Jesus The Cosmopolitan

To see Hollywood portray Jesus, a character analyst will have to wonder which manuscript of the Bible they use. That’s not the Jesus in the Bible. They just put Bible text in his mouth. The movie version of Jesus seems to speak in monotonic cadence. And he looks like an ancient version of Rambo. There’s that stare! He just stares ahead, looks spaced out.

The Jesus in those movies is a 2-D character. He’s more of a cardboard cut-out. He can’t connect emotionally with people. He goes through the motions of empathy but lacks emotional capacity. That’s Hollywood’s idea of a holy man. It’s why they portray Jesus like a mystic guru from some ashram. They’re struggling with graphic representation of sinlessness. Unwittingly, we’ve all bought into the Hollywood version of Jesus. That Jesus is a wet napkin in a permanent instructional mode. The Jesus in scriptures, he’s a very engaging personality, has a commanding presence. Kind of draws you in.

You see, Jesus was not your stereotypical prophet. That title is even debatable because of Hebrews 1:1, but no matter. The inability of the people to fit him into a box is why they resorted to calling him rabbi or teacher. Rabbi can also mean scholar. The picture of a prophet the Jews had was Elijah or Elisha. These were authentic movie characters. They had a flair for the dramatic. Jesus wasn’t that way, didn’t relish exposure. In fact he had a knack for slipping in and out. Matthew 14:13. With the way Jesus slipped in and out, reporters from the Jerusalem Times would have had a hard time getting an interview with him in private. Matthew 14:13.

Elijah and Elisha hardly interacted with society. They were not social fellows, they just did interventions. There’s no mention of Elijah or Elisha ever going to a party. These were stereotypical Old Testament prophets. Elisha in particular had no time for niceties or protocols. 2 Kings 5. He didn’t understand political correctness either. He was fully engaged in the “propheting” business. And so Jesus must have been a culture shock to the Jews. Took some time to come to terms with him. Even his own family struggled. John 7:5. There was no yardstick of measurement, he didn’t reference anyone. He spoke unlike others. Matthew 7:28-29.

Jesus was cosmopolitan. He mingled with the elites and politicians, engaged the political establishment. He attended dinners. It was at one of such dinners he met that penitent society chic – the Alabaster babe. Luke 7:36-50. Yes, Jesus maintained the fearlessness of Elijah and Elisha, but that’s as far as similarities go. He did demonstrations of power but hardly to prove a point. Neither Elijah nor Elisha were that way. They were power demonstrators. They called down fire, commanded nature. Elijah did have a sense of humour though. 1 Kings 18. When they came to arrest Jesus and Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, Jesus told him his voluntarily surrender was strategic and that he didn’t want drama. Matthew 26:52: “Jesus said, “Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords. Don’t you realize that I am able right now to call to my Father, and twelve companies – more if I want them – of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready?” Matthew 26:52-54 MSG.

Jesus’ ability to engage was legendary. There were also all those Socratic moments with those who set traps for him. The classic was his “Give unto Caesar” response to the question of taxation. Luke 20:24. That was a treason set up. Jesus was always the central character in any social setting. He was the fulcrum of conversations. He somehow had celebrity status without seeking one. Contrast the Pharisees. They were show boats. Matthew 23:5-7. They loved appearing in Ovation magazine.

Jesus obviously went for weddings. Remember the wedding in Cana? John 2. He wasn’t a Nazirite and so he took wine, so much so they called him a wine bibber. That wasn’t charitable but he seemed to take it well.

It’s like Jesus was trying to make a point throughout his existence on earth. Which explains why he pointedly engaged a five-time divorced Samaritan woman in conversation. She was Elizabeth Taylor before Elizabeth Taylor. Jesus spoke to that Samaritan woman to confront the gallimaufry of ethnic, cultural and religious bigotry. His disciples were shocked to find him talking to her. John 4.

You need to understand a thing or two about why the Jews hated Samaritans. They had quite a long history between them.

The Samaritans were half Jew, half-Gentile. The race came about from the Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. When the king of Assyria carried ten tribes of Israel away into captivity, he sent people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim to occupy Samaria. 2 Kings 17:24. These foreigners occupied Samaria and intermarried with the left behind Israelite population and so produced “Samaritans”.

