Which Jesus?: Choosing Between Love and Power

Which Jesus?: Choosing Between Love and Power

by Tony Campolo

NOOK Book(eBook)

View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781418519421
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 04/23/2012
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 919,879
File size: 443 KB

About the Author

Tony Campolo (Ph.D., Temple University) is professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in suburban Philadelphia, a media commentator on religious, social, and political matters, and the author of a dozen books, including Revolution and Renewal, Let me Tell You a Story, and 20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid to touch.

Read an Excerpt



Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2002 Tony Campolo
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4185-1942-1

Chapter One


God's Son, Jesus, had a last name while growing up in Nazareth, insofar as people had last names back then. He went by the name of His surrogate father, Joseph. In Hebrew, His last name was Barjoseph, which means "son of Joseph." But our Savior wasn't the only child in ancient Israel to be given the name Jesus. It was a common name in those days. Jesus is another form of the name Joshua, which means "deliverer" or "savior."

There was another boy named Jesus who was born to a father named Abbas, and so he was called Jesus Barabbas. He, too, lived in the small town of Nazareth, a hotbed for radicals. Young men growing up there were taught to hate the Roman conquerors who dominated their land and defiled all that was sacred in Israel. Like other young boys in Nazareth, Jesus Barabbas loved to hear the stories of Judas Maccabaeus, who defied Israel's oppressors and led a revolution that freed the Jews from tyranny. He dreamed of one day leading another revolution to free Israel from its oppressors.

With role models like Judas Maccabaeus, it is no wonder that Nazareth had the reputation of breeding terrorists. People in Jerusalem, where the Roman conquerors had achieved some degree of accommodation, would often say, "Can any good come out of Nazareth?"

Terrorists—Then and Now

Today similarities could be noted between Jesus Barabbas and Osama bin Laden. Each, in his own time, challenged the one superpower that dominated his world, a government that he viewed as oppressing his people. And each man was deemed a hero by that radical element in society whose answer to oppression is violence.

Like Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorists, Jesus Barabbas and his followers, known as Zealots, lived in mountain caves. The Zealots would sneak into town, mingle undetected with the mobs of people in the marketplace, use long knives to do their murderous work, and then disappear back into the surrounding mountains. Their targets were Jews who cooperated with the Roman authorities, gained wealth and power by collecting taxes on behalf of their overlords, and compromised their religious traditions in complying with Roman expectations.

In retaliation for the Zealots' acts of terrorism, the Roman captains would send troops into those mountainous regions where these murderers hid to try to flush them out. But the hills and mountains were friends to the terrorists. They knew the terrain, and they knew how to use the caves as vantage points from which to attack and kill any who would dare to follow them there.

Two thousand years later, terrorists in Afghanistan would use similar tactics. Like the followers of Jesus Barabbas, some contemporary religious fanatics delude themselves into thinking that they are the fists of God, banging out justice against a foreign power that they blame for all that is wrong in their land. Both in ancient Israel and in Afghanistan, those killed in the struggle against the powerful, evil foreigners were revered as martyrs.

The Two Messiahs at School

Let us go back to the childhood of Jesus Barabbas as he grew up in that little town north of Jerusalem called Nazareth. There must have been a certain charisma about him that attracted other boys to his side. As they played their school games, Jesus Barabbas may have pretended to be the leader of a band of would-be commandos who carried out his hit-and-run raids against the occupying enemy army. I can imagine that every day at recess Jesus Barabbas and his boyhood followers acted out make-believe victories over Roman legions, after which they declared themselves to be the heroes of Israel.

But the other Jesus of our story also attended that little one-room schoolhouse in Nazareth. He was not particularly handsome, and He did not carry himself with the arrogant gait of other boys His age. He wasn't rough or loud, and at times He seemed a bit distant, as though He were in another world. This other Jesus never played in the war games that were led by Jesus Barabbas. To the rest of the boys at school, He may have seemed a bit too serious.

The other boys did not like that He never joined them when they had their fun tormenting younger and weaker children. In reality, Jesus Barjoseph seemed to have a special affection for the losers and nerds of His school. When He was around, the other boys tended not to bother their usual prey—not because Jesus Barjoseph threatened them, but because He could look into their eyes in a piercing way that brought out the best in them. In spite of His being different, the other boys found something intriguing and attractive in Jesus Barjoseph. In His own way He, too, had charisma.

Undoubtedly the rabbi, who was their teacher, occasionally got the two boys named Jesus mixed up when he called the roll at the beginning of the school day. But Jesus Barabbas and Jesus Barjoseph were so different that he seldom confused them other than in the calling of the roll. Both of the boys named Jesus were excellent students, and each had a special interest in the ancient kings of Israel—especially King David—but in such different ways! Jesus Barabbas wanted to be the David who was the conquering warrior, whereas Jesus Barjoseph noted the deep spirituality of David and even memorized the psalms of that poet king. The rabbi knew that each of these favored boys would grow up to be special.

