The value of a man from Nazareth

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked (John 1:46 NIV). There could not have been any reason for Nathanael to be adjudged as having been racist. His comment appears as having been based on the consideration of the reputation of the city of Nazareth. Humans are known to judge people according to the reputation of the general behaviour of people from that region.

Whites, for instance, are considered racist by blacks, encountering some form of racism in one form or another. Other blacks assert that Asians are more racist than Europeans. The so-called Pan-Africanists, prefer identifying with Asians, rather than with Anglo-Americans.

The behaviour of humanity is the same, whether racial or religious. There are good and bad people, among Asians, just as there are good and bad people, among Europeans, or any other race. Any area could carry more bad people, than good, or vice versa.

Any background is influenced by culture. Humanity has been irretrievably degraded, as having necessitated the arrival of Jesus. Each human is influenced by the general behaviour of any society from one’s origin.

For instance, when coming from a callous culture one is adjudged as callous. When coming from a culture that does not value other races, one can be considered inhospitable to other races.

Coming from an area where the accumulation of wealth is considered more important than dignity, that person is self-centred. Like Nathanael, humans commonly make judgments, based on regional influence. The button of racism gets factored in when culture demands it.

The racial judgment considers skin colour important, although not always accurately portraying the character.  Humans move from one continent to another, as frequently as can be unpredictable. Judging racial appearance has become more complicated than it was during Nathanael’s time.

Nathanael got perplexed when Jesus proved that good things could come from Nazareth. The works of Jesus dissolved the idea of judging by appearance. It is no longer necessary to judge people according to their regional origin. Blacks are commonly judged negatively by other races, due to naked racism.

This dangerously invites the insanity of categorizing humanity according to skin colour. Racism assumes that other races are inferior to one’s own. But, also those condemning racism, are guilty of racism, which is not different from tribalism, regionalism and many other isms. The Jews and the Samaritans were not in communication.

Those complaining about racism are often unaware of other conditions of separatism. Human classifications are a result of ignorance. The wrong thing is to sympathize with those complaining of racism, as could turn out to be the worst racists.

This was clearly manifested in Zimbabwe when former President Mugabe peddled some propaganda that the whites were most evil. His followers, buying into that propaganda, assumed that the blacks were the saints.

When considering the current state of Zimbabwe, one can conclude that the whites were saintly, when compared to black rulers. There is no truth in both assumptions. Humans are the same, as susceptible to background influence, rather than rational reasoning.

Rational reasoning is possible when one is granted effective education. However, education can, actually, reduce a person’s intelligence, when administered from the wrong source. Education has also created another condition of separatism, further dividing people by class.

This describes those who feel too superior to be associated with those considered uneducated. The Greek philosophers despised the less educated, in view of their superior knowledge.

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.  Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?  You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.”  (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) (Acts 17:18-21 NIV).

Those Philosophers prided themselves on possessing knowledge that others did not have. There may have been nothing wrong with pursuing knowledge. But the most important thing is the consideration of what one does with the acquired knowledge. That knowledge would be just as useless without impacting other people’s lives.

The Greek philosophers were considered superior, so they had time, only with those matching their level of understanding. A truly educated person cannot be an introvert, as to keep the knowledge to himself. He takes no pride in his accumulated education, except in desiring to share what benefits the less privileged.

A truly educated individual is not affected by background or anything. He uses reason, at all times, when making decisions. Every conclusion arrived at, would be based on reason, rather than on the influence of the community. Jesus provided the only model of how education should be applied.

Jesus was originally considered lowly by Nathanael, yet this world knows no other person who was as educated as Jesus was. Jesus was not as introverted, as to always seek to prove to be more knowledgeable than other people.

He surrounded Himself with the less educated, giving them knowledge, according to their level of understanding. He did not seek to impress anyone, or brag that He was the most educated person the world had ever known. This is different from those glamorously lining up their strings of educational titles, against their names, intending to impress. Satan attempted to invite Jesus’ ego, but, obviously, he could not succeed.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him (Matthew 4:3-11 NIV).

The three bouts of temptations were prefixed by the term “If”, which simply appealed to Jesus’ ego. The first two sought to validate Jesus’ superiority, appealing to His ego, that He was different from other fellow humans. The last one sought to grant Him the promotion, which ordinary humans are known to have an insatiable appetite for.

Theologians have elevated Jesus to the position of being a member of the Trinity. Jesus never elevated Himself to that position. He always insisted that He was the Son of God; inviting those believing in Him to adopt His teachings and to follow Him accordingly. The character of Jesus, as depicted in Paul’s writing, is described more than any other narration in the Scriptures:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV).

Jesus was the Christ, whose title cannot be compared to any other title of authority, the world has ever known. But Jesus never went about enforcing people to recognize Him as the Christ. This was, obviously, one of the reasons why the religious authorities in Jerusalem could not understand Him. As far as they were concerned, Jesus ought to have exerted His authority over everyone, if He was the Messiah.

There were occasions when Jesus asserted being the Son of God. But His words were always uttered according to the Scriptures. In other words, Jesus never sought to convince anyone, without citing some Scriptural reference revealing His identity. Judas Iscariot had to identify Him by a kiss, for His betrayal. That drama signifies that He never sought to make Himself different from those who surrounded Him.

The three and a half years of the ministry of Jesus were sufficient to fulfil His mission. Rather than give him a good sendoff, His detractors gave Him a weirdly bad sendoff, spitting their maliciously wicked saliva on his face. No other lowly person could deserve such treatment.

Jesus never sought to be respected or praised by anyone. His joy was basically found among those considered lowly in society. His aim was to bring joy to other people rather than to Himself. The behaviour of Jesus, as recorded in the Scriptures, carried the opposite of the behaviour of the religious leaders of our time.

Nothing is stranger than doing anything outside Jesus’ teachings when insisting on being identified as a “Christian.” The area of deception is as thin as exposing one to blasphemy. But Jesus never left anything to chance. The foot-washing ceremony was designed to emphasize the point, so that the truly committed, in desiring to follow Him, would adjust accordingly.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17 NIV).

A servant who washes His Master’s feet is a servant indeed. But the most intriguing reality is that, while Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, those disciples did not wash His feet, even at any other time. Neither did Jesus require them to wash His feet. But he advised them to wash each other’s feet. Had Jesus allowed them to wash His feet, Christian leaders would require laymen to wash theirs. They would have validated the idea of being worshipped by their disciples, citing Jesus’s example.

Jesus could not have commanded the fiat of foot wasing, without significance. However, what is important is to consider the Spiritual intent, more than focusing on the ceremonial aspect of foot washing. Jesus carried the responsibility of an unprecedented teacher. But at the same time, He had to practice the meaning of servanthood, which included dying on the cross.

If there is anything required of a Christian, it is, as was emphasised to the disciples: Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them(John 13:17 NIV). In other words, it is impossible to be blessed, without practising what Jesus taught.

Of particular interest is that Jesus came to show us the way to God’s Kingdom. This included being the servant of all. But at the same time, Jesus was not answerable to anyone. If Jesus is the way the truth and the life, there is nothing suggesting that it is proper to be answerable to anyone.

The value of a man from Nazareth can be with anyone of this world. There is no human being of this world who would necessarily be judged according to his background. The educational background of a person, does not describe the value of a man from Nazareth.

Jesus was not identified by race. He also cannot be identified by race today. He was not identified by class; He cannot be identified by class today. Jesus cannot be identified by any other human attributed. Except that He took the position of a servant, so that everyone is covered, leaving racism and other separatisms exposed.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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