Passages - November 5, 2009
Called to Associate With 'The Lowest of the Low'

By Rev. Louis Stoker
Interim Pastor
Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church
Seeley Lake

A man said that his wife drove like lightning. His friend said, "You mean she drives fast?" "No," the first replied, "She hits trees!"
The story is told that when Jesus mentioned in heaven that he was coming to earth, he was approached by the Angelic Host, and they tried to dissuade him. The Archangel Michael said, "Let me go and with my sword I'll subdue the nations in an instant." But Jesus refused.
Other angels approached him and asked to prepare his suitcase for the journey–to put in the divine halo and the most gorgeous of robes, but Jesus said "No." Others suggested that he take a throne and a number of red carpets, but they, too, were not on the agenda.
Some dared to ask, "Have you chosen similar apparel which is worn by the High Priest?" Jesus said that such wouldn't be needed. And then the question was "What will you take with you?" And he replied that the only clothes suitable for the journey were what the lowest of the low wore; he would be identifying with the slaves. He would be leaving to serve all those on earth.
Coming to earth and in the fullness of time, he found the religious power in Palestine was embedded in the priests of Jerusalem–a powerful minority of elites who controlled all facets of Jewish life.
They split reality into two spheres, categorizing all persons, animals, food, time, and space in terms of the distinction between "holy and unholy." Those considered "holy" were in hierarchical order–priests, Levites, full-blooded Israelites, proselytes and so on. The "unholy" were all those who were born of adulterous unions, those with deformed features, and those who were non-Jewish.
Space was also classified according to various degrees of "holiness." The holiest place on earth was the Temple in Jerusalem with the Holy of Holies, which marked the center of the Temple, which marked the center of Jerusalem, which marked the center of Palestine which marked the center of the world.
So when Jesus started his ministry in Galilee, it was exceedingly clear that he did not share the same map of reality as the religious experts of his day. He became a transgressor of the Sabbath; he ignored boundaries which separated the pure from the impure; he did nothing to prevent hemorrhaging women and prostitutes from touching him; he transgressed the dietary laws; he ate with despised people, and he freely interacted with non-Jews who didn't make it into Israel's circles of "holiness."
Although Jesus appeared in the Temple, he made it quite clear that this place known as "God's special dwelling place" was now redundant; he inaugurated the new era of worshiping God anywhere in spirit and in truth. Jesus himself became the new sacred space that replaced Jerusalem's Temple and all its bloody sacrifices which became shocking words for those who believed in the sacrificial system as the cornerstone of Israel's faith.
The Jewish map of reality did not measure up to Jesus' standards; their map reinforced nationalistic and patriarchal ideologies at the expense of non-Jews, women, outcasts, the impure, and children.
While Israel was drawing its reality for the privileged few, Jesus was portraying the Kingdom of God–where the unwelcome were welcome, the first became last and the last became first, and the greatest became the least and h least became the greatest. It is little wonder why the religious establishment killed Jesus; his new reality left them empty-handed, and it brought all of us into that special relationship with God.
Christians have been accused of turning the world upside down; we're just following the Master!


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