It was obvious that Jesus Barjoseph was destined to be much more than a carpenter. The rabbi was sure that this Jesus would one day be a teacher of the Law and the Prophets. This unusual boy had a fascination with Scripture, and the rabbi was sure that he had never had a student who spent more time studying God's Word.

As they grew up, the boys developed an affection for each other. Jesus Barabbas always made sure that the roughnecks in the school never picked on his friend—not that Jesus Barjoseph couldn't take care of Himself, but because Jesus Barabbas had noticed that this other Jesus, if struck, would just turn the other cheek and allow His tormentor to hit Him again. Each of the boys noticed the uniqueness of the other, and, different as they were, they seemed to have a mutual respect.

My Father's Business

When the boys were twelve years old, the family of Jesus Barabbas and the family of Jesus Barjoseph joined the other townspeople from Nazareth to travel to Jerusalem, the holy city of the Jews. There the boys would go through what we call today the bar mitzvah. Each would stand before the congregation in the temple and declare, "Today I am a man!"

The trips to and from Jerusalem for such celebrations were always fun times for the children. The boys and girls would run ahead of their parents and the town elders. They would laugh and play. Like all youngsters everywhere, the boys would flirt with the girls by taunting them, while their parents halfheartedly would call for them to stop.

The walks to and from Jerusalem also were good times for the adults, opportunities for storytelling and remembering. On one occasion, so caught up were they in this happy time of visiting on the way home that, at first, they did not notice the absence of Jesus Barjoseph. It wasn't until the end of the day, when the community stopped their journey and settled down to sleep through the night, that Mary and Joseph realized their son was not with them. They had supposed their Jesus was with the other young men. They were shocked to discover that He wasn't with Jesus Barabbas. The boys were so different, but they liked each other and usually hung out together.

In a panic, Mary and Joseph hustled back to Jerusalem, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. When they got to Jerusalem, they sought everywhere for their son, but only when they looked in the least likely place did they find Him. Jesus Barjoseph was in the courtyard of the temple in deep conversation with the scholars of the Torah, who regularly gathered there to discuss the teachings of Moses and the prophets. For a moment the parents stood in wonder because their Jesus had these learned men enthralled. His questions were so profound that the scholars were amazed.

Then Joseph interrupted, pulled Jesus away, and said, "Where have you been? You had your mother and me worried sick." Jesus Barjoseph answered in a way that must have stunned His parents: "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"

What does He mean by that? Why is my dear son so strange? Why isn't He like the other boys, like Jesus Barabbas? Mary pondered these things in her heart.

A Time for Action

The day came when the other Jesus knew that his time for action had come. There had been much talk about restoring the throne of David to its one-time greatness, but Jesus Barabbas knew that talk alone would accomplish nothing. So one evening, he challenged the young men of the town: "Let's be bold and fight against the Gentile dogs who desecrate the temple in Jerusalem and who unfairly tax us. We'll start the battle, people will rise up and join us, and then together we will march to victory!"

The blood of the others ran hot as Jesus Barabbas spoke, but as Jesus Barjoseph listened to His friend, He grew pensive. He simply added quietly, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. The way to overcome their evil is to do good to our enemies and to love them." His words sounded crazy to Jesus Barabbas, as well as to most of the young men of Nazareth.

But time would tell which Jesus was truly a man of action, a man whose deliberate choices would leave a lasting impact on His world and on future generations for the rest of human history.

Chapter Two


As the years went by, the two young men named Jesus lost track of each other. Jesus Barabbas, and those who believed in him, seemed to disappear. At first, even his family did not know where he was. But then rumors started coming back to Nazareth, and, in the years that followed, the exploits of Jesus Barabbas and his followers were on the lips of just about everyone in town.

The fame of Jesus Barabbas spread everywhere throughout the surrounding countryside and up through the far reaches of the Golan Heights. This young guerilla fighter and his followers, known as Zealots, became notorious for their hit-and-run attacks on the Roman legions that were supposed to keep the Jews in line. They struck fear in the heart of any person who dared to have dealings with the Romans—especially the tax collectors, who were despised collaborators with the occupying army. Tax collectors were so threatened by the followers of Jesus Barabbas that they were afraid to venture out at night. Even during the daylight hours they felt unsafe. Who could be sure that in a crowded marketplace one would not bump up against a Zealot ready to mete out capital punishment to those who did business with "the dogs from Rome"?

Jesus Barjoseph also picked up a reputation, but His was very different from that of the radical who had been His childhood friend. Jesus Barjoseph gained His fame as a faith healer and a preacher. As He traveled by foot around the Sea of Galilee, hordes of people chased after Him seeking help. It was said that simply touching the hem of His robe would have a healing effect on even the most seriously ill. If there was fear of Jesus Barabbas on the one hand, there was, on the other hand, a sense of awe when people encountered the other Jesus from Nazareth. It was said of Jesus Barjoseph that He could make the blind to see and the lame to walk. Rumors abounded that someday He would even raise the dead.

