People Jesus associated with
In Jesus’ time there were:
- People exploited by an unjust system.
- Growing unemployment.
- Impoverishment and growing debts.
- Powerful rich people who were unconcerned with the poverty of their brothers and sisters.
- Social tensions and conflicts.
- Bloody repression which killed without mercy.
- Upper classes collaborating with the Romans in the exploitation of people
- Opposition groups to the Romans who identified more with the aspirations of the people.
- An oppressive and ambiguous official religion.
- The confused but resistant piety of the common people.
Jesus lives, the greater part of his time, with those had no place within the existing social system.
- Prostitutes, who are preferred to the pharisees (Mk 21:31-32; Lk
- Publicans, who have precedence over the scribes (Lk 18:9-14; I 9: 1 – 1 0).
- Lepers, who are welcomed and cleansed (Mt 8:2-3, 11:5: Lk 17:12) and the priests are obliged to give them proof of their purification (Lk 7 7:14; Mk 7:44; Mt 8:2-4).
- The sick, (Mt 8:17) who are cured on the Sabbath Day (Mk 3:1-5; Lk 1 4: 1 -6; 1 3: 1 0- 1 3)
- Women, who are part of the group that accompanies Jesus (Lk 8:1-3; 23:49-55)
- Children, who are presented as the teachers of adults (Mk 18:1-4; 19:13-15; Lk 9:4 7-48).
- Humble people, who understand the mystery of the Kingdom better than the wise and learned (Mt 11:25-26)_
- Samaritans, who a re presented as models to the Jews (Lk 10:33, 17:16).
- The hungry, whom he welcomes as a flock without a shepherd (Mk 6:34; Mt 9:36; 15:32), to give them to eat (Jn 6:5-11), to provoke them into sharing (Jn 6:9)
- The blind, who receive vision (Mk 8:22-26; Mk 10:46-52; Jn 9:6-7). In contrast, the pharisees are declared blind (Mt 23:16).
- The lame, whose cure is a signal that Jesus can pardon sin without being blasphemous (Mk 2:1-12; Mt 11:15)_
- The possessed. The expulsion of demons is a sign that the Kingdom of God has come.
- Adulterers are welcomed and defended against the law and against tradition (Jn 8:2, 11).
- Old lady is defended in the synagogue against the coordinator of the synagogue (Lk 13:10- 1 7).
- Foreigners are welcomed and attended to (Lk 7:2-10) and the Canaanite woman succeeds in changing Jesus’ plans (Mt 7:24-30; Mt 1 5:22).
- The poor, the Kingdom of God belongs to them (Mt 5:3; Lk 6:20) and not to the rich (Lk 6:24).
- Beggars, in the parable they receive eternal life and the opulent rich man goes to hell (Lk 16:19-31).
- Thief is condemned by the system and is received by Jesus into the Kingdom (Lk 23:40-43).
- Fishermen are called to be disciples of Jesus (Mk 1:16-20) while there is no doctor or scribe among the twelve.
- Zealots: some of them are in Jesus’ group (Mt 10:4; Mk 3:18) along with Levi, the publican (Mk 2:14).
(from an unknown source in Ireland(?)
We might ask ourselves who we associate with in these days of gated-communities, gerrymandered politics.
For further reflection….
These concrete attitudes of Jesus represent a very big threat to the system of the Jews, for Jesus welcomes:
- ‘the immoral’ (prostitutes and sinners)
- ‘the marginalised’ (lepers and sick people)
- ‘heretics’ (samaritans and pagans)
- ‘collaborators’ (publicans and soldiers)
- ‘the weak’ and ‘the poor’ (who have neither power nor knowledge) those who have no place receive a place, and those who have a place in social life don’t have a place in Jesus’ company.
Jesus’ option is very clear.
The invitation is clear: its not possible to be a friend of Jesus and to continue to support the system which marginalises so many people.
Some understood and responded positively;
- Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-2) who defended Jesus in the tribunal (Jn 7:50-52) was jeered and risked being expelled (Jn 19:39);
- Joseph of Arimathea, who had courage to request the body of Jesus to bury it (Mt 27:57-60) risking accusation of being against the Romans and against the Jewish leaders;
- Zaccheus who gave half his goods to the poor and returned four times what he had robbed (Lk 1 9: I – I 0)
The people soon took notice of this novelty; they welcomed Jesus as someone ‘who teaches with authority’ (Mk I :2 7) different from the scribes and the pharisees (Mk 1:22), and going after Jesus (Mt 14:13-14) they forgot everything (Mk 6:35-36) house, food, children, to the point of stopping in the desert along with Jesus without food, almost collapsing (Mk 8:1-3).
