Whose Side Was He On?

For many years I have suggeted to audiences that if they really want to know Jesus attitude towards the poor or marginalized, and conversely, the responses of the powerful, the wealthy and the gatekeepers of his society, they should do the following.

1. Draw up 4 columns on a notepad.  In column one list every encounter Jesus had with an individual, group or generic group (eg the Pharisees, the rich etc).

2. In column two note whether they were the marginalized or the accepted power brokers of the society, or highly respected groups.

3. Describe the outcome of the encounter with Jesus.

4. Decide whether the encounter was positive or negative.

Imagine my excitement when I found someone had seriously pursued this line and placed the findings on-line. I therefore post Jon Kuhrt’s article for your serious consideration. Jon’s list misses one or two stories…for instance Zaccheus, who though wealthy, was a despised tax collector, so outcast he could not give credible evidence in court. The crowd despises him. Jesus eats at home with him to the disgust of the local crowd.  He clearly fits the pattern of Jesus befriending outcasts.

On the other hand Jon lists one or two accounts as involving the powerful with positive outcomes which I would want to underscore more strongly as marginal. For instance, the Magi were powerful perhaps in a Zoroastrian society, but as astrologists they would be outcasts in Jewish thinking. therefore a positive outcome fits the norm.

The Centurian was a gentile Roman soldier, employee of Herod Antipas, thus a marginal person with epect of jewish culture. His encounter with Jesus was positive, thus fitting the pattern.

in any case, the overall pattern is deeply disturbing for modern churches which are comfortable and substantially fixed in the prosperous, repectible quarter of the society.  The message of Jesus and his example certainly disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.

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