I’ve struggled my entire life with my concept of Jesus…Jesus the man…Jesus the Son of God. I know that many say we aren’t really supposed to understand how Jesus could be fully human and fully God. I also know that there are many who diminish or eliminate one or the other, humanity or divinity, from the equation.
I tend to think more of Jesus as God than I do as a human being. I think many in the Chrisian faith do the same thing. Yes, we talk about Jesus being hungry or tired or some other human virtue. But we carry in our minds this image of Jesus as a pious, serious, all-work-and-no-play Jesus that had few friends besides the disciples and the women, was a social outcast, and in the dregs of society.
And it is that “social outcast” description I want to explore further. I’ve been reading a book by Bruce Barton called “The Man Nobody Knows”. In it, Barton talks about the humanity of Jesus and brings us passages from the New Testament that shed an entirely different light on the man Jesus as we traditionally know and think of him. Below is an excerpt from the book.
(Jesus) loved to be in the crowd. Apparently, he attended all the feasts at Jerusalem not merely as religious festivals, but because all the folks were there and he had an all-embracing fondness for folks. We err if we think of him as a social outsider. To be sure it was the poor who heard him gladly, and most of his close disciples were men and women of the lower classes.
But there was a time when he was quite the favorite in Jerusalem. The story of his days is dotted with these phrases: “A certain ruler desired him that he should eat with him.”…”They desired him greatly to remain and he abode two days.” Even after he had denounced the Pharisees as hypocrites and children of the devil, even when the clouds of disapproval were gathering for the final storm, they still could not resist the charm of his presence, nor the stimulation of his talk. Close up to the end of the story we read that a “certain chief of the Pharisees desired him that he would dine at his house.” No other public figure ever had a more interesting list of friends. It ran from the top of the social ladder to the bottom.
The book goes on to list several of Jesus’ friends: Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews and on the Sanhedrin; an unknown rich man who owned the estate on the Mount of Olives to Jesus and his disciples to rest and refresh; the one who had the upper room for the Last Supper that he gave to Jesus and his disciples for the evening; a Roman centurion; the wife of the steward of Herod; and Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who had a private tomb.
I was struck as I read the passage in the book. I had never before thought of Jeus as “quite the favorite” in Jerusalem. And I’ll bet you haven’t either.
And the other side of Jesus’ friends is also noted: Pharisees, fishermen, merchants, tax collectors, outcast women, soldiers, lawyers, beggars, lepers, sinners. He seemed to attract all kinds, and all kinds of people were wont to being his friends. Even children, lepers, and Samaritans weren’t excluded.
Our conception of Jesus is at best imperfect. We continue to grow in our apprehension of the Son of Man as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.