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I titled this blog “Classroom Peer Pressure” to convey one of the most foreign concepts of Bible-times Palestine to our Western cultural mindset today. This concept is the expectations, unity and resulting pressure that community members had for each other. You know how students can feel pressured not to “rat on” a fellow student to the teacher. Or how bullying, corruption in the mob or politics, or even abusive, controlling relationships, can each prevent a victim’s full, honest disclosure. Bible-time Jews lived with similar pressure from their families and clans all their lives. Yet corruption or abuse didn’t drive these expectations.
Referring again to the clan’s importance and especially the family’s, the community offered needed protection, support, and provision back then. Their sense of belonging and responsibility seemed critical to them. Even identification with and pride in the clan/family all seemed essential. I touched on this mostly when I blogged about the Prodigal Son. The son’s sin would’ve offended the father so the community was likely offended too. But I also mentioned a little about this pressure when describing Nazareth. Jesus probably didn’t reach out much to the heathens and Hellenists. But on the other hand, Nazareth tried to bully him to an extreme.
With their sense of belonging came their natural expectation that Jesus shouldn’t ever have anything to do with those heathens. Other than to fight them, that is. Their reaction to his sermon in Nazareth is proof of their demands. Jesus had been mostly teachable while growing up, so they expected to be able to bully him. But now as he kindly but firmly stood his ground, they were (after all their rage), flabbergasted.
This pressure likely also came from Christ’s own family. My blog 4 weeks ago shows we know Mary, Christ’s mother, likely also expected Jesus to lead a battle against the Romans. Add to this Christ’s siblings would likely learn Mary was supposed to have been a virgin when Jesus was born. How could they not hear about this in that small village where everyone knew everyone else’s business? Yet they would only believe Jesus was their Messiah if he would lead them in a battle against the Romans. Like everyone else did. The pressure must’ve been intense to prove their mother was a virgin when Jesus was born, just like she said. And of course, to alleviate their intense oppression.
This seems supported by all biblical references to Christ’s family. The brothers wouldn’t believe he was the Messiah until after he rose again (Mark 3:20-21, John 7:1-10, 1 Corinthians 9:5, Galatians 1:18-19). There seemed to be tension which caused Jesus to resist their attempts even to see him (Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:19-21, Mark 3:31-35). And while Jesus was dying they likely all felt disillusioned. They probably couldn’t even trust their mother was honest with them all those years. Because God cursed any man that hanged on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, CSB). So, a crucified man couldn’t be their Messiah. That’s why crucifixion was a stumbling block for the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23). And that’s why the next oldest brother (likely James) wasn’t there at the cross to support Mary. Yet that’s what family expectations would normally dictate.
Sepphoris had many pagan images in the floors of their homes, showed extreme opulence compared to Nazareth, etc. It was only 4 miles away from Nazareth. Together with its history covered in my documentary, it seems unlikely conscientious, Nazareth Jews did business with Sepphoris. But Hannaniah said (while I was in Israel) numerous scholars today think that Joseph and his sons would’ve helped rebuild Sepphoris.
Sepphoris was destroyed while Mary and Joseph were in Egypt. My documentary explains what happened. Since it was being rebuilt when they came back to Nazareth, it seems like a good opportunity for carpenters to get work. Especially since Nazareth wasn’t big enough to keep a family of carpenters busy. But if each person had specialties for just when farming wasn’t required, they could avoid business dealings with the heathens around them.
The above picture shows how and when communities would farm. Everyone was expected to do each of the above-pictured functions when it was that time of year. It would help Nazareth, and Christ’s family, to be self-sufficient. That was part of their unity as a small community. All for one and one for all.
Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). No amount of pressure—no matter who it was or what they’d do—would interfere with Christ’s commitment to what the Father wanted. Thank God for his full and free forgiveness when we fail him. Thank God for our Perfect Example.
The above artwork and pictures were scanned from Reader’s Digest Jesus and His Times