Jesus the northerner.
Jesus came from Galilee which was a thickly
populated and relatively wealthy province.
Galilee was proudly independent of Judea in
the south, and it was the home of many of
the nationalistic revolutionary movements
that sprang up around the time of Jesus.
Galileans were treated with suspicion and
scorn by the southerners. They were seen
as uneducated, irreligious peasants who
had no manners and an appalling country
accent. There was a saying in Jesus' time
that went: 'If anyone wishes to be rich, let
him go north; if he wants to be wise, let him
This prejudice against Galileans in general
explains something of the Jerusalem
authorities' hostility towards Jesus.
Was Jesus poor?
Although he was certainly not rich, Jesus' job
as the local carpenter would have provided
him with a modest but steady income. He
would not have worked alone in his job, but
would probably have been something like a
modern-day contractor, with a number of
men working under him.
Was Jesus unconventional for the sake of it?
Some people may feel that Jesus was a
natural non-conformist, who enjoyed being
different just for the sake of it. But the
Gospel accounts make it obvious that, when
Jesus said or did something shocking, it was
always for a greater purpose.
When Jesus was unconventional, it was
always because some prejudice stood in the
way of his helping someone in need. And
when that happened, Jesus' priority was to
show God's love. He was different not
merely because he acted differently, but
because his compassion for people refused
to be limited by the rules and regulations of
The anger of Jesus.
Jesus was a man with very strong feelings.
When he saw injustices carried out against
the weak in society he became angry with
leaders who abused their positions of
authority. Towards the end of his life, he
said of the Pharisees:
"They tie onto people's backs loads that are
heavy and hard to carry, yet they aren't
willing even to lift a finger to help them carry
those loads." (Matthew 23:4)
His outspoken attacks on the scribes and
Pharisees made him a very unpopular figure
with the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem.
The patience of Jesus.
Yet Jesus did not spend all his time breaking
conventions and throwing merchants out of
the Temple in anger. He always had time for
the ordinary people and he was patient with
their difficulties in understanding who he
Most of his healing miracles were worked for
people who were poor and unknown. He
preached the message of God's kingdom not
to some small elite, but to large crowds who
followed him. His main concern was that the
common, working people should experience
and understand God's good news.
Discipleship was common in the Jewish
society of Jesus' time. The would-be disciple
chose a spiritual teacher for himself in order
to study his teaching. These teachers were
called 'Rabbis', a word which literally means
'great one'. The Rabbis were highly
respected in society. It was said that if an
enemy captured your parents and your
Rabbi, you should pay the ransom for your
Jesus himself was addressed as 'Rabbi' on a
number of occasions as a mark of respect.
So what was it like to be a disciple of this
Like the Rabbis of his time, Jesus gave his
disciples more than just spoken teaching.
They lived with him, they saw him working
among the common people and they shared
his whole life. He called them to join him in
bringing God's news to other people.
But Jesus' method of choosing and training
his disciples departed from the Jewish
pattern in at least one important way.
Disciples normally attached themselves to
the Rabbi of their choice, but Jesus chose
the twelve. And there were times when
Jesus prevented other people from
becoming his followers.
Jesus was not setting out to form a religious
club full of people who agreed with each
other - quite the reverse. Some members of
the group would have been violently
opposed to each other before becoming
disciples of Jesus.
Simon the Zealot, for example, probably
belonged to a revolutionary group dedicated
to the overthrow of the Roman occupiers by
violence. He would hardly have been pleased
by Jesus' choice of Matthew as his fellow
disciple. Matthew was a tax-collector for the
Romans, a collaborator of the worst sort.
Yet Jesus saw in these diverse personalities
the qualities that were needed in the early
first leaders of faith in God through him, that
was to be the kind of faith he wanted us all
Our Commitment.. Does It Compare?
If people are not willing to work for a cause,
however great it may seem, then the cause
But when even a small group of people
become convinced followers of a cause, the
effect they can have is enormous. It is said
that in the Russian Revolution of October
1917, only 1 percent of the Russian people
believed in the ideals of the revolution.
And the same was true of those early first
leaders, who had an impact far beyond their
The mission of Jesus Christ in the world
today depends on the willingness of ordinary
Christians to devote their resources - time,
energy, money - to Christ. If our faith is
weak today, it is because many of us are
not prepared to actively follow Jesus with
the same commitment as those first
Jesus was not saying 'Be nice.' He was
calling people to a radically different method
of living. Being slapped on the right cheek
was the backhanded slap, a calculated insult
punishable at law. To take someone's jacket
was expressly forbidden in the Old
Testament. And to go an extra distance for
a Roman soldier was not compulsory; to do
so would be actively to help the enemy
By giving these three examples Jesus was
showing that the attitudes and values of
God's kingdom are totally different from
those of the world. Those who conform to
the kingdom of God will find themselves non-conformists in society.