“Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated a new social order, an alternative to violence, exclusion, and separation. It is no fantastical utopia, but a very real and achievable peace—by the grace of God.” cac.org, Richard Rohr
Often I try to put myself back into the times of Jesus. Sometimes I play the role of a man like Jesus in that chaotic era of history. My imagination cannot possibly comprehend even the mundane challenges of everyday life trying to survive in a society which was tightly controlled not only by the Romans but also by the Jewish hierarchy. Earning a living, providing food and shelter for a family, abiding by innumerable laws of government and religion must have driven many men to madness and desperation.
Remembering that Jesus was probably a typical, young man long before he became a local celebrity, I can picture his Jewish mother, Mary, lamenting, “All my other sons have jobs, earn a living, have a nice donkey to ride to work, go on vacation to Jerusalem every year and buy their wives new robes for their birthday.”
Young Jesus is just standing there before Mary with a sheepish grin, “But mother, you just don’t understand, I have to be about my Father’s work. I have a Kingdom to establish.”
“Kingdom, smingdom. Why can’t you be more like your brother James? He just built on a beautiful sewing room for his wife and rumor has it that they are sending little James to private tutoring next year with the Rabbi.”
“Aw, Mom, I am not like my brothers. Hey, have you seen my sandals? I’m leaving tomorrow to spend 40 days in the wilderness.”
Later in Jesus’ ministry to his countrymen, he remembered the days at home in Nazareth. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.”Mark 6:4
His hometown people undoubtedly thought Jesus was not only lazy but also crazy. When he began teaching his outrageous idea that all people were equal in the eyes of God, that the Jewish temple leaders were hypocrites, that women had rights, that prostitutes, tax collectors, and Samaritans were loved by God, his mother Mary must have walked down to the well for water with eyes straight ahead, unable to bear the whispering and gossiping of her village friends along the path.
“That son of hers, Jesus….did you hear what he did over at Galilee? He said he could move mountains and people say that he walked on water. Can you imagine? Poor Mary, she’s such a good woman.”
“Yes, and did you know that he has gathered a group of other men to follow him around the countryside begging for food and teaching something they call the Way. They say he’s the Messiah.”
“Jesus was a person radically centered in God, empowered by that relationship, and filled with God’s passion for the world—a passion that led to his execution and vindication.” “—Marcus Borg
2000 years later, Jesus of Nazareth creates just as much controversy as he did when he was a young man in Israel. Some people think he was a radical and a zealot. Some people say he was and is God’s Son. Others say he was just another magician supporting his homeless ways as best as he could.
But, it doesn’t matter. Jesus, by his lifestyle and his teaching, brought to humanity an awareness that mankind is a brotherhood/sisterhood of equally loved and loving children of God and that they all, every one of them, are worthy of a Father’s love and compassion. Imagine that! A carpenter’s lazy son from Nazareth turned the world upside down and inside out saying that all men and women are equal, all are loved by God, all are welcome to partake of Earth’s great feast, and all are designed by their Creator to live in peace.
One man – a homeless beggar, a social reject, a charlatan, a simple teacher of brotherly love – did that 2000 years ago. The new social order he ordained lives vibrantly and grows within the hearts of men and women today. He was crucified so that we could live abundantly. Do I have what it takes to be a person radically centered on God? How about you?