Let’s play a game.
I’ll say a name and you say the first word(s) that comes to your mind.
Just a guess but I’m sure that, for most of you,”Jewish” and “1st century Judea” were not the words that popped in to your head when you read the name “Jesus”.
On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with that. If the words “God”, “Son of God” or “Savior” came to your mind, that’s great because each one of them is true. But would the word “Jewish” even be in your top ten list?
The context of a person’s life is extremely important. If I were to say to you, “let’s have a meal of fish and chips and then go watch a football game,” as an American your ideas of what we’re about to eat and do would be very different than someone from Great Britain. The game you’re watching and the food you’re eating depends on the continent on which you’re standing. If that is true today with the same English words in two different but similar cultures, how much more important is context when dealing with centuries of time, extremely different cultures, and a different language?
When we forget the context in which the MAN Jesus lived, we tend to make Him into whatever we want. And therefore He can say and mean whatever we want Him to say and mean.
Did you know Jesus was not a socialist?
Jesus was not a republican or a democrat.
Jesus was not a liberal or a conservative.
Jesus was not a refugee, a homeless man, an outcast, or a philosopher.
Jesus was a Jew, of the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David, and He lived in 1st century Judea during the time of Roman control in the land of Israel. He lived as a Jewish Rabbi, at least for the last 3 years of his life or so. Before that, best guess is that He was a carpenter like His earthly father was before Him, providing for the welfare of His family.
If you want to give the MAN Jesus a title, the best one would be Rabbi (i.e. teacher). Those other titles I mentioned above don’t fit because they were not around during the time when Jesus walked this earth.
When we call the MAN Jesus anything other than a 1st century Jewish Rabbi we force Him into a box that has baggage, ideas and agendas that aren’t necessarily true of Him or His teachings.
The best way to understand the Man is to understand the context of His life, His culture, His language, and the labels/boxes that were in use then. Study 1st century Judea, Galilee, Samaria, and the surrounding nations. We have a plethora of information regarding this time period. Books have been written, classes are offered, teachers are teaching on the subject. So go learn!
At the very least, let’s wrestle with the idea that Jesus was a 1st century Jewish Rabbi. What does that mean for His teachings? What does that mean about His ideas? How about the way He lived? The life of Jesus is just as important as His death. So let’s see… how did the man Jesus live?