The divisions and oppositions in the country of Jesus sprang from the economic, social, cultural and political structures prevalent at the time.
They contradicted the will of the Father because many people were marginalised, put to one side, without hope of obtaining a better life and very often this was reinforced by a false interpretation of the scriptures.
Jesus denounces all these divisions and combats them with very concrete attitudes:
1. The division between neighbour and non-neighbour, is not determined by race or by external observances but is to be overcome by the disposition of each to come close to the other, whoever he or she may be (Lk I0:29-3 7).
2. The division between pagan and Jew. Jesus was ready to enter the house of the centurion (Lk 7:6) and attended to the pleading of the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:28)
3. The division between external ‘holiness’ and true holiness is exposed for what it is (prayer: Mt 6:5-6; fasting: Mt 6:15-18; almsgiving: Mt 6:1-4).
4.The division between pure and impure— Jesus questioned the whole legislation about legal purity (Mt 23:23; Mk 7:13-33) and came to the point of ridiculing it (Mt 23:24).
5. The division between sacred and profane— he put the Sabbath at the service of people (Mt 12:1-12; Mk 2:27; Jn 7:23-24)
6. Division between sacred and profane places — he said God could be adored in any place, 4:21-24; Mk 11:15-17; 13:2; Jn 2:19) provided that it was in Spirit and in truth (Jn and not only in the temple.
7.The division between the poor and exploiters— he denounces the exploiters who say they are benefactors of the poor (Lk 20:46-4 7; Lk 22:25) and knocks over the tables of the money changers whom he calls thieves (Mk 11:15-17; Mt 21:12-17).
Acting in this way Jesus shakes and revitalises the pillars of the judaic system: observance of the Sabbath, the temple, the holy works like fasting, prayer, alms-giving and the law of purity (Mt 23:25-28),the practice of justice perpetuated by the pharisees (Mt 5:20), even the Law of Moses (Mt 5:17-21; 27:31, 33-38).
Jesus denounces the attempt to come to God through one’s own effort and one’s own merit: ‘We are useless seruants’ (Lk 17:10).
In this way he frees the people
- of the tyranny of the law,
- of the tyranny of the interpreters of the law,
- of the tyranny of those who in the name of greater knowledge, impose heavy burdens on the people who are said to be ignorant (Mt 23:4).
4. Jesus attacks the evils that diminish human life ‘I came that all may haue life and in abundance. ‘ (Jn 7 0:10). Acting against the system of the Jews, the objective of Jesus isn’t only to turn the situation upside down. His objective is to liberate all life that isrepressed and oppressed, life that was created by God in God’s image and likeness.
It is for this reason that Jesus struggles against all the evils that diminish life and against all forms of oppression which impede abundance of life (Jn 10:10):
- against hunger for he feeds the starving (Mk 6:30-44; 8:1-10);
- against sickness and sadness because he cures the infirm (Mt 4:24; 8: 7 6-17) and he gives power to cure them (Lk 10:9; Mk 6:13; 16-18; Mt 10:1-8),
- against the evils of nature, for he calms the winds and storms (Mt 14:32, 8:23-27);
- against demons and bad spirits, for he expels them (Mk 1:23-27; Lk 4:13), forbids them to speak (Mk 1:34) and confronts them in the hour of darkness (Lk 22:53),
- against ignorance for he teaches the people (Mt 9:35) and acts so that they develop a critical consciousness about society and its leaders (Mk 1:22);
- against abandonment and solitariness, for he welcomes people and does not marginalise them (Mt 9:36; 11:28-30);
- against oppressive literalism, for he denounces the legalistic scribes and pharisees who pervert the objectives of the tradition (Mt 23:13-15);
- against laws which oppress people and prevent their growth, because he considers the human person as the beneficiary of all laws (Mt 12:1-5; Mk 2:23-28);
- against oppresslon, for he welcomes the oppressed people (Mt 11:28-30) and denouncesthe oppressors who make themselves out to be the benefactors of the nation (Lk 22:25);
- against fear, for he presents himself with the message ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mt 28:10; Mk 6:50).