Exploring Jesus’ experience, interpretation, and enactment of weakness, understanding weakness as both human condition and virtue, this book offers a new portrait of Jesus who is weak and strong, and empowered to bring God’s rule, replete with mercy, in the here and now. Arguing against the grain of tradition that the strong Jesus identifies with the weak, this book demonstrates that it is the weak Jesus who identifies with the weak. The paradoxical truth with Jesus is: “Because he is weak, he is strong.” In the end, Jesus dies a death of paradox that reveals both his ultimate weakness that demands divine justice, and his unyielding spirit of love for the world and truth of God.
In Messiah in Weakness, Dr. Kim presents the intriguing and engaging contextualized proposition that Jesus of Nazareth embodied both weakness and strength. Expanding the conceptualization of weakness, Kim convincingly demonstrates how Jesus, through his ministry of teaching and healing and his suffering/crucifixion, enacted weakness, advocating for the weak. Reading through the decolonizing lens of weakness, Kim guides readers through a path paved with history of interpretation, adept literary analysis, contextual theology, and cultural and contemporary relevance. --Mitzi Smith, Ashland Theological Seminary
A timely intervention of public biblical interpretation. Yung Suk Kim's interpretation of Jesus provides a much-needed intervention in our current cultural moment. A society determined to assert its power naturally seeks a Jesus who affirms its striving -- Kim names such theologies idolatrous and demonstrates how Jesus brought transformation out of his own weakness. Acknowledging that we are all weak, he reasons, we can live in solidarity with the rest of humanity. --Greg Carey, Lancaster Theological Seminary
This book examines Jesus’ experience and understanding of weakness, compares his view of weakness with that held by the culture and philosophy of the Greco-Roman and Jewish world, and articulates how Jesus in his life and work employs and enacts an alternative virtue of weakness as the source of God’s power. This book also explores how Jesus as a person of true weakness is in close contact with the Spirit and challenges those hardened-hearts to be weak before God and the world. Jesus’ death on a cross is a paradox that reveals both his ultimate weakness that demands divine justice, and his unyielding spirit of love for the world and truth of God. In the end, a new portrait of Jesus emerges from the weak Jesus who himself is dispossessed and empowered to bring God’s rule in the here and now, which distinctly contrasts the hitherto widely accepted strong Jesus who merely identifies with the weak.
Concept of Weakness
Weakness is broadly defined as all aspects of weakness that permeate every sphere of human life. For example, we can think of physical or spiritual frailty, intellectual limitedness, and adverse human conditions due to social ills or natural disasters. But more than that, weakness also can be understood as virtue as opposed to the culture and philosophy in Jesus’ time. The alternative wisdom and power is well summarized by Paul: “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25).
The book raises a host of weakness-related questions about God, Jesus, and ourselves:
What is weakness (astheneia)?
Was Jesus weak? Or did he simply identity with the weak?
- How did Jesus see God and the world?
- How can we explain Jesus' death in view of this lens of weakness?
- Can we see God and world from the perspective of weakness?
- Can we also read biblical characters through this lens of weakness?
- How should we see ourselves?
Jesus and Weakness
Portrayals of Jesus
An Alternative View of Jesus: “Messiah in Weakness”
The View of Weakness in the Hellenistic-Roman World
Political Ideology in the Roman Empire
Hellenistic Schools of Thought and View of Weakness
The View of Weakness in Jewish Tradition
View of God in Creation Story
Jesus’ View of Weakness
Jesus’ Experience and Interpretation of Weakness
Jesus’ Experience of Weakness
Jesus’ Interpretation of Weakness
Jesus’ Enactment of Weakness
Teaching in Parables
Healing and Exorcism
Jesus’ Crucifixion as a Paradox of Weakness
Jesus’ Crucifixion as a Paradox of Weakness
Jesus’ Crucifixion as out of Weakness
Jesus’ Crucifixion as Holy Death of Love
Jesus’ Crucifixion as Weakness that Demands Justice
Laozi’s Tao Te Ching and Weakness
Weakness as a New Paradigm for Humanity
Excursus: Reading Biblical Characters through the Eyes of Weakness