20-4 Jesus A Palestinian Jew
And so we come to I guess the crucial question, in our search for
a true picture of Jesus. What did people see in Jesus as He walked
down the street, as He scratched, sneezed, as perhaps He asked for
directions to someone's home...? Surely they saw no halo around
His head. The Orthodox and Catholic churches have done huge damage
to people in pushing this image of Jesus. People saw in Him a man.
So human, that they were surprised when He indirectly declared one
day in the synagogue that basically, He was Messiah. We read that
Jesus “came into his own country” (Mk. 6:1)- an artless reflection
of the way in which He really was so human, having His “own” native
area- here on this earth and not in any pre-existent form in Heaven!
He had a very common Jewish name. The brothers of Jesus had names
which were among the commonest Jewish names at the time- James,
Joseph, Simon and Judas (Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3). I know we know this,
but just remember how Jesus truly shared our nature. He smelt the
smells of the marketplace, as He walked around helping a little
child crying because he'd lost his mum. From the larynx of a Palestinian
Jew there truly came the words of Almighty God. There, in the very
flesh and body tissue of the man Jesus, was God manifested in flesh.
And yet that wondrous man, that being, that Son of God who had no
human father, readily laughed at the funny side of events, just
like anyone else. His hands and arms would have been those of a
working man. He is always described as walking everywhere- and it's
been calculated that He must have walked 10,000 km. during His ministry.
He slept under the Olive trees at the foot of the Mount of Olives;
the Son of man had nowhere to lay His head. So He would often have
appeared a bit rough, His feet would have developed large blisters,
and His skin would have been sunburnt. Palestine was infested with
bandits at the time. It was almost inevitable that the Lord was
robbed and threatened at least once. He would have gone through
all the gut feelings one does when they are mugged: the initial
shock, the obvious question that skates through the mind 'How much
harm are they gonna do me...?', the bad taste left in the mouth
afterwards, the way one keeps on re-living every moment of what
happened. He would have known those feelings.
He was “despised and rejected of men”, as Isaiah had foretold so long
before. It’s perhaps hard to feel from our distance the extent to
which Galilee was despised by the Jerusalem Jews. Although Jerusalem
to Galilee is only around 100 km., “only in exceptional circumstances
will someone living in Jerusalem have travelled to the distant province
of Galilee, as the Life of Josephus shows…a journey to
Rome would be more likely for a better class Jerusalem dweller than
one to provincial Galilee, which was the back of beyond…the people
of Judaea despised the uneducated Galileans and were not particularly
interested in this remote province”(1).
Yet it was exactly from here that the Son of God came!
It was from the parochial, the ordinary, from the nothing special,
that God’s holy child came forth to change this world. So if you
too feel a nobody, a cut below the rest, held back by your background…this
is the very wonder of God manifestation. It’s through you and me,
the kids from the backstreets, the uneducated, the duffers, the
dumbers…that God Almighty reveals Himself to this world.
(1) Martin Hengel, The Geography
of Palestine in Acts, in Richard Bauckham, ed., The
Book of Acts Vol. 4 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995), p. 33.