The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day have often stood accused of rejecting, or ignoring what was as plain as the nose on their faces - their Messiah had come.
They were children of the promise but they settled for their rituals and symbols, for by holding onto them they didn’t have to change. So they had the Saviour of the world crucified, even though they had clear evidence of who Jesus was.
For example, one of their chief leaders was a man named Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body that condemned Jesus to death.
He approached Jesus one night and his opening words were, ‘Rabbi, we all know you are a teacher come from God. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you’, and yet they had him crucified. Absurd, isn’t it?
And yet some things never change, for example, there are many clear injunctions in the New Testament about how Christians are expected to order their lives that go totally unnoticed. One example, the position of women in the church. In most churches it’s OK for them to teach Sunday School, or to teach in what used to be called ‘the mission field’, but at home, in the patriarchal structure of organised religion they are expected to sit quietly, submissive to the men who ‘know better’.
That was in Old Testament times, but even though Christians say they believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything, in many ways he might as well have stayed in the comfort of his Father’s house. Here’s what Paul the apostle, the acknowledged founder of the Christian religion said in his letter to the church in Galatia, ‘There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.’ He was referring to the new order as a result of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and he was saying in God’s eyes there is no difference between male and female, they are all one in Christ.
Well thank goodness for that, for you can read in gory detail in the books of Deuteronomy and Numbers how it used to be, scary stuff. For example, women were not allowed to testify in court trials, they could not go out in public or talk to strangers, they were excluded from the worship and teaching of God, their status was scarcely above that of slaves, comparable with that of women in Afghanistan during the Taliban dictatorship. And yet, the Anglican Church is ripping itself apart because the majority appear not to have read, or more likely have read but have chosen to ignore Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
But let’s go back to that letter, ‘There is no longer Jew or Gentile...’ and yet in spite of the atrocities currently being played out in Gaza by both sides, we have groups that call themselves ‘Friends of Israel’, formed mainly by Christians who still appear to believe that God loves and supports the Israelis but has set his face against Palestine. How can that be if the new order as stated by their founder specifically says, ‘In my eyes there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles!’
If by expressing that view renders me vulnerable to verbal attack I can only say, don’t shout at me, shout at the Great Apostle. Allow me to quote something I saw on Facebook, ‘My heartbreak for the suffering in Gaza is not because I am anti-Semitic, pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It’s because I am human.’