Too often, we overlook the simplicity of basic research when studying about Jesus. We are searching the mystical chris for complex answers and justification of our own lives as we study about Jesus, and are often limited by finite thinking and personal experiences. In order to understand “where Jesus was coming from”, we need to return to the simple humanistic roots and traits of this man, whom we, as Christians, believe to be the son of God.
As you read about the culture of Jesus, there are two distinct cultures about him to understand. The physical, or earthly culture of Jesus’ day and time, is a return to the basics. You need to understand some of the basic cultural differences between Jesus’ time, and ours, but also the specific differences between the Eastern and Western cultures that still exist even today. The physical culture helps us to understand “where Jesus was coming from”, while the spiritual culture of Jesus tells us, in fact, “where Jesus came from” to impart upon this earthly journey. The spiritual culture of Jesus, that will be presented in a subsequent article, reveals what Jesus was trying to tell us about the spirit based upon examples of what we would understand by using the physical.
In John 14: 6, Jesus speaking to Thomas says, “I am the way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the father except through me. ” India, as we know it today, was one of the places that this same apostle Thomas visited… in fact, it was in what we now know as India where Thomas gave his life as a martyr, for boldly preaching about Jesus, and a memorial still stands in that country today. (This is interesting, since this is a country that worships 330 million gods, yet a memorial stands for the martyr of the one and only God, whom they reject the concept of as an all powerful single deity. )
I worked with many “India” indians and have been in some very interesting conversations with them. In many parts of the East, it is punishable by death if you change from your country’s religion to Christianity… from Islam, or Hindu, or Buddha, or Bahaism to Christian is a certain death sentence. Whereas we, as U. S. citizens have the right to worship any religion, many countries in the east do not enjoy such freedom. In Jesus time, it was also a threatened environment, often times leading to death. In studying about the different apostles, you will find that Paul was often in fear for his life or in prison for preaching about Jesus. John was beheaded for his beliefs. Others were beheaded or stoned to death for their belief and proclamation of Jesus as the Christ. While not always against specific laws of the day, certain powerful religious sects and political associations created a very dangerous threat for Christians in Jesus day. Even Jesus escaped some cities because he knew that some of these sought to kill him.
Also remember the several passages that refer to multiple deities. Some had so many ‘gods’ and idols that they even had one dedicated to an “Unknown God”. The east has literally millions of gods that are worshipped still today. Even of those of the same common beliefs, the conservative and extremist sects battle constantly. If we, who all believe in but one God, have disagreements and various interpretations, imagine how confusing it would be with millions of gods! The people in the east, therefore, tend to follow whatever their tradiitonal family beliefs because to research, study, and dispute them would be dangerous to their life, societal suicide, and would literally consume their entire life, and that of their children and grandchildren to arrive at any hint of religious origin.
Ravi Zacharias said this: “I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I have remained with Him because there is no other way that I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something that I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has 330 million deities. I remain with Him knowing that Truth (referring to John 14: 6) cannot be all-inclusive. Truth by definition excludes all others. ” Powerful, powerful words and faith.