“The Legacy of Jesus the Palestinian-Jewish Peasant and the Meaning of Biblical Christianity for Today”
Christianity is a religion of the poor as its founder-Savior was a poor Palestinian-Jewish peasant who had no where to lay his head because he was born to an economically-disavantaged class and family.
This poor Messiah from the ancient Region of Galilee, located in Northern Israel, lived in an environment that was crushed by abject poverty and hunger, and terrible living conditions. The people of his surroundings were subject to all kinds of social ills and political woes. Socially, like him they experienced dire poverty and hunger; they suffered all kinds of illnesses including end-of-life diseases; the well-to-do and power-seeking religious class and leaders humiliated them and isolated them from religious fellowship and social interactions; and these poor Galileans constituted a large pool of individuals who lived on the margins of society including prostitutes, addicts, underclass fishermen, beggars, the intellectually and mentally-challenged, the crippled, the physically-handicapped, the disabled, those with speech problems, etc. He taught them that God was on their side and for their liberation and welfare.
He became their friends while other individuals in society did not want to associate with them. He hanged out with them, ate (tablefellowshiped) with them, fed them, and cured their illnesses. As a custom, he spent his entire day teaching them about a God who loved them and cared about their daily needs and life necessities including the food they had to eat to sustain them physically and the clothes they had to wear to look presentable in society. He also taught these underclass peasants and oppressed individuals how to be good to other poor people like them and be compassionate to all people. He offered to them good moral and ethical principles to live by and persuaded them to imitate his character and religious life pattern. He taught them deep things about God their Creator and Sustainer. Through his teachings, he used figures of speech and metaphors to reveal to them about the character and virtues of God, which they also must covet and teach to others. He told them to pursue what makes God happy, to do what God likes, and oppose what God dislikes such as injustice, oppression, abuse, and all kinds of human sin and transgressions. He also inferred in his teachings that God was the God of the poor and oppressed people.
This poor Galilean Messiah also instructed his followers and friends to love and practice justice where they lived and to take a stand for what is right, honorable, and moral in their community. He charged them to be a community of conviction and correspondingly to be a people who are known in society for their righteous actions and love of justice just like God their Father and Creator.
He also taught them to care for other poor and oppressed people like them in society by attending to their needs and life necessities: giving food to the hungry; clothing the naked; assisting the sick; visiting the prisoner; supporting the economically-disavantaged; caring for the orphan and the widow; showing hospitality and love to the stranger and the visitor among them; and loving and treating all people equally, equitably, and indiscriminately.
Although those colonized (they lived under the political yoke and the colonial burden of Roman Empire.) and uneducated peasants suffered all kinds of abuse, injustice, and exploitation (i.e. class, gender, social, religious, political) from those in seats of power and influence, he instructed them not to worry about their living conditions because God will make provisions for them; not to retaliate against their oppressors and exploiters because God will give them justice and punish their oppressors; not to be troublemakers because God has called them to be peacemakers and ambassadors of justice and reconciliation; and not to be a power-hungry-and-seeking community because God will humble the pride and raise the weak.
Yet this poor Galilean Messiah convinced his followers to go change society and the world by living his legacy and teaching all things he had taught them to all people: to love all people, to tell all people to repent of their evil ways and turn to God for liberation, to practice justice and forgiveness, to oppose in society what is unjust and anti-human, and to imitate his ways and his ethic. His followers believed that he practically embodied in his life and his teachings what God is like in character and nature. In fact, they believed Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Savior of the world, but the most terrifying truth about this poor Palestinian-Jewish peasant is this: God existed in the person and actions of Jesus. In Him, God experienced full humanity and what it meant to be weak, vulnerable, economically poor, politically oppressed and subjugated, morally dehumanized and demonized, and socially isolated and abandoned.
God is not the God of the philosopher or the bourgeois-theologian or the arrogant rich who trusts in his wealth for comfort and stability, but the God of the poor and the most vulnerable people in society who have no cultural status, political power, or any constructive human resources to offer to God, but a humble heart and submissive will.