Jesus on the Margins

The Bible has much to say about how to treat refugees, but it is also, in some sense, a story of refugees. Many heroes of the faith were themselves forced to flee persecution at one point or another, including Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah. But there is no more important refugee than Jesus Himself.

Our nativity scenes and Christmas pageants usually include the gift-bearing magi, but often stop the story there, just before Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were forced as refugees to flee the tyrannical government of King Herod. The biblical text provides few details about how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were treated once they arrived in Egypt. We can only speculate: Were they able to find shelter? Were they welcomed, or harassed? Did local carpenters gripe that Joseph was driving down their wages? Was Jesus suspected of carrying disease?

Having begun His earthly life on the margins, throughout His ministry Jesus demonstrates concern for the marginalized, such as the Samaritans. Samaritans were not “good” in the minds of the average Jewish listener: they were considered heretical foreigners. At one point, some of Jesus’ disciples actually suggested calling down fire on a Samaritan village, an idea Jesus promptly rejected.

Jesus’ approach to these marginalized foreigners was countercultural: he “had to go through Samaria,” even though there were other, less direct routes that some Jews may have preferred in order to avoid contact with Samaritans. When He does, He interacts compassionately with a Samaritan woman, revealing Himself to her as the Messiah and equipping her to be among the first evangelists. Elsewhere, when a Samaritan is the only one of ten lepers who returns after being healed, Jesus praises a Samaritan as a model of gratitude.

Most notably, Jesus presented a Samaritan as the model of neighborly love. In one of His most well-known parables, this “Good Samaritan” sees a vulnerable traveler beaten on the side of the road and has compassion on him. Jesus command us to “go and do likewise.” That there may be risk or cost involved—as there certainly was for this Samaritan—is not relevant to the mandate to love.

Reflection Questions:

1. How do you think Jesus’ experience as a refugee might have informed his own ministry to those on the margins?

2. Who are the vulnerable neighbors whom Jesus might be calling you to love?

Is Jesus God?

There is more confusion around the person of Jesus Christ than any other figure in human history. While most people readily accept that Jesus was a man, many will rage if you claim that He is more than a man

But was He? And if so, what’s the evidence?

First, Jesus understood himself to be divine. He claimed to be the eternal “I am” (compare Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58). He claimed equality with God (John 5:18; 10:30). He openly accepted worship (Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; Mark 5:6; John 9:38; 20:28). He forgave sin (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:47-48; John 8:11). He even expected His disciples to pray in His name (John 14:13-14).

Second, the disciples believed Jesus was divine. Thomas called Him God (John 20:28). John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Matthew referred to Jesus as “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Paul wrote of Jesus, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). And that is just a mere sampling.

Third, God the Father recognized the divinity of Christ. In Hebrews 1:8 we read, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” In this verse the Father calls Jesus, His Son, “God.” Pretty powerful!

Finally, the early church believed Jesus was divine. This is seen through their writings and creedal documents such as the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds. For example, the Chalcedonian Creed of AD 451 exclaims that Jesus is “truly God and truly man.” That is to say that He is one person with two natures: human and divine. He’s man and He’s more than a man. He’s the God-man.

That’s the story of Jesus, attested to by His disciples, the Father, and church history. It’s the story we affirm too, Christian.

 

Reflection

What’s at stake if we relegate Jesus to merely a man? .