The Gospel From Mushin

Mushin is a very high density area in Lagos, Nigeria. One thing generally acknowledged is that poverty is rife in Mushin. It has the typical challenge of very high density localities. Some neighbourhoods are rough. Perhaps if Jesus were alive today he’d have emerged from Mushin, or any other area not noted as zip code for people with affluence and wealth.

The scriptures don’t portray Joseph as a rich dude. The gold, frankincense and myrrh presented by the wise men would prove most valuable when they had to flee into exile in Egypt, away from that blood-thirsty fellow named Herod. Matthew 2. Joseph was not a business mogul, though an entrepreneur. He was a carpenter not an “interior designer.” But Joseph was a very responsible man, a no-drama kind of person. Very honourable. He wasn’t the “Let’s stick it to them” type, the guy who fought with his elbows. The manner in which he chose to part with Mary after discovery of her pregnancy said a lot about him. They were betrothed. Betrothal in Jewish society was more or less marriage, not our modern concept of engagement.

The question on everyone’s lips as Jesus came into prominence was, how did he climb the social ladder? This was a guy from the other side of the track. What was he doing in Euphrates Club? He was an upstart! There was the social acceptance dimension to the ascendance of Jesus, but there was the theological dimension as well. He essentially claimed to be God! John 5:18. And so the elites had two problems with Jesus: one, he didn’t belong, and two, he claimed to be God. Those were major headaches and they’re both linked.

As far as those folks were concerned the reason he related to the down-trodden was because he himself was riff raff! – “I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff.” Matthew 11:16-19 MSG. There was so much animosity against Jesus. That animosity would lead to sponsored propaganda and result in his crucifixion. They slandered him at every turn. They accused Jesus of having an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, the point being he couldn’t really be a holy man – ‘Look! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners…” Matthew 11:19 AMP.

Then they struck below the belt by calling Jesus a bastard. They were referring to the circumstances of his birth when they replied him: “We’re not bastards. We have a legitimate father: the one and only God.”” John 8:39-41 MSG. As far as they were concerned Mary was a lose teenager who got herself pregnant and couldn’t identify the father of her child. All that immaculate conception story was cover up. cf. John 8:39-41.

And it got worse: “When Jesus finished telling these stories, he left there, returned to his hometown, and gave a lecture in the meetinghouse. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise, get such ability?” But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “We’ve known him since he was a kid; he’s the carpenter’s son. We know his mother, Mary. We know his brothers, James and Joseph, Simon and Judas. All his sisters live here. Who does he think he is?” They got their noses all out of joint.” Matthew 13:53-57 MSG.

They didn’t think much of Jesus’ earthly family. They didn’t think much of Joseph, or Mary, his four brothers and unnamed sisters. Matthew 13:53-57. They had heard he was good at teaching but they couldn’t believe he was that good! He was sensational, and he encouraged the common people to acquire theological proficiency: “He said, “Then you see how every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.” Matthew 13:52 MSG.

So in the natural, here was this upstart who had no formal training in theology, had no university degree, teaching with such sophistication. And he made theology seem so simple, unlike the religious elite. Theology was the exclusive reserve of the elite, it’s how they controlled the people. And before you can say “Jerusalem”, he was already moving in rarefied social circles, and everyone was deferring to him… They even gave him the honorific title of “Rabbi”. Before their very eyes, the social and intellectual upstart was becoming a political force, openly castigating the elites… Surely he had it coming!

So the age old challenge of the world has been how to get past the humanity of Jesus to see the divine. And yet he must have humanity. Jesus’ primary mission was to sacrifice himself as a man for the sins of the world. Without humanity there would be no sacrifice. He cannot die as God. Philippians 2:6-8. Everyone had a problem getting past that humanity, including his brothers: “His brothers said, “Why don’t you leave here and go up to the Feast so your disciples can get a good look at the works you do? No one who intends to be publicly known does everything behind the scenes. If you’re serious about what you’re doing, come out in the open and show the world.” His brothers were pushing him because they didn’t believe in him either.” John 7:3-5 MSG.

It’s ironic that James, Jesus’ brother in the natural would eventually die for believing in that divinity. He was thrown from the roof of the temple in Jerusalem, stoned. His head was then smashed with the equivalence of a baseball bat.

The question of Jesus’ divinity was so pervasive that even in his hometown they did not believe him. They didn’t take him seriously: “But Jesus said, “A prophet is taken for granted in his hometown and his family.” He didn’t do many miracles there because of their hostile indifference.” Matthew 13:58 MSG.

It wasn’t just the brothers of Jesus who had a problem believing in the divinity of Jesus. Apostle Paul did too, for a time. He was a Pharisee and as conservative as they come. Look at what he wrote: “Because of this decision, we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore.” 2 Corinthians 5:16 MSG.

We must therefore move past evaluating people based on appearance and possession, especially fellow Christians. That was what Paul was urging in 2 Corinthians 5:16. If you see beyond the physical, you will be less condemnatory is what Paul is saying. Anyone “united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG.

Where did this new life come from? How authentic is it? “All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 MSG.

When Peter was being persuaded by God to go preach the gospel to non-Jews, God made a very profound statement: “What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider unholy.” Acts 10:15 AMP. Truth is, we the non-Jews were those unclean reptiles and birds and animals on the trampoline in Peter’s trance. Acts 10:9-13. Because God pronounced us holy we are holy, set apart, for him. Acts 10:15.

The moral is simple: Stop judging people based on your prejudices. See beyond the person, see Christ in them. 2 Corinthians 5:16-18.

The second moral? Stop tying people to their past. If any man is in Christ he’s a new person. The old record is wiped out. It belongs to the dead. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Saviour, he is a new creature, reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit; the old things – the previous moral and spiritual condition have passed away. Behold, new things have come because spiritual awakening brings a new life.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP. And so we have the persuasion of scriptures not to judge our fellow man. But there’s persuasion of logic and common sense as well. Isn’t it curious that a man who is himself going to be judged is attempting to judge his fellow man? How does a sinner judge a sinner? Move past appearances. Stop judging people by appearances. God’s dealings are in the heart. 1 Corinthians 5:16-18.

The third moral is that your outcome is not limited to the disadvantage of your background. Jesus never submitted to the constraint of his socio-economic background in the natural.

The fourth lesson is, don’t allow the vilification of the envious and those who feel entitled pull you down. Stay the course. Just like Jesus did.

If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”

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© Leke Alder |

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