June 19, 2020

What Would Jesus Do?



Throughout the New Testament, we read accounts of Jesus interacting with those who were labeled and despised by others: the slaves, the masters, the foreigners, the unbelievers, the sinners, the accusers, the sick, the lame, the oppressed, the traitor, or the believer. We also live in a time of great division. Many seek to label us as black or white, male or female, bond or free. They want to know which group to place us in—whether we are a friend or an enemy. When we ask the oft-repeated question, “What would Jesus do?” we see the Savior’s example of healing, listening, and compassion. He did not seek to divide but rather to unify for all are alike unto God.

Similar to our day, the people at the time of Jesus classified others into groups established by society. As we explore who these groups were, and how Jesus looked past their labels, we learn how we too can break down the barriers that society has placed upon us and seek for true unity among all people.

Probably the most significant division was that of Jew and Gentile. A Jew was anyone who was born from any of the twelve tribes of Israel, though predominately from the tribe of Judah. A Gentile was anyone who was not of Israel, and thus considered not part of the covenant race. As outsiders, they were considered to be unclean, and so many Jews would not even enter a Gentile’s homes out of fear of becoming ritually unclean themselves.

Included among the Gentiles would be the Roman soldiers. These men might have been seen similar to our police force today. They controlled peace and order in the providences of Rome, including Israel. The Jews however saw the Romans as invaders who just sought to control them. Roman soldiers could compel a Jew to carry his gear for a mile. Jesus taught the people to carry the gear for a second mile, or as more commonly said today, to “go the extra mile.”

Another group was neither Gentile nor Jew but rather a mixed blood. Centuries earlier when the Assyrians took captive the Israelites of the northern kingdom, they left behind the poorest of the poor to work the land and to intermarry with Gentiles who had been captured from other nations. Known as Samaritans, they were a people of intermingled cultural and religious traditions—and whom Jews often despised most of all. Many Jews would take the longer route from Galilee to Jerusalem just to avoid crossing Samaria’s borders and risk having to interact with a "less pure" Samaritan.

Women were another group looked down upon. They were often seen just as property, had no legal right to own land, and were not considered a credible witness in a court of law. Many Jewish men, especially the priests, avoided women since their monthly cycles released blood, and touching blood made one ritually unclean. Women even had their own court at the temple so as to prevent them from contaminating the priests. Men could enter the Court of the Women, but women could not enter further into the temple.

Another group of people who were shunned by the Jews, were the lepers. According to the Law of Moses anyone with any sort of skin disorder was considered ritually unclean. Known as lepers, they were not allowed to live within the confines of the city but instead dwell outside the city walls. If anyone came in contact with a leper, they too were ritually unclean and had to go through a process to once again be considered clean.

Jesus healing the ten lepers by James Tissot
While Jews would often go to great lengths to avoid even coming near these and other groups of people, Jesus appeared to do the exact opposite—seeking opportunities in order to interact with them. Throughout the scriptures we can find many examples of how Jesus “looked past the label” and saw just the person. We will share just three examples.

The first is with a centurion, a Roman officer in charge of 100 men. A centurion generally had served a significant amount of time and had proven their leadership. The Jews, however, would have viewed them as oppressors who did not belong in their land. When the centurion comes to Jesus seeking to have his servant healed, it is remarkable that Jesus does not avoid him but instead listens to his story. Considering that this centurion is a Gentile, what Christ says next is poignant. “And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.” (Matthew 8:7). Remember, some Jews would not even enter into a home of a Gentile to avoid even the possibility of becoming ritually unclean. The centurion seems to understand this for he answered “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” (Matthew 8:8). Christ does not see this Roman soldier as other Jews see him, an unclean Gentile, an oppressor, who can inflict force on the citizens of Israel. He sees him as a man of great faith who is in desperate need of the healing power of the Savior.

The woman of Samaria by Angelika Kauffmann
The second example is of the woman of Samaria. Jesus and his disciples had been traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee. Instead of avoiding the Samaritan city of Sychar, like many Jews did, he left Israel and crossed the border into Samaria. While there he stops to rest at Jacob’s well, Jacob being an ancestor common to both Jew and Samaritan alike. A woman approaches and is surprised to see a Jew. He first asks for help. “Jesus saith unto her, give me to drink.” (John 4:7). We can only imagine how confusing this must have been for this Samaritan. Not only is he asking for her help, but he is willing to drink from a cup that she, a woman, has touched. He teaches her that he is the Living Water, and that all who drink of his water will never thirst again. He then says something that up to this point he appears to not have said before, he tells her that he is the Messiah. Christ does not see her as other Jews see her, an unclean Samaritan woman not worthy of his time or attention. He sees her as one who can stand as a witness that he has come to save the world.

The last example is of a leper who sought Jesus to be healed. As Jesus came down from the mountain with great multitudes following him, he is approached by one who wants to be made clean. What Jesus does next is significant for leprosy was considered to be a curse from God. Those afflicted with it were of the most profound impurity. For fear of them being contagious, lepers were left to fend for themselves with little support from anyone including friends or family. Christ does not see this leper as other Jews see him: unclean, unworthy, unfavored by God. He sees a man riddled with pain seeking healing from the One he knows can heal him. “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean.” (Matthew 8:3).

Beyond these three examples, we have the greatest example of healing, and compassion. In a time when even his closest friends were not willing to stand up for him, he was willing to kneel, pray, and suffer for them. Christ showed that he does not view any of us as others may or even how we might perceive ourselves. He was willing to give his life for all of us who have been made unclean through sin. No matter how others may see us, black, white, male, female, sinner, saint, captive, free, native, foreign, atheist, or believer, the Savior just sees us. He knows our name, he knows our story, he knows our pain, he knows of our desire to love and be loved.

He invites all of us to do the same. Just as Christ stood silently before his accusers during his trial, there may be times when we too must choose silence over contention. Or just as Christ cleaned his Father’s house, we too may need to stand up boldly for what is right. But no matter what situation we may find ourselves in, we can always shed the labels that society places upon us and kneel with our brothers and sisters, praying for them, and serving them in unity and love. That is what Jesus would do.

Script written by Heather Ruth Pack

4 comments:

  1. This is a profoundly beautiful and incredibly timely message! Thank you, Heather Ruth Pack and those involved in making this video. Would that, as individuals and families we would make this way of life our way of life, too.

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    1. Britt, glad you enjoyed it! I will let Heather know as well. I am sure she will appreciate it!

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  2. Thanks for this Sabbath day experience for me and my family

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