The Prophetic Imagination – Energizing and Amazement in Jesus of Nazareth

Tonight we are reading through Chapter 5 “Criticism and Pathos in Jesus of Nazareth” and Chapter 6 “Energizing and Amazement in Jesus of Nazareth” of Dr. Walter Brueggemann’s book The Prophetic Imagination. In these chapters, Brueggemann walks us through how Jesus demonstrates the prophetic imagination, and how we as followers of Jesus can do the same.


Brueggemann begins chapter 6 with the reminder that the purpose of the prophetic imagination is not to dismantle the old order but to create a new order. The Isaiah prophecies end with the promise of a new heaven and a new earth and with which John the Divine will end his own Revelation. Isa. 66:22, Rev. 21:1.

In expectation of this newness, Bruggemann asks us to recognize the difference between optimism and hope. Think about how you understand this difference and how optimism belongs to the old order, but hope belongs to the new order. A good perspective on this difference from Shane Snow is HERE.

Jesus Birth:

Brueggmann takes us to the beginning of the Jesus story. The entire birth story of Jesus is one of energizing and amazement. Read Luke 2:18-20. Everyone who heard the story of the shepherds told them were “amazed.” Mary “treasured” all that had occurred. And the shepherds themselves “glorified and praised God.” What began with a decree from the old order, ends with the doxology of the new order.

Jesus’s Ministry:

Brueggemann writes “The birth is only a hope; but the ministry is where the possibilities of hope most seriously engage the world of despair.” p.105. From the very beginning, Jesus’s ministry was one of his audience of the socially marginalized being amazed and astonished. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news preached to them.” Luke 7:22. Brueggemann points out that throughout his ministry, Jesus directly confronts and overcomes the taboos of the royal consciousness and thereby does away with all social distinctions that cause the insider/outsider dichotomy. p.107.

Jesus’s Teaching:

If you have time today, re-read and ponder the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12. In his commentary on Matthew 5:3, Martin Luther says that the Beatitudes are “a delightful, sweet and genial beginning of his sermon. For he does not come, like Moses or a teacher of the law, with alarming and threatening demands; but in the most friendly manner, with enticements and allurements and pleasant promises.” In the Beatitudes, the legal demands of the Ten Commandments have passed, and the fullest expression of the prophetic imagination has arisen.

Or remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. The father’s amazing and energetic embrace of the the younger son is a symbol of the new order. Whereas the older son’s unwillingness to join the festivities is representative of the death of the older order.

The Resurrection:

If it is in Jesus’s Crucifixion that the decisive criticism of the royal consciousness lies, so it is in his Resurrection where the fullness of the prophetic imagination’s energizing, amazement, and newness resides. If you have time today, review the stories of the Resurrection. Throughout the Gospel lessons (Mark 16, Matthew 28, Luke 24, John 20-22) the first reactions are also ones of confusion but amazement. Read about the reactions of Mary Magdelene and the other women, of Cleopas, and of Peter, John, and Thomas.

It is in Paul’s discussion of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, however, that the full measure of the Resurrection is discussed. Jesus does not simply herald the reversal of the socio-economic order but of the totality of creation itself. As Paul writes, this world (of the royal consciousness) is defined by that which is perishable, dishonorable, weak, and physical. But in the resurrection (in the fulfillment of the prophetic imagination) the new world is imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. 1 Cor. 15:42-44. What is overturned is not simply Solomon or Ceasar or the powers of this world, but Death, Hell, and the spiritual forces of darkness. 1 Cor. 15:54-55 quoting Isa. 25:8, Hos. 13:14.


  • Next week is our annual Christina Seder dinner. Reservations are required.
  • For Eastertide, we will be reading through Julian of Norwich’s Revelation of  Divine Love. I anticipate using the Short Text.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is St. Patrick’s Day. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:3-4

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