Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jesus from Nazareth: Champion of the Oppressed?

Jesus from Nazareth had a clear message
to all of those who are oppressed.

Today many give lip service to freeing the oppressed, but our world is absolutely full of subjugated peoples. And with every passing day, the freedom of more people seems to be oppressively tore away. What did Jesus say about social injustice? Did he champion the oppressed in his teaching and by his actions?

Jesus and Other Races

Every nation and generation has its own racial prejudices. The Jews of Christ's era looked down upon a racial-religious group called the Samaritans. Long before the time of Jesus, the Assyrians transported into Samaria (the region north of Jerusalem), conquered peoples from other lands. These foreigners intermarried with Jews of the area and developed a religion based on part of the Old Testament. The orthodox Hebrews had an intense hatred for these racial and religious "half-breeds" and even considered their food unclean. (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969, pp. 746-747).

Although the province of Samaria sat directly between Jerusalem and Galilee, most Jews would avoid the area in their travels. In an encounter that is recorded in John 4, Jesus and his disciples were on their way north to Galilee, but instead of avoiding Samaria, they walked directly through the region. At noon, Jesus stopped to rest at a well while the disciples went into the local city to buy food.

A woman came to draw water from the well, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."

Surprised that a Jew would talk to her, unless his motives were questionable, she asked, "How is it you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink, since I'm a Samaritan?"

"If you only knew what a wonderful gift God has for you, and who I am, you would ask me for some living water!" He ignored her racial question and offered her salvation.

After talking for several minutes, the woman said, "I know the Messiah is coming and when he does, he will explain everything to us."

"I am the Messiah!" He told her. Realizing whom she was talking to, the woman left her water pot, ran back to the city, and announced to everyone that the Messiah had come. The Samaritans then rushed out and begged him to stay in their city. And he agreed. (John 4:1-42).

Not only was Jesus willing to associate with Samaritans, he offered them eternal life and revealed his identity as the Messiah, which is something he would not do later for the self-righteous Pharisees. His friendship toward these social outcasts certainly did not add any stature to his reputation in the orthodox religious community.

Later, in Capernaum, some elders of the Jews came to Jesus and asked him to heal the slave boy of a Roman centurion.

"He deserves to have this done for him" they said. "He loves our nation and built us our synagogue."

"I will go and heal his servant," said the Lord. But while the Master, the disciples, and the elders were on their way, the centurion's servants met them on the road...


Take a look at the complete book Jesus From Nazareth: Liberator which is also available on the Fresh Light Source website.

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