But Jesus was not a mere victim of this violence. Acting in his Jewish tradition, he confronted it, rejected it and proposed a new way to think of it. His followers knew at the outset, and ever after, that they failed to live up to the standard he set, but that very knowledge shows that the myth of what Crossan calls the normalcy of violence is broken.
Humans have an inbuilt tendency to find the solution of violence in yet more violence, with the result that it spirals on forever. The victory of coercive force is inevitably the cause of the next outbreak of coercive force.
Jesus proposed that the answer to violence is not more violence, but is forgiveness and righteousness – or, as we would put it, peace and justice. For 2,000 years, this program has been able to be dismissed as piety’s dream.
But something new is afoot. Since 1945, the normalcy of violence is armed with weapons that will surely render the human species extinct unless a different way of thinking of violence is found.
That is the promise of Christmas.