Written by Steven Liechty
'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' - Matthew 25:40
Recent archeological evidence suggests that Jesus was poor . . . dirt poor. Nazareth, 70 miles outside of Jerusalem, may have had as few as 400 mostly illiterate residents and certainly not more than 2000. There were no public buildings, no paved streets and no art or luxury good. Its people were agricultural and migrant workers, a few skilled like Joseph and Jesus, carpenters who went to nearby new towns like Tiberius to find work. Their houses were made of mud and straw with dirt floors and few windows and they mostly died by age 40—only 7 years later than Jesus himself.
Luke's gospel confirms that Mary and Joseph were poor because instead of bringing the required lamb sacrifice for Jesus' ritual Redemption of the Son (Luke 2:24) they brought two turtle doves – the alternative for the poor.
The road to migrant work in Tiberius, a new playground city for the rich under construction in Jesus' day, was near Nazareth. Though dangerous, it was the road to survival for these migrant workers. Muggings, like the one that downed a man in the Good Samaritan story, were commonplace due to widespread poverty.
Could that "man downed" in the Good Samaritan story have been Joseph, Jesus' brothers, friends . . . or even Jesus himself?
Was that Jesus downed that I passed on the road while driving my nice car? Or while walking to the subway or riding in the taxi to church, work, or to the polls to vote for more tax cuts so that I can hold onto more of “my money?” While people like Jesus and his family lay helpless on the side of the road? Not my problem?
Hello . . . Call from Nazareth, Jesus begs to differ.
Oh Lord, Did I just pass Jesus? Does the fact that it matters whether or not it was Jesus tell me what's upside down in my life? How am I to know what to do? But I hear that You are still speaking. Will you please speak to me and help me understand how I can be a better expression of Your Presence by the choices I make and what I do . . . today? Thank you. Amen.