Freedom for Palestine

Enemies of the Empire

[Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

Hi Fighter,

We know we’re in Lent when we start getting passages like this one, telling us to live lives of self-denial. “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

When I looked at this passage again this year though, it occurred to me that I’ve never really taken this exhortation in context and, as we say, ‘a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext’. In other words, if you ignore the context, you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say.

The context in this case is the Apostle Peter’s breakthrough recognition concerning Jesus’ identity – “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). In response to this, Jesus gives Peter and the team some detail as to how His Messiahship is going to play out. “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31).

This ‘suffering saviour’ concept is totally alien to Peter. He starts ripping into Jesus, telling Him that it’s not going to happen. Jesus counters hard, saying: “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:33). It’s after this that Jesus calls over the crowd and says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. Taken in context, this is not a simple exhortation to self-denial. It’s very political!

The Messiah, so far as Jesus’ contemporaries were concerned, was the one who was going to save them from the Roman Occupation. They were waiting for another King David who was going to smash the occupying forces and restore their independence. Those who ‘takes up their cross’, on the other hand, are people who are being smashed by the occupying forces. They are enemies of the state, being led away to be crucified – a form of punishment reserved for political criminals.

Before the cross was an icon of faith, it was a symbol of Roman domination. Crucifixion wasn’t just an efficient way of disposing of your enemies. It was a way of humiliating your enemies by killing them slowly and publicly. When the Roman general, Crassus, crushed the slave rebellion of Spartacus in 71 B.C., the six thousand rebel survivors were all crucified, lining the Appian Way for more than 100 miles! The message to anybody and everybody was clear. Rome rules! Don’t muck with the Empire!

Jesus’ understanding of His role as Messiah seems nonsensical! The way He is going to bring His people victory is not by humiliating the Romans in battle but by being humiliated by them! He’s not going to smash the Romans but will be smashed, and those who follow Jesus on this road to liberation must apparently endure the same fate. They must ‘take up their crosses’ and be crucified alongside Him!

I appreciate that Jesus often used hyperbole, as did many prophets before him. It was a kind of ‘shock therapy’ used to get the message through. Even so, what exactly was Jesus’ message?

My mind goes to the rally I spoke at this morning – a rally for Julian AssThe crucified Assangeange, where we cried out to the government once again, “Bring Him Home”.

I was carrying the poster I always carry, depicting ‘The Crucified Assange’. The artwork was done by the great graffiti artist, Luke Cornish, who gave it to me to use as I saw fit, and it clicked with me then that the persecution of Julian Assange was indeed a form of crucifixion. It is the execution of an enemy of the state, done slowly and publicly, in order to give a clear message to anyone else who might dare to speak out – don’t muck with the Empire!

I think of Julian. I think of my dear brother, Morde Vanunu, and all that he has suffered. I think of Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Alexi Navalny, and all modern-day prophets who have dared to speak truth to power. They have all had to take up their crosses!

It is the role of the Messiah to bring freedom. Jesus never denied that. What He did deny was that the path to victory would be easy. On the contrary, “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)

Jesus doesn’t suggest here that victory comes because he is rejected and killed. He just says that these things have to happen first. Jesus will be humiliated and killed, and those who walk alongside Him, likewise speaking truth to power, will be treated the same way. Even so, when the Empire has exhausted all its evil, He will be back. The Empire will fall. The Kingdom will come.

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had another terrific Sunday Eucharist last weekend, where I very much enjoyed the company of John Jegasothy and Andrew Logan on the panel. Father Ola took up the challenge of addressing the passage in 1 Peter 3 that many Biblical scholars think is the most incomprehensible piece of Scripture in the entire New Testament. We had a good team online to help us too. Even so, I’m not sure any of us really managed to crack the code of the Epistle.

This coming Sunday I’m looking forward to having two old friends back with me – Doug Pyeatt, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for around 20 years, and Andrew Madry, whom I’ve known for almost 50 years! They say ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ but that has not proven to be true in the least for me. On the contrary, I get greater enjoyment from the company of these good men every time we meet.

Fathers Elias and John in Switzerland

Our final member of the panel this week will be Father John Ashfield whom I’ve only known for a couple of weeks! He was a close friend and colleague of dear Father Elias. Indeed, they were priests in the same order – the Community of Saint John. I hope John won’t mind me sharing the only pic I have of the two of them together. They are enjoying a cleansing ale after climbing a mountain together in Switzerland.

Join us from noon at, or on Facebook , YouTubeTwitterLinkedInor Streamyard. I look forward to sharing this Eucharist with you. 😊

What’s On

  • Friday, February 23rd to Sunday 25th– Binacrombi
  • Sunday, February 25th – Our Eucharist from noon and through Facebook , YouTubeTwitterLinkedIn or Streamyard.
  • Monday, February 26th – I”ll be speaking at an Interfaith Seminar, held at the Holroyd Function Centre from 6.30 pm. See poster (below) for details.
  • Tuesday, February 27th – Boxing at The Mundine Gym in Redfern from 6 pm.
  • Thursday, February 29th – Boxing at The Mundine Gym in Redfern from 6 pm
  • Saturday, March 2nd – Boxing at Legends Gym in Kensington from midday

I suspect that most Christians don’t know that Shia Muslims are also waiting for the second coming of Jesus, and they expect Al Mahdi (‘the guided one’) to come back with him. I’m not sure what to think about that, but I had better work it out by Monday night when I speak at this event.  Click the pic if you’d like to join us,

In truth, I’m still getting over everything that happened last weekend and during the week. It’s been a tumultuous time, combining the joy of my birthday celebration with the ongoing horrors of Gaza, with the future of dear Julian Assange yet unresolved.
In terms of things we’ve published this week:
  •  New articles have been published on
  •  Father Ola’s homily on 1 Peter 3 has been posted to the member site
  •  Speeches and images from the Assange Concert last Saturday night have been published on The address from Julian’s dad, John, is very much worth hearing. Click here.Freedom for Palestine

I’ve included a selection of images from last week below. There were many highlights, but one that will stay with me was receiving a birthday cake at the Assange concert. It was so unexpected. As I thanked the team, I felt I was looking at a group of veteran soldiers, each bearing the scars of many battles. Indeed, many a cross has been carried by those good souls. That brief address is recorded here.

Let me close by thanking all of you who attended my birthday dinner last Sunday night. I know more of you would have come had you been able. Even so, we had a wonderful time, and I am deeply grateful to God for my many trusted friends and fellow warriors in the fight.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. You can still pick up the artwork created by my darling daughter, Imogen, at Support the work and proclaim freedom!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email
Scroll to Top