“Let me tell you a story.”
I can imagine that that is how many of Jesus’ sermons began. We think of Jesus like this folk hero to the masses, but sometimes I think we forget who he was in light of the time he lived.
The Old World
Let me tell you a story. It’s more than 2,000 years ago. There is no church. There is the Jewish/Hebrew faith. And there are the Gentiles. It is the time of the Romans, and it is tradition to worship the king of the land–in this case Caesar.
The Jewish leaders are steeped in tradition and feel they are righteous. Women who have sex out of wedlock are stoned to death and tax collectors are outcasts. This is good, is it not? We have to have rules in order to keep us together, keep us on track.
And then there was Jesus. He preached on the Sabbath. He ate with tax collectors and spoke to prostitutes. More than that, it was how he treated them–with respect, with dignity, and he loved them. His closest friends were sinners.
So how did the officials, the holy men of the time react? We all know that they didn’t like what Jesus was doing. History and the bible clout these men as being bad, because they didn’t like Jesus, but try to look at it from their point of view.
Jesus completely ignores the status quo. People, most people anyway, hate change, struggle with change. We are creatures of habit. A belief system is even harder to change. The Pharisees and Sadducees also benefited from their belief system. These were the holy men of the temple. The esteem they felt from respect of their leadership would have been important to them, a part of their identity. Imagine what it would have done to their self-esteem to admit that Jesus, a mere carpenter, had it right, and they, the holy men of Jerusalem, had gotten off track! Can you imagine? It is a very human tendency to hold onto beliefs that are integrated into our identity.
The New World
Let me tell you a story.
It is the year 2022. Jesus has come and gone from this earth and now only remains on earth in the hearts of his faithful. The church has grown into a vast collection of parishes, Catholic and Protestant alike. Fundamentalist and Charismatic. Persecutions and the Crusades have led us to where we stand now. The church is steeped in tradition, and Christians consider themselves to be righteous. We disapprove of feminism and going away from traditional gender roles, and condemn homosexuals.
And then there is Jesus. If he were here, would he preach on the Sabbath? Help the sick and the wounded on Sunday? I bet he would. Who would he eat with? Would it be the Christians? Or would it be the homosexuals and the feminists? How would he treat them? Who would his friends be?
There are a lot of us that are very much like the Pharisees and the Saducees, who condemn those who believe differently from us. How would Jesus react? And, would he choose us if he were here today?