Often when I hear someone use words in an unexpected way I look to the dictionary to see what wisdom I can glean via the standard meaning of the words (in case I have a culturally corrupted understanding of the meaning). So I looked up the verb roots in the Oxford Dictionary online.
Subvert (verb): Undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution)
synonyms: destabilize, unsettle, overthrow, overturn
Fulfill (verb): Achieve or realize (something desired, promised, or predicted); Gain happiness or satisfaction by achieving one’s potential; Complete; Carry out (a duty or role) as required, promised, or expected; Satisfy or meet (a requirement, condition, or need) – (of a retailer) pack and dispatch (a customer’s order)
synonyms: succeed in, attain, realize, consummate, satisfy, manage, bring off, bring about, carry off, carry out, carry through, bring to fruition, deliver
Nothing I really didn’t expect, but I’m often surprised at a nuance of a definition I had never known. I’ve certainly heard of Jesus as a subversive and a revolutionary–it was those particular aspects of his ministry that were used to justify to his crucifixion. He certainly came to “Undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution).” He was also the fulfillment of prophecy and God’s plan for our salvation. And to the saved, indeed fulfilling. So the pairing of the words is very meaningful.
I think the order of the word pairing is equally important. Because for humanity (the sinner/the saved) first he destabilizes/unsettles any confidence you have in your own abilities to do life “my way” then he shows you true fulfillment in a life lived God’s way in God’s economy of time, resources, gifts, service and purpose for the kingdom.
What human concepts does he not undermine? That would be the question. Darwin tells us that nature is the survival of the fittest. Society tells us to achieve (wealth, status, fame, power). Jesus tells us the least shall be the greatest. To live we must die. And not just a passive dying–we are to put to death…Rom 8:13: For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
It would be interesting to take another look at the parables (or many of them) in light of the phrase “subversive fulfillment” or in other words: set our mind on the things of God, not on the things of man.