This will be the last negative post about the book, Irresistible Revolution. I will write about the many positive things I gleaned from the challenging and convicting book. This is just another aspect that I think Shane overstates (to the point that he is wrong).
This entire story of Jesus identifying with the homeless and the poor is extremely overstated when Shane starts to tell us why Jesus was crucified. Shane states, “Jesus was crucified not for helping the poor people but for joining them. That is the Jesus we follow” (page 144). Earlier he explained the difference between charity and joining the poor. He writes, “Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them” (page 129). It may just be me but it seems to be that Shane is saying that Jesus was crucified because he joined the poor and identified with them. I can’t imagine the Romans (who he almost completely blames for the crucifixion) would crucify a peasant who called for his people to take a new look at the poor and take care of them. The Jewish people of the day had a strong ethic of taking care of the poor. In fact, a statement by one of the emperors which has been applied to Christians originally was pointed at the Jewish people of the Greco-Roman world.
Emperor Julian stated:
“For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans (Christians) support not only their poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”
By Shane implying (if not explicitly stating) that Jesus was crucified for identifying with the poor, he ignores two aspects of the intention of the crucifixion. From a purely secular-historical perspective, Jesus was crucified by the Romans because he was seen as a revolutionary who stirred up the crowds and threatened the peace (which the Romans maintained at all costs). Jesus claimed to be a king and that does not sit well with Roman authorities who are not particularly interested in the nuances of spiritual kingdoms versus literal, earthly, present kingdoms.
The Jewish religious leaders also had a motive of preserving the peace as well. Jesus did not only threaten their existence and their authority, but his preaching and teaching was provoking the people and the religious leaders saw this as potentially threatening the peace and ruining their way of life, specifically threatening their temple (see John 11.47-50).
From a theological perspective, Jesus was crucified to redeem humanity as a sacrifice of “atonement” (Rom. 3.24-25; 1 John 2.2). There was much more going on upon the cross than a revolutionary, wandering prophet who identified with the poor and called his Jewish brothers and sisters to take care of the less fortunate.