Christians & The Poor. (Lk 16:19-21)
Jesus spent a great deal of time in the
company of those who were poor, powerless
and rejected. And in many ways he broke
the social rules of his time to do this. He
obviously saw helping the poor as a vital
part of his mission.
There were many in Jewish society, as there
are today, who were themselves rich, and
who callously neglected the poor. Jesus had
angry words for this sort of attitude. There
is a parable he told which begins with these
"There was once a rich man who dressed in
the most expensive clothes and lived in
luxury every day. There was also a poor man
named Lazarus, covered with sores, who
used to be brought to the rich man's door,
hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from
the rich man's table. Even the dogs would
come and lick his sores." (Luke 16:19-21)
The anger with which Jesus spoke these
words is directed at us if we have that same
cold approach towards those who are poor
today. As Christians we should not only give
money to the needs of the poor, although
that is important. We need to give our time,
as Jesus did, in helping those neglected by
And we should also work to fight the
injustices that create unloved people, or
people who do not have enough to eat.
Why then should all the religious parties
unite to destroy him?
Jesus did not act as a political Messiah.
Jesus would not openly refer to himself as
the Messiah, because he knew that this
would be misunderstood as a political claim.
Often in the Gospels we read how he told
people not to talk of him in this way. He
preferred to call himself 'the Son of man',
which did not have the political overtones
Despite the careful way in which Jesus
distanced himself from a political role, the
crowds still wanted to pin the Messiah label
on him. The Gospels all record incidents in
which Jesus was followed out into lonely
places by enormous crowds of people - once
at least there were 5,000 men.
These crowds did not form only because
people were astonished at the beauty and
depth of Jesus' teaching. They also hoped to
hear Jesus declare himself politically.
"Jesus knew that they were about to come
and seize him in order to make him king by
force; so he went off again to the hills by
himself." (John 6:15)
Jesus consistently refused these attempts
to make him king, and he would not
organize resistance to the Roman authorities
or teach against them. So why should the
Jerusalem leaders see him as a threat to the
political status quo?
There were many reasons why the
authorities felt Jesus to be a threat, and
their opposition to him went back to the very
beginnings of his ministry. On a number of
occasions, Jesus was accused of saying
things that amounted to blasphemy.
Once, previously, when Jesus was in
Jerusalem, a crowd picked up stones to kill
him, saying, "We do not want to stone you
because of any good deeds, but because of
your blasphemy! You are only a man, but
you are trying to make yourself God!" (John
The company Jesus kept.
Another scandal about Jesus was that he
associated with people no devout Jew would
even speak to. He not only spoke with them,
but he also accepted their hospitality,
attended their parties and ate and drank
with them. This brought him into collision
with the convictions of groups such as the
The Pharisees made it their aim in life to
teach people how to obey God's Law as it
had been given in the Old Testament. To do
this they provided detailed interpretations
of the Law, covering the most minute details
of human behaviour. They determined that
there were thirty-nine main types of activity
that were prohibited on the Sabbath day.
Some of their interpretations of the Law
meant that they were not allowed to trim
their nails or search for fleas in their clothes
on the Sabbath!
Jesus had no time for such interpretations of
the Old Testament. In the early days of his
ministry, the Pharisees caught Jesus'
disciples picking ears of corn for food on the
Sabbath. But, far from apologizing for their
behaviour, Jesus defended them and
attacked the views of the Pharisees.
Another time, when Jesus actually healed on
the Sabbath, we are told for the first time
that the Pharisees began to plot to kill him.