Do you know what it is like to be treated as a second-class citizen? A valuable thought experiment is to delve into the life of a woman or child in the Greco-Roman world to experience what this was truly like. Women and children were viewed as inferior citizens regardless of which social strata they found themselves in. This sentiment is found in countless writings from that period and irks the modern progressive (despite modern treatment of women and children being no less unjust).
Both yesterday and today, we witness an urge to subdue the vulnerable that is endemic to mankind. As with all injustice, Jesus Christ comes to right these wrongs.
Jesus and women
Jesus was by no means afraid to get intimate with the lesser – with those the cultural elite controlled. Through his interactions with the bleeding woman, the thirsty Samaritan and countless prostitutes, Jesus was declaring a massively important theological truth – we are all equal in that we all stand equally in need of mercy and grace for the rebellion in our hearts.
The resurrection accounts contained in the four Gospels report that women were the first to see the shattered stone and empty tomb. This is no passing detail for the authors – this is a punch to the face of ancient female relations. If you wanted to create your own religion in first century Palestine, one of the first steps you would take is to avoid having women play an integral part in the genesis. But they did. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John must have missed that lesson.
Jesus and children
All of Jesus’ gentle interactions with children (or little ones) was not to demonstrate how good of a Sunday School teacher he would have been. As with so many of Jesus’ words and actions, we have to dig deep for the gold beneath the surface:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 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. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)
Did you catch that? We are the children. We are the helpless, vulnerable, dependants who require constant adult supervision to avoid getting lost or cracking our skulls on the coffee table. God’s gracious will was to reveal his plan of salvation to us – foolish and misunderstanding children – to give something infinite to those infinitely undeserving
Yet again we see Jesus, the great Leveler – he definitively levels the playing field by not only teaching with his words and actions that all men are equal, but by focusing every eye and shutting every mouth via the truth of sin and judgement. No matter your gender or age every person stands empty-handed before a holy God who justly demands perfection.
With unparalleled gentleness and meekness, this carpenter from Nazareth stoops down to the prostitute and the little ones, opens his arms and says, “Come to me all who labour and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
We, the prostitutes and fools of this world, are adopted as his children. Game changing.