JESUS AND THE COMMON PEOPLE
Jesus had a special and intimate relationship with His disciples. He had lived and walked with them for three years. It was understandable that He should love them and crave their friendship and fellowship because it was to them that He would entrust the success of His mission. Imagine that!
It was to these twelve fallible human beings – and one of them would turn traitor – that He would hand over the task of representing Him to a hostile world. They would have to be like Him, love like Him, forgive like Him, act like Him and speak like Him to a world that hated and rejected Him and killed Him for showing them what God was like. They would be treated with no less venom than He was.
He passionately loved His disciples, but what of the common people? What did He feel about them?
Jesus and the common people
Brennan Manning tells the story of an elderly Dutch professor who was one of thirteen children. As a child, he overheard a neighbour asking his father which of his children was his favourite. Which one did he love the most? His father’s response startled the little boy listening in.
“That’s easy,” his father replied. “Sure there’s one I love more than all the others. That’s Mary, the twelve-year-old. She just got braces on her teeth and feels so awkward and embarrassed that she won’t go out of the house any more. Oh, but you asked about my favourite. That’s my twenty-three-year-old, Peter. His fiancée just broke their engagement, and he is desolate . . . But I guess of all the kids . . . ‘and his father went on mentioning each of his thirteen children by name. The professor ended his story by saying, “What I learned was that the one my father loved the most was the one who needed him the most at that time.”
(Brennan Manning – The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus – Ch. 1, p 28)).
And that’s the way Jesus loved the people. He loved the ones the most who needed Him the most.
He responded with the mercy to the ones who cried for mercy. He had compassion on the crowd because He saw them as harassed and helpless, as sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9: 36). He fed them in the wilderness when they were hungry after three days without food. He condemned the religious leaders for placing burdens on them too heavy to carry.
He ate with the outcasts of society in spite of the criticism He faced from the “righteous” ones. Eating together had a special significance for people of the Middle East. You never ate with anyone whom you considered to be your enemy or with whom you were out of fellowship. Jesus was sending a clear message to the religious ones. “I have no axe to grind with the tax collectors and prostitutes.” That really rattled their cages!
On one occasion, Jesus had graciously accepted the invitation to a meal from a Pharisee – Simon by name. During the meal a woman with a questionable reputation slipped in and fell down in front of Him, weeping. Her scalding tears fell on His feet which she tenderly wiped with her unbraided hair, smearing apart the dust and grime which should have been bathed away by Simon’s servant as a gesture of courtesy for an honoured guest.
Simon looked on in disgust. He was outraged by this intrusion and Jesus’s response. How could a man who claimed to be a prophet allow her to do this? Didn’t He know who she was?
How clear had Simon’s message been to Jesus! “I have invited you to eat with me so that I can look good. But I have withheld the common courtesies so that you will get my message. I am not in fellowship with you.”
Jesus smartly put him in his place. With one of His straight-shooting parables, He unmasked the hypocrite. How obvious was Jesus’s message back to him! It didn’t matter to Him how Simon treated Him and what he meant by his pointed omissions. With one of His simple stories He ripped the mask off Simon’s face and exposed his hypocrisy to all the guests at the meal.
Simon had made it clear that he was not in fellowship with Jesus. But this woman! She had shown her love by giving to Him from her own body and treasure the common courtesies withheld by Simon. She, not Simon, enjoyed His forgiveness. She, not Simon, knew what it was to love Him. Simon was held prisoner by his prejudice, but she was free from her sin and guilt and enjoyed the peace of God which nothing could take from her.
Jesus was never fazed by the so-called “unclean” people – lepers, diseased and disabled people; everyone was an opportunity to show them the love of God. He even touched and raised the dead! He embraced lepers, those who had not felt human skin in years, and made them clean. Never did He accuse or condemn. He spoke healing, peace and hope into them and loved them unconditionally.
He forgave sinners, much to the fury of the Pharisees. What right had He to forgive sins? Every right in the world because He was the lamb to God who was slain from the foundation of the world. He forgave a paralytic without his even asking Him. He even made the witnesses go away and forgave an adulteress when she should have been stoned, because His yoke was mercy, not judgment.
His holiness was not hypocritical and repulsive like the “piety” of the religious ones. People were drawn to Him like moths to a candle. They did not fear Him; they flocked around Him. Why? Because they felt His love, not His disapproval, no matter how vile they were.
Once again I quote from Brennan Manning. He tells the story of Dominique, a French priest who belonged to the community of the Little Brothers of Jesus. At the age of fifty-four he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
“With the community’s permission he moved to a poor neighbourhood in Paris and took a job as a night watchman at a factory. Returning home every morning at 8 am, he would go directly to the little park across the street where he lived and sit down on a wooden bench. Hanging around the park were marginal people – drifters, winos, “has-beens”, dirty old men who ogled the girls passing by.
“Dominique never criticised, scolded or reprimanded them. He laughed, told stories, shared his candy, and accepted them just as they were. From living so long out of the inner sanctuary, he gave off a peace, a serene sense of self-possession and a hospitality of heart that caused cynical young men and defeated old men to gravitate to him like bacon towards eggs. His simple witness lay in accepting others as they were, without questions and allowing them to make themselves at home in his heart. Dominique was the most non-judgmental person I have ever known. He loved with the heart of Jesus Christ.”
(Brennan Manning – The Signature of Jesus – © 1988, 1992, 1996, Multnomah Books, page 98).
Isn’t that the secret of the rabbi’s heart – total acceptance with no conditions because “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4: 8)?
Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!
ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6
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