Sobrino observes that hermeneutics is very important for Christological articulation. It deals with the biblical texts in which Jesus is presented. For his Christology, the reign of God constitutes the historical praxis.
The Reign of God
According to him the notion of the reign of God brightens the anthropological and historical presuppositions of theology. Therefore, it becomes a hermeneutic principle because it expresses the human being’s utopian longing for liberation from every kind of oppression. At the same time for his, Christology begins to operate in relation to the reign of God.
He says, not only must we try to understand Jesus in terms of the reign of God; but we must also try to understand the reign of God in terms of Jesus. Without the reign of God, Jesus would be little more than an abstract object of study. However, the reign of God would be only a partial reality.
Sobrino sees the importance of the reign of God from three perspective:
- It is the authentic words of Jesus
- This is all-embracing
- It has a systematic role, giving Christology a basis on which Jesus’ person and work can be organized and graded in a better way.
Sobrino prefers the term as the hermeneutical principle because it was the method of the gospels. And also because it provides a better approach to Jesus to understand his external activities in relation to the reign of God and moving from there to his inner relationship with God rather than by working the other way round.
Sobrino comprehends Jesus’ understanding of the reign of God in three levels: First, the reign of God is understood as being at hand. Jesus’ teaching, parables, and miracles demonstrate the passing away of the old times and the breaking of salvation.
Second, Jesus understands the reign of God as grace. This grace is not opposed to human action. Jesus, proclaiming the free gift of the kingdom of God carries it out concretely through his actions. He actively serves the reign of God. This applies to the hearers of Jesus. The term demands a conversion, which is the task of the listener.
Third, for Jesus, the reign of God is good news. The message of the reign of God is not God’s judgment but God’s grace. Hence, it is good news. Sobrino says, “Jesus is good news, but with logical priority, the good news is what Jesus brings; the reign of God… There is no way of separating the reign of God
Jesus proclaims and the good news Jesus himself beings. The good news of the reign of God means the reign of God as good news.” Thus the reign of God as good news makes its hearers rejoice.
The Reign of God and the Poor
Sobrino asserts that the reign of God as the good news is essentially relational. Though Jesus’ mission has a universal dimension he had specifically addressed the poor. It is essentially partial. Sobrino calls this partiality a ‘preferential option’ and sees it essential.
For him, as the reign of God is for the poor it has to be the reign of life. Jesus saw poverty as contrary to God’s original plan, as terminating it. Poverty violates and annihilates God’s creation.
According to Sobrino, Jesus’ purpose to defend basic life is evident in his use of the written law, his criticism of oral interpretation of the law and in giving central importance to the basic symbol of life: food and bread.
The Reign of God and Jesus’ praxis
For Sobrino, Jesus is both proclaimer and initiator of the reign of God. Jesus’ activities and practices are the symbols for the emerging reign of God. Sobrino considers five activities of Jesus in relation to the reign of God.
According to Sobrino miracles are the real activities of the historical Jesus. They are the signs of the presence of the reign, and signs against oppression. They are not only beneficent signs but also liberating signs.
He interprets miracles as the symbols of holistic concrete salvation for the poor. The miracles also demonstrate Jesus’ pity namely his reaction to the sorrows of the poor and the weak.
b) The casting our of devils
The casting our of devils demonstrates the triumph over the anti-reign of God in the coming of the reign. Jesus’ practice of the casting of devils is the answer to the questions of the possibility of overcoming evil. It is a sign of the defeat of the anti-reign of God.
The casting out of devils indicates that the coming of the reign of God is anything but peaceful and ingenuous.
c) Welcoming of sinners
Sobrino observes that Jesus’ actions and teaching demonstrate a basic attitude of welcome with agape. The welcome shows the coming of the reign of God as grace and not judgment. However, it calls for conversion, which has different levels.
The oppressors should show the radical change of conduct. The poor/sinners must accept God in hope as true love. This means that the power of sin is crushed through welcome and forgiveness.
d) The parables
For Sobrino, the parables clarify the important elements of the reign of God. The parables emphasize that the reign of God is partial and causes scandal. Through parables, Jesus defends the poor and justifies his own actions of partiality on their behalf.
Through the critical features of the parables, Jesus unmasks the hypocrisy of his adversaries. The parables also generate hope and joy. It brings hope because the coming of the reign of God is certain. It produces joy because the reign of God is good news.
e) Celebration of the reign of God
Sobrino observes that the reign of God is good news. It has to be celebrated with joy. Besides proclaiming the reign of God Jesus celebrates it. The meals of Jesus indicate this.
They are the signs of the coming reign of God and of the realization of its principles: liberation, peace, and communion. The meals are not only beneficent signs but also liberating because those who are for centuries kept out and prevented from eating together cannot eat together.
The celebration of the reign of God is the great sign for the actual arrival of the reign of God. This has its significance in the midst of the sufferings of the people.
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