Review: Fight Like Jesus

Fight Like Jesus, Jason Porterfield (Foreword by Scot McKnight). Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2022.

Summary: A study of the accounts of Holy Week through the lens of how Jesus chose peace amid his ultimate confrontation with power.

For someone who has been following Christ over fifty years, Jason Porterfield helped me look at the accounts of Holy Week with fresh eyes. He believes that a key to understanding the actions of Jesus throughout this week is found in Luke’s account of the “triumphal entry” at 19:41-42 where it is written:

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes” (NIV)

Porterfield sees the whole week as Jesus’ campaign of peace, that corrects our mistaken notions of making peace.

Each chapter takes one day of Holy Week (except for combining Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday) and looks at the peacemaking way of Jesus.

Palm Sunday; Confronting the religious and Roman power, people herald him as king but he rides in on a donkey, not a charger, entering the city through the gate where sacrificial lambs would enter. Peacemaking doesn’t evade conflict but moves toward it but extends peace to all. He bids us to follow the way of the Lamb.

Monday: The clearing of the temple seems a most “unpeaceful” action. Porterfield makes some interesting observations. The whip of “cords” may be understood as rushes braided together, primarily used to shoo animals. The te and kai language of John 2:15 (Porterfield conflates this with the synoptic accounts) indicates that “all” references the sheep and cattle, and not people. Jesus concern is the radical inclusion of the Gentiles, repulsed by turning their court into a marketplace. The lack of violence is evident in the lack of response of Roman authorities standing by to keep peace.

Tuesday: It’s the day of confrontations, of traps, and truth-telling, of giving Caesar his coin but calling on people to render their whole lives to God. He speaks truth to the hypocrisy of those plotting his death and in his “little apocalypse” warns his followers to flee rather than indulge in violent revolt, to feed the hungry rather than fighting in an insurrection.

Wednesday: We see the chosen road of the Sanhedrin in Caiaphas words that one should die for all; the beautiful act of the woman and Jesus’s defense of attempts to marginalize her; and finally the betrayal of Judas. Porterfield sees two diverging roads, toward and away from Jesus. Which will we choose?

Thursday: The focus here is on the new command to love one another, forming a new community where love is given and received. We call it Maundy Thursday because of Jesus “mandate.” He also deals with the “two swords” of the disciples and sees this not as a license for bearing weapons but to fulfill prophecy. He says two will be enough. Enough to fulfill prophecy about Jesus among the rebels; certainly not enough for any real defense!

Friday: The two forms of peacemaking–that of Jesus and the violent one of Barabbas stand side by side. Instead of the message of vengeance, Jesus speaks a word of forgiveness, and by refusing retaliation breaks the cycle of violence with forgiveness of all through his death.

Saturday/Sunday: Drawing on the illusions of scripture to the “harrowing of hell,” Porterfield points to the call to trust God in the darkest places. Then we have resurrection Sunday and the appearance of Jesus to the disciples bidding them “peace” even as he commissions to be his ambassadors of peace.

The book is designed to be read and discussed through the Sundays of Lent, taking one day each week. Of course, it may also be used for a series of Holy Week readings. Questions for personal reflection or group discussion are also included. The chapters include “peacemaking” applications drawn from the narrative.

I found that the lens of peacemaking takes disparate events and and weaves them together in a powerful and compelling narrative, one where we see the contrast between how God makes peace with the world’s attempts, often violent, to “make peace.” Porterfield combines exegesis that pays attention to often-overlooked details with pastoral applications that call us, not to passivity, but the active peacemaking of people following Jesus. This comes at a time where a robust peace witness of the church in a world fraught with violence has rarely been more needed.

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.