Jesus Preached Ethnic Equality
Without Using The Words
Ethnicity was never a discussion point for Jesus. He never mentioned the topic specifically or addressed it directly but in spite of that, the issue predominates.
The Gospels and the New Testament are riddled with both subtle and pointed references to ethnic issues. The thread runs consistently throughout. For Example:
The Wise Men
The story of Jesus starts out with a very interesting ethnic twist and we don’t easily see it. We are so accustomed to reading the Christmas story, filled with wonder and delight, that we miss how strange it is that middle eastern dignitaries, magi, would show up uninvited in Jerusalem to visit the recently born King of the Jews.
This was unusual. National entities in New Testament days weren’t known for mutual trust and Israel’s sitting King, Herod, was particularly nasty. He killed his first wife and had her three sons executed.
The only reason these wise men received a hearing instead of a beheading was because they were wise men, attendees at court, which no doubt gave them political clout, and they were apparently wealthy too. They came bearing very expensive gifts for the new King.
But they were outsiders. Had it not been for their intriguing story about a new and recently born King of the Jews, they might have been run out of town.
All of that is to say that the story of Jesus starts out with an ethnic wake-up call. And it wasn’t just that the wise men represented a different ethnicity who joined the joined the brethren in receiving the King. They seemed to be the only ones who actually got it.
The Pharisees, the superior group, along with most of Israel and the rest of the world were completely blindsided. How is it that people on the outside, marginalized by religious Judaism, saw in Jesus what the Jews could not?
The people in the best position to recognize the first coming of Jesus weren’t looking or expectant. That alone is weird! But then it becomes even more unusual when recognition comes from another ethnic group.
That’s like saying Vatican City missed it but the Gypsies got it!
The point, of course – at least one of them – is the fact ethnicity isn’t a barrier to searching for and finding truth. The ability to recognize God is not unique to any one ethnic group.
But the ethnic thread doesn’t stop there.
A Mixed Crowd
Fairly early in His public life, Jesus ministers to a large and mixed crowd that included people from Jerusalem and Judea, and from Decapolis and from beyond Jordan (Mark 3:7-12). Put simply, this brief statement paints a picture of a large crowd of people, including both Jews and Canaanites, mixing and mingling in very close quarters, all trying to touch Jesus. Think of a music concert with everyone reaching for the stage.
This was neither a comfortable nor a common situation. Jews and Canaanites weren’t known to spend time in close proximity, but what makes this interesting is the fact that it is mentioned in passing as if it is a normal occurrence. And we read it as if the only miracle was the healing Jesus performed on the suffering when in reality a much bigger miracle was taking place.
Namely: People from fiercely opposing ethnicities were huddled together apparently without incident. There were no fractious moments to record. The only trouble came from people pressing a little too forcefully trying to get within touching range of Jesus.
The Jews and Canaanites didn’t point at each other and whisper obscenities under the breath. There was no them vs us.
And there’s more. [Read more…]