The foreign settlers did not worship the God of Israel. They worshipped various idols. Some sacrificed their kids to Adrammelech and Anammelech. The Samaritans adopted these gods and for this they were universally despised by the Jews.

There were other issues too. After being excluded from participating in the building of the temple, the Samaritans took offence and became opposition block. They bribed agents to frustrate the plans to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, sought to intimidate and discourage the people. They did political lobbying against the Jews, writing a petition to King Artaxerxes. Ezra 4, Nehemiah 6:1-14.

To make matters worse the Samaritans built a temple for themselves at Mount Gerizim insisting it was designated by Moses as the place of worship. Deuteronomy 11:29, 27:12; Joshua 8:33. But the Jews insisted on Jerusalem. Then the Samaritans capped it off by accepting only the five books of Moses and none of the writings of the Jewish prophets. Neither did they accept Jewish traditions. So there was quite some animosity between the Israelites and the Samaritans. To the Jews, Samaritans were the scum of the earth. It was therefore a huge shock to the disciples to see Jesus sitting down with a Samaritan woman in conversation. Even the Samaritan woman was shocked as well: “The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)” John 4:9 MSG.

What was even more interesting was the content of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The only reference to her scandalous marital status was in a bid to ascertain her level of sincerity and honesty. Jesus gave the Samaritan woman a sense of worth. They talked politics, history and geography. Some theology as well. No one had ever engaged that woman on that level. And Jesus told the Samaritan woman directly he was the Messiah and Lord! John 4:26. He had never told anyone that before. He liked her. And so the picture of Jesus in the gospels was a rather radical one. He was completely different from the Old Testament prophets. A lot of people struggled with that.

But in truth he was presaging the Order of Melchizedek. The Order of Melchizedek is a hybridized priestly equation. It’s a priest-king combo. It’s why Jesus could be cosmopolitan. The Order of Melchizedek is a secular/divine order. By the way, Melchizedek was that gentleman king who collected tithe from Abraham as he returned from the slaughter of the kings. Genesis 14:17-20. And so when we as Christians seek to function in the mode of Elijah and Elisha we miss the point completely. Jesus had radicalized the notion of priesthood. He modernised and upgraded it essentially. Unlike Elijah and Elisha, we’re woven into the fabric of society. We can attend functions, attend weddings, socialise, and still function in priestly capacities. Just like Jesus did. This is radical priesthood.

The vision of God for Christianity is not a people living on the fringe of society but a people fully integrated into society, salting the nooks and crevices. We’re not to separate ourselves from society, we’re to function within society as Christians and yet maintain our identity. James 1:27. This is what Paul was talking about when he wrote: “Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone. I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people – religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 MSG.

You can’t successfully function as a modern day Christian if you don’t understand the concept of the Order of Melchizedek. It is based on the concept of the Order of Melchizedek Jesus appointed entrepreneurs, government agents, revolutionists and professionals as priests to preach the gospel.

The earliest disciples were not priests according to the terms of the Old Testament. Most weren’t from the tribe of Levi. This was a revolutionary concept. The priesthood belonged to the tribe of Levi. Indeed under the terms of the Old Testament Jesus himself didn’t qualify as priest. He was from the tribe of Judah. The priesthood belonged to Levi. It’s why tithes were paid to Levites and why Jesus could not receive tithes. We see that trend of appointing priests from the professional, entrepreneurial and public sector class till this day. It’s why many pastors are professionals, public servants or businessmen. Jesus established that pattern early on.

Of course there are many things to learn from Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. For one, bigotry has no place in Christianity. Jesus obviously detests ethnic bigotry. Neither did Jesus believe in condemning people. The worse the sinner the greater the grace extended. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10. That’s a major lesson from Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. All God wanted was her sincerity of heart. And the Samaritan woman had that in spades. She was something else. She was brash, forward, loud, unabashed but very real. Seems Jesus likes having conversations with such. He loves real people.

He’s waiting to have that honest conversation with you. 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.”

© Leke Alder |

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