2-4 Jesus A Palestinian Jew

The real Christ becomes yet more real – in my experience at least- by reflecting upon what the Gospels record of His actions. Only after the invention of the printing press did ordinary people become so maxed out upon written words and analyzing them. The vast majority of the Lord’s followers down the centuries were illiterate and as such not able to hyper analyze and connect His words. The Gospels in their unique way present even the imaginable body language of the Lord Jesus- the whole experience of hearing them read lends itself to imagining His actions. I’m not saying of course that His words were unimportant, but it seems to me that in order to reconstruct Him as a personality we need to focus upon Him as a real, acting person. And this is how the Gospels invite us to perceive Him. As N.T. Wright has noted in this context, “Actions… speak louder than words. Studying actions… is a far better starting-point for the historian than studying isolated sayings” (1).

And so we come to I guess the crucial question, in our search for a true picture of Jesus. What did people see in Jesus as He walked down the street, as He scratched, sneezed, as perhaps He asked for directions to someone's home...? Surely they saw no halo around His head. The Orthodox and Catholic churches have done huge damage to people in pushing this image of Jesus. People saw in Him a man. So human, that they were surprised when He indirectly declared one day in the synagogue that basically, He was Messiah. We read that Jesus “came into his own country” (Mk. 6:1)- an artless reflection of the way in which He really was so human, having His “own” native area- here on this earth and not in any pre-existent form in Heaven! He had a very common Jewish name. The brothers of Jesus had names which were among the commonest Jewish names at the time- James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Mt. 13:55; Mk. 6:3). I know we know this, but just remember how Jesus truly shared our nature. He smelt the smells of the marketplace, as He walked around helping a little child crying because he'd lost his mum. From the larynx of a Palestinian Jew there truly came the words of Almighty God. There, in the very flesh and body tissue of the man Jesus, was God manifested in flesh. And yet that wondrous man, that being, that Son of God who had no human father, readily laughed at the funny side of events, just like anyone else. His hands and arms would have been those of a working man. He is always described as walking everywhere- and it's been calculated that He must have walked 10,000 km. during His ministry. He slept under the Olive trees at the foot of the Mount of Olives; the Son of man had nowhere to lay His head. So He would often have appeared a bit rough, His feet would have developed large blisters, and His skin would have been sunburnt. Palestine was infested with bandits at the time. It was almost inevitable that the Lord was robbed and threatened at least once. He would have gone through all the gut feelings one does when they are mugged: the initial shock, the obvious question that skates through the mind 'How much harm are they gonna do me...?', the bad taste left in the mouth afterwards, the way one keeps on re-living every moment of what happened. He would have known those feelings.  

He was “despised and rejected of men”, as Isaiah had foretold so long before. It’s perhaps hard to feel from our distance the extent to which Galilee was despised by the Jerusalem Jews. Although Jerusalem to Galilee is only around 100 km., “only in exceptional circumstances will someone living in Jerusalem have travelled to the distant province of Galilee, as the Life of Josephus shows…a journey to Rome would be more likely for a better class Jerusalem dweller than one to provincial Galilee, which was the back of beyond…the people of Judaea despised the uneducated Galileans and were not particularly interested in this remote province”(2). The Jerusalem elite and the majority of Palestinian Jews despised Galileans- “For them ‘fool’ and ‘Galilean’ were almost synonyms” (3). We see the typical way in which God loves to work- using Galileans to confound the wisdom of the society in which they lived. It was exactly from here that the Son of God came! It was from the parochial, the ordinary, from the nothing special, that God’s holy child came forth to change this world. So if you too feel a nobody, a cut below the rest, held back by your background…this is the very wonder of God manifestation. It’s through you and me, the kids from the backstreets, the uneducated, the duffers, the dumbers…that God Almighty reveals Himself to this world.


(1) N.T. Wright, Jesus And The Victory Of God (London: S.P.C.K., 2004 ) p. 141.

(2) Martin Hengel, The Geography of Palestine in Acts, in Richard Bauckham, ed., The Book of Acts Vol. 4 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995), p. 33.

(3) L.E. Elliott-Binns, Galilean Christianity (Chicago: Allenson, 1956) p. 25.

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