Jesus announced the in-breaking of a new kingdom, a new order, a new day. God’s intervention in history brought many surprises that would turn the old things upside-down. Jesus was a Jewish prophet standing firm on the mosaic traditions but saying God was moving beyond them, transforming them in a new ways that would more fully fulfill their purpose. The spirit of God would transform sacred symbols—Sabbath observance, purity rituals, sacred boundaries, and yes, even the mighty temple in Jerusalem. Many of the practices surrounding these symbols served to bolster tribal and national identity. The new kingdom would have bigger doors, bigger tables, and a much bigger family. The old ways created tribal identity through separation and exclusion. The new order welcomed everyone.(Image: Cross of nails in St Paul's from the roof of old Coventry Cathdral, bombed and destroyed in the Blitz taken by Velvet Android at flickr; some rights reserved)
No one likes to see their symbols seared. No one likes to see their flag on fire. Change, especially religious change, comes hard. Many Christians today would likely have joined the forces defending the tribal flag in Jesus’ time. It was the reasonable, rational, natural thing to do in the face of outrageous ideas. In any event, Jesus’ critique of pious practices that elevated sacred symbols and religious ritual above human need thickened the plot that led to his cross.
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them: "I'm here to introduce you to this God.... He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" ~Acts 17