The resurrection of Jesus is not to be understood in good liberal fashion as a spiritual development in the church. Nor should it be too quickly handled as an oddity in the history of God or as an isolated act of God’s power. Rather, it is the ultimate act of prophetic energizing in which a new history is initiated. It is a new history open to all but peculiarly received by the marginal victims of the old order.
The crucifixion of Jesus is not to be understood simply in good liberal fashion as the sacrifice of a noble man, nor should we too quickly assign a cultic, priestly theory of atonement to the event. Rather, we might see in the crucifixion of Jesus the ultimate act of prophetic criticism in which Jesus announces the end of a world of death (the same announcement as that of Jeremiah) and takes that death into his own person. Therefore we say that the ultimate criticism is that God himself embraces the death that his people must die.
The point that prophetic imagination must ponder is that there is no freedom of God without the politics of justice and compassion, and there is no politics of justice and compassion without a religion of the freedom of God.
If a God is disclosed who is free to come and go, free from and even against the regime, free to hear and even answer slave cries, free from all proper godness as defined by the empire, then it will bear decisively upon sociology because the freedom of God will surface in the brickyards and manifest itself as justice and compassion.
The dominant conservative misconception, evident in manifold bumper stickers, is that the prophet is a future-teller, a predictor of things to come (mostly ominous), usually with specific reference to Jesus. While one would not want to deny totally those facets of the practice of prophecy, there tends to be a kind of reductionism that is mechanical and therefore untenable. While the prophets are in a way future-tellers, they are concerned with the future as it impinges upon the present. Conversely, liberals who abdicated and turned all futuring over to conservatives have settled for a focus on the present. Thus prophecy is alternatively reduced to righteous indignation, and… prophecy is mostly understood as social action.