this week i've been doing some study about topics i mentioned in my last post: i've been exploring the history of the jewish nation in palestine in the period leading up to, and during, the roman occupation, i've done some reading on the saducees, pharisees, and essenes, i've learned a little about jewish scriptural interpretation, i've begun reading the gospel of thomas, and i've read all of the passages in the four gospels, acts, and romans that mention "sin" and related words. as i've read jewish history in the period of the Hasmonean dynasty and the Herodian dynasty that followed, i've begun to think of the intrigues and cruelties that were the norm in the leadership of the jewish nation and of the difficulties common people must have experienced, especially in galilee, as they dealt with the demands of the roman occupiers, of the herodian tetrarchy, and the minutiae of rules that made up the expectations of the religious leaders. this was the world in which Jesus lived, and one can begin to see what Jesus meant when He spoke of taking up His light yoke.
in contrast to the demands of the prevailing interpretations of the law, Jesus taught that one's actions must flow from love, that the inner life is more important that outer ritual actions. He taught that the ultra-nationalism of the dominant religious parties and the zealots was counterproductive, and He encouraged His followers to transform society by looking to the common good rather than plotting against the romans. how remarkable His teachings must have seemed to those who listened to Him! in the face of the oppresive demands of the government and religious elite, some of whom were collaborators with the romans and herod, Jesus spoke of a way of life that honored love for God and others, one that gave women a new and prominent role, one that set aside prejudices that divided people of differing nationalities and religious backgrounds.
my prayer today is that we walk in the way that Jesus taught, practicing the religion of caring for one another and treating each other with kindess and respect. may we see the light of God in each person we encounter and remember that what we do to and for others, we do to and for Jesus.