Manna and Mercy

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25. Jesus' Context

Summary: Context gives meaning. Jesus lived during the time of the Roman Empire which governed through puppet rulers. The religious rulers of his time included the Essenes who withdrew into the wilderness; the Sadducees who were comfortable with the authorities (don’t interfere with our lives and we won’t interfere in yours); and the Pharisees who were a little more radical but would collaborate when it was beneficial to them. But the overwhelming majority of the people were peasants. Jesus came from a peasant background. Some of them were “sell-outs” like the tax collectors. Underneath all of them were those thought to be the “God-forsaken”: blind, lame, orphaned, widowed, divorced, sick – those considered “unclean, defiled” by the religious society. People often thought they deserved their suffering – God was punishing you if you were suffering or sick. If God sees fit to punish you, why should we intervene? Jesus spends much of his time with them showing there is no such thing as “God-forsaken.” People were taught you became “defiled” if you touched them. But Jesus associates and engages with all the various classes of his society. To associate with the lowly was to break the law and threathen the people in power. We need to be mindful of who Jesus is speaking to and where they fit into the structure of society.

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