blood with that of their animal sacrifice. Caiaphas the high priest, and part of a priesthood mafia. Caiaphas was responsible for the persecution of Christians but before that was instrumental in the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus. Violent men raiding the kingdom of heaven with violence.
This is a comfort to those who may have experienced some kind of hurt and may still feel trapped today. It can be a huge sign that you were not doing anything wrong, you are simply a subject of the kingdom and you are following in the steps of the King.