welcome to “the Jesus Manifesto: Allegiance to Jesus in the Empire”

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : January 3, 2007

I’ve made the move. “Jesus Manifesto: Allegiance to Jesus in the Empire” is the name of the book I’m currently writing. I had thought to write two separate books called the Jesus Manifesto and a follow up book called Resistance, but I feel confident that I will be able to write a cohesive, accessible single volume work (with the potential for future books that delve deeper into the themes introduced with this book).

The name of this blog also expresses some themes that were commonplace on my old blog: challenging consumerism, discipleship in America, pacifism, the missional church, etc. Most of what I post has to do with faithfulness to Jesus in our culture, so it made sense to express that in my blog title and domain name.

So, what is “the Jesus Manifesto?” The Jesus Manifesto is my name for Luke 4:18-19. Jesus, after getting tested in the wilderness, gives his first sermon in his hometown. He opens the Isaiah scroll and read what is to be his manifesto:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

By reading from Isaiah 61, Jesus not only proclaims himself to be the Messiah (the political ruler who would rescue Israel from its enemies), but also that his Messianic reign would defy the peoples’ expectations. Jesus quotes the beginning of Isaiah 61, but leaves out the proclamation of vengeance. Jesus’ hometown gets the point: this proclamation of the “Lord’s favor” (Jubilee) is being extended to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. And in response, they try to kill him.

With this manifesto, Jesus sets the trajectory for his ministry of subversive love. The rest of Luke-Acts is the fleshing out of this manifesto–first for Christ and then for his Church. Luke, perhaps more than any other Gospel writer, understands the subversive implications of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus turns everything upside down. He declares the poor blessed, and the wealthy cursed. He challenges the economic, religious, and political assumptions of the time.

As the Church, we have been sent by Christ into the world just as he was sent by his Father (John 20:21). Jesus’ manifesto is our manifesto. What we read in Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation is the Church struggling to live out that manifesto in the midst of Empire. Hardly the global force it is today, Christianity existed in small, obscure, persecuted clusters throughout the cities of the Empire. Their faith in Christ directly challenged the systems of Empire. As a result, the followers of Jesus struggled to faithfully resist the caustic effects of Empire as they encouraged one another to live a life worthy of their calling.
We too live in an Empire. The pax Americana is built upon individualism, pragmatism, consumerism, and militarism. We, like our ancient brothers and sisters, must struggle to live out the Jesus Manifesto as we resist the caustic effects of Empire.

Father, may we be a people who proclaim the year of your favor in America. Amen.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He and his wife Amy have been married since 1997. They are expecting their first child in April.

for further reading . . .


One Response to “welcome to “the Jesus Manifesto: Allegiance to Jesus in the Empire””

  1. Sivin Kit on January 3rd, 2007 11:00 pm

    I like the title and new design. Looking forward to see the book

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