This is part one in a five part series. The following is a paper I wrote about the ministry of Jesus to the social outcasts of his day. The first blog will be an introduction, the next several examine three specific biblical accounts, and the final is a conclusion with contemporary application.
If a survey were taken in the United States asking people to identify words that describe Jesus of Nazareth, my fear is that the word nice would appear somewhere at the top of the list. Most people, regardless of their theological convictions about him, really like Jesus. As a minister of the gospel, I am certainly glad that people are attracted to Jesus. However, it is important to ask whether we like Jesus because he was a nice person, or because he is the Son of God and the Savior of sinners. We risk taming the gospel message when our understanding of Jesus is significantly limited or altogether false. Certainly, I do not mean to imply that Jesus was not a nice person, but this description is overly simplistic and potentially misleading. The challenge for all who take Jesus seriously is to study the biblical gospels diligently and discover who he really was.
While many people in Jesus' day were attracted to him and his message, he was not always well received. The political leaders feared him because of his influence on the crowds. The religious elite despised him because he often broke the customs and codes of the Jewish faith. He offended the social elites by preaching and manifesting an upside-down kingdom. In this kingdom the last will be first, the humble will be exalted, the poor shall be made rich, and sinners will find mercy before the self-righteous. His message was controversial. It brought hope and forgiveness for the repentant sinner. It was a message of love, peace, and mercy. This part was popular and still is today. However, the gospel message is also offensive. It brings judgment on the prideful, self-righteous, and unrepentant. This part of the message is not so popular. Ultimately, the message Jesus preached got him into big trouble. He was arrested and crucified.
Jesus was truly radical in every sense of the word. He taught things that had never been taught before, he performed miracles that no man had ever performed, and he overcame the oppressive systems of his culture. Jesus did not play by the rules. By rules I mean the cultural, religious, political, and socio-economic norms of society, both explicit and implicit. Rather than conforming to his culture, Jesus subverted it where it was broken. It is this aspect of Jesus' life that will serve as the focus of this essay. This paper will highlight the ministry of Jesus to the social outcasts of his day. Social outcasts were pushed to the margins of society because of ethnic and religious prejudice, unjust political systems, or simply the circumstances of living in a fallen world. Every culture possesses marginalized people. In the Judaic culture, the outcasts included Gentiles, Samaritans, prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, sinners, and in some ways women. Three stories from the gospels stand out and clearly illustrate Jesus' view of social outcasts and his compassion for them.
If you are interested and would like to go ahead and read the entire paper you can go to: http://docs.google.com/View?docID=0AdbvKDlmSJmlZGZ3a2hxdHhfOGZ3YnE4NWhx&revision=_latest&hgd=1