JESUS NOT SAY THAT HE WAS POOR
Something has been troubling me for a while since I began to study the gospels nearly eight years ago. I have come to realise that, when we study the Bible from a Hebrew perspective, there are many things we take for granted as Greek-orientated western thinkers that are just not meant to be interpreted the way we do. Imagine opening a novel set in the American “wild west” and reading it as a story from eighteenth century England. It would make no sense at all.
But unfortunately, that’s the way we westerners read and interpret the Bible if we don’t take into consideration the language and culture of the people who wrote it. As a result, we have developed and passed on a traditional way of understanding passages in the Bible that were never intended to be read that way.
Take Jesus’ response to the man who requested to follow Him:
Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.’ (Luke 9: 38)
We have “invented“ an interpretation that demands that Jesus was poor, of course backed up by Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. 8:9:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor so that you, through His poverty might become rich.
Of course there can be no comparison between the riches Jesus enjoyed with the Father and His financial state here on earth, but that does not mean that He was a pauper during His time on earth. He was a Jewish rabbi. He would have been given many offerings by the people who followed Him and benefitted from His teaching. He was supported by wealthy women. After all, His seamless robe was the garment of a wealthy man for which the soldiers gambled as He hung dying on the cross.
Hebrew people used similes and metaphors to illustrate what a thing did rather than what it looked like. Take for example God’s instruction to Moses when he asked to see His glory.
When my glory passes by, I will hide you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.
But wait a minute! God is spirit. Does He have a hand? No! Then what did He mean? We immediately interpret this to mean a literal hand. If that were true, then the many descriptions of God would lead us to think that He is a grotesque-looking being! A Hebrew person would ask, “What does a hand do?” Their language was based on action and what they experienced with their senses. They would understand that God would protect Moses from seeing His face.
That brings us to Jesus’ statement, Foxes have dens and birds have nests. For what purpose do these creatures have dens and nests? They do not live in them; they reproduce in them. What, then, did Jesus’ head have to do with reproduction?
One of Paul’s pictures of the church is a body. Jesus is the head of the church, the head of His body. But the church was only born on the day of Pentecost. Before that, He was a head without a body. But why did Jesus need a body?
He came to restore His estranged people to fellowship with the Father through His death. It was His plan to reproduce Himself in the world through the church so that the unbelieving world would see what the Father is really like, not from the distorted picture of God presented by Jewish religion, but from His life and ministry and from His death and resurrection reproduced in His followers.
When this man came to request to be a part of the disciples, Jesus was not ready to take Him on. The time would come when he would be welcomed into the church as a believer, joined to Jesus as his head, and part of a reproducing body that Jesus would send into the world to “make disciples”. These would in turn, follow Jesus and reproduce Him in the lives of others.
That’s how He intended to establish His kingdom on earth. It is a brilliant model, if only the church would do as He instructed instead of inventing its own model, which has, in the main, failed.
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