Jesus was notorious for surrounding himself with the ordinary, the lowly and the unsophisticated, people that we might think of as ‘losers’. This shows Christians that God’s love is not reserved for the beautiful, the wealthy, the powerful – the world’s winners- but that God loves everyone. However, as Christians focus on Jesus as God we tend to forget that he was a rabbi, a teacher, who’s simple message was difficult for many people to grasp. It seemed that the more someone was schooled in religion, the more powerful or affluent, the more thick headed that person was likely to be.
At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
But for the worn out, the tired –the ones looked down upon as stupid and infantile – Jesus’ message seemed to click with them. Somehow the “losers” got it.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Why did Jesus’ message seem to resonate with the lower classes and not with the intelligentsia? Was it simply because they were suffering and desired relief? Was it because they were victims of a collaboration between religion and empire, ready for social change? Or was there more to it than that?
And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
What was Jesus saying here? That he hung out with “sinners” because they needed his healing grace but not with the Pharisees because they already had their act together? Doubtful. More likely he was being sarcastic, pointing out that these ‘simple’ sinners, unencumbered with years of scholarship, lofty ideals and the belief that they owned special knowledge, were open to his teachings. Their minds were not cluttered and weighted own with heavy doctrines and dogmas. After all, they weren’t paid to think.
Unlike their righteous rulers, who understood how the world worked, the ignorant common man suspected that something was not quite right with their lives, that something needed fixing. Today we know that it was the righteous who probably needed fixing the most. So, why didn’t Jesus spend more time with them?
Maybe because he knew it would be a waste of his time. Those who already “know” all the answers are just too hard headed, too rigid, and too afraid to consider many counter intuitive messages. Instead he spent his time with the common people and from them he called his apostles, his best students. Maybe it was harder for an educated, successful man to follow Jesus than it was for that camel to thread the needle.
For that matter, how do we know that Jesus only called those twelve men? Maybe they were the only ones who initially heard his call, hearing something of value in it. Maybe they were the only ones who understood enough of it to teach it. Later, they too became Masters, like Jesus. They proved this with their willingness to sacrifice their own lives rather than lose the Way.
Another teacher, who lived 3000 miles away and 500 years earlier, spoke in ways that pre-echo Jesus’ teachings.
My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail.
My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning?
If you want to know me,
look inside your heart.
Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.
The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.
Perhaps this has some bearing on why Paul and Timothy were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” Could it have been because the word – the Good News about a way of living with and in God – was already being spoken there?