«Back to Resources
Jesus A Meditation
By Brian Traynor, CP
Jesus would have grown up on the edge of an international city with people of different cultures and languages. Sepporis was only an hour’s walk from Nazareth. Because it was being rebuilt, it would have attracted tradesmen from a variety of places. Joseph and Jesus would have found plenty of opportunity to find carpentry work there. We note in the gospel that Peter is identified as being from Galilee because of his distinctive accent which was influenced by Greek speakers. Jesus would have spoken Aramaic, some Hebrew law and scripture, and probably a lot of Greek. At least some of his disciples (such as Simon, Andrew and Philip) would have been ‘Greek speakers’.
Jesus had at least two conversions:
He was baptised by, and became an assistant to John. After John was put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee to replace him. He hadn’t been preaching there before probably because it was his own territory .( “prophets are not accepted”) It is clear from Matthew 11 that Jesus was not doing what John had expected of him. Jesus began to criticise the law and associate with tax collectors and sinners, such as people with forbidden trades. This was bad enough, but to say that such people were good in God’s eyes went totally against Jewish teaching.
i) joining up with John the Baptist
ii) something he started doing that forced John to send messengers to ask Jesus
‘who are you ?’
Jesus refers to himself being derided as a ‘drunkard and glutton’ (Mt 11:19). This was a technical term used in Deut 21:21. It means rebellious and disobedient. Such a person was to be taken outside the city and put to death by stoning!
What led to Jesus’ second conversion ? No doubt it was the socio-economic climate of the time in Galilee. Galileehad become an area of big estates which had previously been smaller free holdings.
Owners had to contribute labour and provide seed, food, and fodder and for next year’s crop. He needed reserve money for births, death and marriage parties, for the purchase of new farm equipment and he had to pay taxes which were sometimes 40% and 60%. If he had a bad harvest and was forced off his land, sometimes he had no choice but turn to trades that were forbidden to Jews.
A Jew was not as helpful an employee as others because he was forbidden to work on the Sabbath. Many were forced to disobey this law in order to gain employment. These people were victims, not criminals, and that’s how Jesus accepted them. By doing so, he was in opposition to the law. John had been calling people back to ‘authentic Jewish life’. Jesus saw a deeper need. Jesus knew the people’s basic goodness and the burdens they were under. He was moved with compassion for them and He knew his Father God was too. His stance made him different from a prophet. Instead of saying ‘thus says the Lord’ he began saying “Amen, I say to you’.
Now he became proactive. He chose synagogues and the Sabbath, to publicly challenge the teaching of the elders. In a synagogue he called out a man with a withered arm. Jewish law permitted an action to save life on the Sabbath, but only if necessary. Jesus said ‘No’. There is no waiting with God. God heals every day
The priests controlled temple worship. They insisted on animals being sacrificed. People had to purchase these animals to fulfill their legal obligations, so the Temple was a place of flourishing trade from which the priests benefited. Jesus challenged the corruption of the priests. He was more impressed by a poor widow putting a small coin in the treasury box than with the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. For him. personal virtue, social position or possessions didn’t matter. Faith mattered. He didn’t ask people to change and then follow; He just said ‘Follow me’.
People of religion were scandalized by his free mixing with sinners, his apparent disregard of the seriousness of sin, his permissiveness towards tradition and his free and easy way of treating God. He did not make authority his truth, he made truth his authority. He was driven by a profound experience of compassion and he developed a solidarity with people from every walk of life. Even his enemies admitted about him, "we know that the rank of a person means nothing to you"
In Jesus’ world, a Samaritan and a shepherd could be good; a shepherd could even leave 99 sheep to look for one that was lost; a father could make himself stupid by partying on the return of a worthless son. Precious seed could be thrown carelessly among thorns, on rocky ground and on pathways. It went against everything the elders believed, and it sounded foolish - but that is what Jesus implied God was like.
He allowed God to break out of the captivity of tradition and institution. He said God isn’t impressed by personal virtue or status, nor put off by your sins. All God wants is faith and then God can act! If you ask you will receive, if you seek you will find and if you knock, the door will be opened for you. Being anxious about yourself blinds you to the abundance that the kingdom offers. Faith leads to truth, and truth sets you free.
He used his meals with people to speak of the future in terms of the joy of a great banquet to which all are invited, all made welcome and no one feel excluded. In Judaism sinners were outsiders and forbidden to share meals with faithful Jews. For Jesus there were no outsiders. The feeding of the 5000 is a reminder that God can feed all of his people. This was Jesus dream; the kingdom when it has arrived
We may sometimes fail to see that his ministry in Galilee had largely been a failure. He had been rejected by his neighbours, and his family thought he had gone mad. His disciples never seemed to understand his message. To those who were devout he was irreligious; to the learned he was untrained; to the revolutionary zealots he was too idealistic and not anti-Roman. To the priests he was an interfering layman who threatened their authority; to the Romans he was a cause of unrest. In the world of that time, (not so different from the
He was betrayed, abandoned, condemned, humiliated and defeated. He suffered the horrible death of crucifixion. Throughout it all he virtually remained silent. He had said all there was to be said! His followers gathered in fear and remembered what Jesus had said and done. They could only be consoled by the fact that his dream could never have worked anyway. They talked of their former lives. Peter said “I’m going fishing”. He was going back to his old life.
What happened then ? We can never know, but whatever it was, it transformed them. They knew that Jesus lived - that His promise was true. They could never return to fishing. There was a new call. “follow me”.
Who is Jesus for us today ? Anyone today who hears Jesus’ voice, really hears him, hears the same invitation as those early disciples. It is a call to ‘Follow Me’. Like Peter, once you believe in that call, you can never return to what you were doing before.
Brian Traynor CP