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The Shock Rabbi

Equality is a big word in our day. We’ve come to not only demand it for women, the poor, children, the disenfranchised, but also for business and the entrepreneurial spirit. In the US, we cling to “All men are created equal.” To us, today, this is  natural. It’s a right. And we fight for this right. Interestingly, this whole concept was revealed to us, most notably, by a Jewish carpenter 2000 years ago.

The Jews safeguarded a truth from God – that he created man in his image. Jesus fleshed this out teaching that we “all” are God’s children. When Jesus became a rabbi he started dropping equality bombs about women, children, rich and poor all over the place. People were amazed and shocked by what he said. He was the shock rabbi of his day.

In Jesus day, he lived in an extremely hierarchical society. There were gods galore, gods of gods, kings, the elite, and then on down to workers, peasants, slaves…etc. Rome was a top-down authoritarian empire. And it was the most powerful empire in the world.

Yet Jesus comes along and announces a new kingdom – a new empire. He says things like, “you need to be like a child to enter this kingdom.” And, “let the little children come to me, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” What? Kids! Kids were very low on the society chart in Jesus’ day. Their value was based on how they could uplift Rome. Yet, Jesus says, no, do not hinder them – kids rock!

In Jesus’ day, a woman’s value came from giving birth to a male child – male, not female. Yet, when a nice woman tried to praise Jesus’ mother by paying her the highest Roman compliment you could give another woman at the time (blessed is the woman that bore you) he said, no, you’ve got it wrong. He said, blessed are those who follow God. When Martha was complaining that Mary wasn’t helping with the house chores (i.e., what was expected of women in her day), and instead sitting at Jesus’ feet, like a disciple (and among the men), Jesus said, Mary’s got it right. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

What was Jesus doing? He was outlining and planting seeds for a new kingdom. One entirely different than anyone imagined. It wasn’t based on conquest, or seclusion, or assimilation. It was based on love and following the will of God – God’s empire – it continues to expand to this day.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson

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