The Count of Monte Cristo and the Politics of Jesus
“Listen to me, you vermin. I am Albert, son of Fernand, Count de Mondego, and you have had your last laugh at my expense. DO YOUR WORST.” – from the 2002 movie version of Count of Monte Cristo
“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!” – Edmond Dantes
As you might have noticed, my brain makes the oddest connections sometimes.
The powers of the world don’t know what to do with Jesus. You see their confusion in John’s account of the encounter between Jesus and Pilate. What do you do with a man who won’t play by “the rules?” He won’t brag. He won’t demand respect. He won’t defend himself. He won’t attack his enemies. He won’t play the game – not by Jewish or Roman rules.
In the first scene above, young Albert’s being mocked by brigands. He thinks he’s been kidnapped for ransom, and he demonstrates steely courage in the face of their threats – which surprises Edmond Dantes, who has arranged this little play as a ruse to get close to Albert’s father. Edmond expects a “like father, like son” moment, but Albert’s resolve cracks into and begins the eventual undoing of Edmond’s lust for vengeance. Albert wouldn’t play the game.
In Pakistan today, six employees of World Vision were gunned down and seven others wounded in an attack on an office that has been doing relief and community-development work in northern Pakistan since 2005. The powers of the world don’t know what to do when confronted by the politics of Jesus. When violence is met with self-sacrificial love, when manipulation is met by truth, this is what happens. This is the Jesus Way.
The second quote above is from Albert’s birthday – his rite-of-passage-into-adulthood ceremony. The weasel Fernand has abdicated his responsibility to bless the young man he believes to be his son, and Edmond offers this blessing in his place (ironically fulfilling his role, since he is Albert’s true father – although no one but Mercedes knows it at this point in the narrative). There is a great deal of power and truth in his words.
Life does take dramatic turns from darkness into light and back again.
How we navigate those turns reflects our identity to the watching world.
Jesus could have chosen to take the way of violence (the 10,000 angels route OR the Zealot-recruitment route).
Jesus could have chosen to take the way of manipulation (if stones can become bread, tiles can become gold coins OR appearing on the pinnacle of the Temple would sweep the crowds into a nationalistic frenzy)
He could have, but he didn’t. He chose, instead, to stare his enemy in the face, open his arms wide, and say, “Do. Your. Worst. I trust my Father.” That’s the Jesus Way.