God the Father

To understand the impact that Jesus teaching had on his fellow Jews, and why some of them hated him so much, we need to understand how radical his teaching really was. His interpretation of the Jewish religion presented a whole new insight into the way a person was viewed by God and of how a sinful person could be made acceptable to God. jesus shed new light on the 'being holy' status. The 'religious' people of the day, had, in Jesus' opinion, got it all wrong. They were emphasizing all of the wrong things and missing the point. If he came back today I am quite sure he would be at odds with many people who are not only supposed to be following him, but also helping others to!

His message was simple: anyone could be put right with God and become His Son or Daughter, simply by honestly repenting and seeking God's fatherly guidance in leading a new life, loving and respecting God as a Heavenly Father and treating his fellow humans as he himself wished to be treated. Simples!

But that message was really radical! It generally upset the 'important' people of the time, and really inspired women and people of lower standing in the community.

It is hard to imagine, for those of us who have been brought up modern times, a time when 'God' was not thought of as 'God The Father' . The very first prayer we are taught, at home or school, is the 'Lord's Prayer', which opens with the words, 'Our Father...'. We therefore think of God in that way, a 'Heavenly Father', but at the time when Jesus was preaching it was not a commonplace way of looking at God.

The commonly held view of the God of Israel in Jesus' time

The God of the Old Testament - the God of the 'Jewish Bible' - the Torah, was not refered to as a father in the Holy Scriptures. God was viewed as more distant and more of an authority figure than that of 'father', God was a Higher Being, impossible to understand fully, too great to look upon, only approachable by trained priests; a 'just' but 'awful' being (in the sense of being filled with awe and wonder, rather than horrible, but still scary!).

Common man could only revere and respect Him, make supplications (pleas, requests) via priests, usually offering a sacrifice at the temple for special requests and as penance for breaking His Laws. An ordinary person's private prayers would tend to be formal and in general a common man would think that God would not be concerned with his everyday troubles and concerns. God would be thought of as too important to be bothered with his trivialities. A person just wished God to accept him and not to reject him because he broke the Law. A pious Jew therefore had lots of help from learned scholars of the Holy Laws to help him 'be pure'. In fact rules were made to help you keep the rules, and then more rules were made to help you keep the rules that helped you to keep the rules. It was easy to get lost in the logistics of 'being godly' and' rule following' supports competition in the 'I'm holier than you are' stakes. A poor, uneducated man, or a woman of any standing, did not stand much of a chance of being very 'holy'. Such a person would be very low down on God's list, according to the thinking of the day.

To get an idea of the regal status God had in Israel, imagine you had a job working in Buckingham palace gardens. You would not think that you could 'pop in' and see the Queen and chat to her about your problems or joys. If you had a grievance, you would have to 'go through channels' to ask for it to be considered, and it would need to be a serious problem before you would think of doing that. You would not consider yourself improtant enough for someone like the Monarch to be bothered with you. In fact, if she walked in the garden you were working in and stopped to chat with you, you would not tell her of your problems, but rather be polite and really chuffed that she had spoken to you at all. You would 'serve' her and respect her, but you would not expect her to be especially concerned with you, whereas, if you were a member of the Royal Family, it would be very different. To Prince William, the Queen is his grandmother. He knows she would want to hear trivialities of hs day, his joys and woes. She would want to be part of his life.

Jesus emphasis within his teachings that God was 'Our Father' was a profound one. He did not change scripture, he just gave a radically different way of interpreting it.The Pharasees worked very hard to be holy, they really wanted to be closer to God and put a lot of effort into it. In doing so they felt that their hard work made them closer to God than ordinary people. Jesus message was that they were going about getting close to God the wrong way!. Rather than concentrating upon becoming ritually clean and making a show of being pious and prayerful, Jesus taught that to get close to God they should love other people. God, as the Heavenly Father, was father to both the pharasee and the sinner.


The consequence of God being 'Father' is that we are all brothers and sisters

An earthly father would not want his 'good' son to reject and shun his 'bad' son. He would want them both to love each other, regardless of their faults and to help each other. It would grieve him that the one son was wayward and disrespectful of him, but it would grieve him even more if the 'good' one then shunned his wayward brother rather than loved him. That would not mean condoning his bad behaviour, but it would mean being there for him, if he needed help and warning him of the consequences of his bad behaviour and helping him to change when he realised the eroor of his ways; and then really forgive him for the past. Jesus parable of the Prodigal Son stresses this..

In Jesus time, sinners we ostracised. They were excluded from 'good' society, shunned, considered beneath their peers. 'Good' people avoided contact with them because they feared being 'infected' by their bad behaviour. People that did talk to them or help them out were considered with suspicion; associating with sinners meant you probably were one!

Jesus associated with sinners. He didn't 'join in' with their sinning behaviour or condone it, but he was willing to talk with them, dine with them, go into the places they frequented. He viewed them as his brothers - all of us having the same Heavenly Father. He did not seek them out, but when they showed an interest in his teaching he made it clear to them that they could change their ways and be fully acceptable to God. Jesus never advocated the Bible-bashing ways that many Christians today seem to adopt. Spreading the Good News that God is a Heavenly Father to all and that to get close to God was possible for anyone was done in such a way that those who were interested, moved by the message, could approach him for further discussion. He did not pursue and brow-beat people.