There also was a great hubbub about the things that Jesus Barjoseph taught. He talked about the kingdom of God, stating that it was at hand. He spoke of a new social order in which those who were hungry would be fed. He claimed that the oppressed, who wept over the injustices they had to endure at the hands of the rich and the powerful, would soon be delivered and lifted up to the status of royalty. There was even growing talk that this other Jesus of Nazareth might be the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. While not everyone went that far in their speculations, there was a widespread belief among the Jews that at least He might be the reincarnated son of Elijah the prophet, resurrected from the grave to call people to repentance and to announce that the Messiah would soon be coming.

Same Concerns, Different Approaches

It is likely that Jesus Barjoseph was somewhat sympathetic to the agenda of Jesus Barabbas. He, too, would have been upset by the way in which the Sadducees compromised with the governing Romans, who were indifferent to so much that the Jews deemed sacred. The two young men must have shared contempt for the sneaky ways in which Herod, whom Jesus Barjoseph once called a "fox" (Luke 13:32), kept his power by playing political games with the Roman oppressors.

They undoubtedly despised the practices of the high priests, who were all too willing to allow the outer court of the temple—a place for Gentiles and women to worship—to be used for merchandising purposes. The haggling and cheating that went on there as people bought and sold the doves and sheep needed for temple sacrifices were scandalous. Thus the two men named Jesus shared a zeal for purifying the temple so that it would once again be totally sanctified, as in the days of King Solomon, to fulfill divine intentions.

Jesus Barjoseph also shared with Jesus Barabbas a certain displeasure with the tax collectors, who not only had become agents for a foreign power, but were often corrupt—forcing the people to pay more than Roman law required and keeping the surplus for themselves. But Jesus Barjoseph always seemed to be appealing to them to change, whereas Jesus Barabbas wanted to kill them.

In spite of their differences, the two young men from Nazareth shared far more than a first name. They had a common zeal for revolutionizing the nation. It was their methods that made them so different. We know that Jesus Barjoseph was not adverse to recruiting the same kind of radicals to be His disciples as were drawn to Jesus Barabbas. On the list of His chosen twelve apostles was Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15). It is likely that Peter was a Zealot, too, because when the Roman soldiers came to take Jesus Barjoseph prisoner in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, like any true Zealot, quickly drew his knife and cut off the ear of one of them.

The sons of Zebedee, James and John, also were possible Zealots. When they asked to sit on the right and left hand of His throne when Jesus Barjoseph established His kingdom, they showed that they believed in the Zealots' dream of a new political order. There is even reason to suspect that Judas Iscariot was a Zealot, which might help us to understand why he betrayed Jesus Barjoseph. His notorious betrayal may have resulted from his growing disappointment and disillusionment at the failure of Jesus Barjoseph to lead a violent revolution.

The Temptation of Power

To some extent, Jesus Barjoseph found the Zealots' use of power very tempting. It was the temptation to use power rather than sacrificial love to establish His kingdom that Satan saw as his best means to seduce Jesus Barjoseph from His Father's prescribed way of saving the world. Satan told Him that He would have a following if He would just use His power and turn stones into bread. The evil one then tried to get Jesus Barjoseph to show off His power with a few signs and wonders, such as jumping off the highest pinnacle of the temple and floating gently to the ground. And finally, Satan tempted Him by telling Him He could set up His kingdom simply by using power to impose His will on the world.

Jesus Barjoseph responded in each instance by quoting Scripture and, ultimately, by declaring that He would save the world, not through the exercise of power, but through sacrificial love. He would save the world through the cross. Instead of using coercive power, He would draw people to Himself through His self-giving love on Calvary.

The temptation to use power, rather than love, to carry out His mission was most difficult for Jesus Barjoseph to resist; and when He did overcome it, Satan warned Him that He would have to face this temptation again and again during the course of His ministry. It is this temptation that Jesus Barjoseph had to fight off at Caesarea Philippi when Peter railed against the prophecy that Jesus would have to suffer and die to establish His kingdom. In Peter's call to avoid the cross, Jesus saw the temptation to choose the way of power, so He shouted back at Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Matt. 16:23). He accused Peter of not understanding God's way of establishing the kingdom and being like the Zealots who thought that the kingdom would be brought in through militaristic power.


Excerpted from WHICH JESUS? by TONY CAMPOLO Copyright © 2002 by Tony Campolo. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Getting into the Story....................xi
1. The Two Messiahs....................1
2. The Way of Power vs. The Way of Love....................10
3. Which Jesus Do You Want?....................29
4. Love Can Do Amazing Things....................44
5. Love's Supremacy over Power....................60
6. How to Experience the Miracle of Love....................69
Epilogue: Are You Ready to Do Love?....................77

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews