Jesus lived in a land of prejudice



Many in Galilee did not like the Samaritans and the feeling was mutual. Even the way they worshiped and their holy places were different.


From Anil Netto

Recently I was watching an old video clip from 1958 in which a group of teenage speakers from Southeast Asia, including the then Malaya and some from Europe, interviewed their views on people of other ethnic groups and the foreigners they met became .

The blatant prejudices of the youth – not just ethnic prejudice, but also class prejudice – were appalling and appalling. When one or two of the young speakers related the rude behavior of people of a certain ethnic group they had encountered, other speakers of that ethnic group countered by saying that not all people of that ethnic group were like this: that rude person the other Had met spokesman, was probably someone from a “lower class” of this ethnic group! Systemic or even institutionalized racism prevails in many countries. This is not easy to dispel.

In Malaysia, we are no stranger to such ethnic, religious, and even class prejudices.

Even in the time of Jesus, people had their own prejudices.

Many in Galilee did not like the Samaritans and the feeling was mutual. Even the way they worshiped and their holy places were different.

The people despised or looked down on the tax collectors, the “unclean”, those in the lower echelons of society, the prostitutes … People with leprosy have been ostracized by society (similar to how people with COVID are shunned these days?).

The Roman occupation officials likely viewed the people of Judea and Galilee as a nuisance.

At the time, men viewed women and children as a subordinate role in society.

A rivalry arose between Galilee in the north, which had a cosmopolitan historical background, and Judea in the south, which was more religiously conservative or “pure”.

Lower Galilee had rich fertile farmland that was irrigated from underground springs. Because of this, the area has seen waves of settlers, traders and invaders over the centuries, including Canaanite farmers and shepherds from Mesopotamia and Syria, the Israelite settlers, the Assyrian settlers, Persian officials, Phoenician traders …

Hellenistic influence (Greek culture) crept into the country when Alexander the Great and his generals ruled neighboring countries. Galilee also had a busy trade route that exposed it to even more foreign influence.

But before that, David had chosen Jerusalem in Judea as a holy place for the nation, which fueled displeasure among the Galileans in the north, who probably felt they had their own holy places.

Later, when the Temple of Jerusalem was being rebuilt, the officials set about clearing the area of ​​foreign influences. Even the neighboring Samaritans were refused to participate in the reconstruction. Judea was transformed into a theocratic state by AD 6, ruled by a priestly elite, and then fell under direct Roman rule.

Over in Galilee to the north, Jesus and his followers in Nazareth and Capernaum lived, mostly Jewish, near cities and towns with Greek influence such as Sepphoris, Tiberias, and the cities of the Decapolis. Jesus himself spoke Aramaic (although he was probably familiar with Hebrew and some Greek).

Many of the residents of Judea in the south would have considered the northerners of Galilee to be living in a land “contaminated” by alien influences and pagan cultures.

When Jesus and his mostly northern followers from Galilee entered Judea and the cauldron of the temple, they had to deal with such prejudices.

People from important cities like Caesar Mauritima and Jerusalem in Judea must have felt superior to the fishermen, farmers and artisans from the north and viewed the Galileans as “country cousins” or “country eggs”. Even the Galilean dialect or accent of the latter likely made them stand out in Jerusalem.

One almost hears the condescending, if not contemptuous, tone of the bystanders in the court of the high priest: “You are one of them! You are a Galilean â€(Mark 14.70).

Even in Galilee, Jesus was not spared the prevailing prejudices. “From Nazareth? Can something good come from this place? ‘ (John 1:46). How could Nazareth, an almost anonymous hamlet exposed to Roman and Greek influences from the nearby town of Sepphoris, produce a Messiah? The Romans had Sepphoris in 4 BC. After a tax revolt, it was even razed to the ground and people sold into slavery.

How could something good come out of this godforsaken region even if Herod Antipas rebuilt the city?

Prejudice was not limited to people of other faiths. Even the new Christians had to deal with non-Jewish converts. Could they become Christians straight away, or did they have to adopt Jewish customs like circumcision first before they became Christians? In the end, they decided on the former, but not without heated arguments.

Jesus has continually broken down such prejudices and barriers through his ministry, every step of the way.

Women were among his following. He defended the children. He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He healed the servant of the Roman captain. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes. He spent his time mainly in Galilee, a region “contaminated” by foreign influences. He told the parable of the good Samaritan in which the foreigner turned out to be the “good guy”. He quoted passages from Scripture that showed that God preferred foreigners, which is why he was chased out of the city.

As Christians in a multicultural society, we need to keep re-examining our personal prejudices. Jesus came to show us that we are all children of the one God. Ethnic and religious prejudices should have no place in our hearts. After all, we are all human beings, created and loved by the Father.



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