Friday, January 31, 2014

The Pernicious Power of Prejudice

Life of Christ 14

          Following the death of Herod the Great, Joseph and Mary and Jesus, still in Egypt, receive a message from God to return to Palestine. (Matthew 2.19-23). They had originally planned to return to Judea, but they discovered that Herod's worst son had taken control. Indeed, Archelaus had most of Herod's faults and few of his virtues as illustrated by the fact that shortly after taking control he slaughtered 3000 Jews in the Temple during Passover. Common sense, as well as another dream, would lead Joseph to return, instead, to Nazareth in Galilee.
          This decision, while sound in reasoning and necessary for the fulfillment of Scripture, would cause Jesus a great deal of heartache later. Very simply, because Jesus would grow up in Nazareth of Galilee He would find himself at an automatic disadvantage in dealing with the Judean Jews and the religious leadership of Israel based in Jerusalem.
          John Cunningham Geikie, a 19th century Scottish Presbyterian preacher, said it this way:

The Jew of the south, wrapped in self-importance, as living in or near the holy city, amidst the schools of the Rabbis, and under the shadow of the Temple, and full of religious pride in his assumed superior knowledge of the Law, and greater purity as a member of a community nearly wholly Jewish, looked down on his Galilean brethren. The very ground he trod was more holy than the soil of Galilee, and the repugnance of the North to adopt the prescriptions of the Rabbis was, itself, a ground of estrangement and self-exaltation. He could not believe that the Messiah would come from a part so inferior, for “the Law was to go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Jesus found willing hearers and many disciples in the cities and towns of Galilee, but He made little impression on Judaea.

          It has well been said that Galilee gave Jesus a home while Judea gave Him a cross. We laugh at the ridiculous geographical prejudice of the Pharisees yet is such baseless prejudice not active in our own day? If someone from a trailer park attends church are they not often viewed differently than someone from one of the finer suburbs? If someone shows up whose home is an obscure Latin American country to the south are they not often treated differently than those who have no other claim to fame but to be accidentally born within our borders?

          The religious leadership of Israel in Jesus' day fatally misjudged Jesus in almost every way it was possible to do so, and their geographic prejudice didn't help matters any.

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