The very term “Outsider” speaks of exclusion. To be considered and treated as an outsider is very uncomfortable. I suppose we have all experienced this to some degree or another – I know I have – especially, sad to say, in religious circles. As I write I recall as a younger man attending a service in a Church with my brother. As communion approached the Minister invited everyone who were Christians to join in – but when my brother and I attempted to do so we were refused and were told we were – “not members”. We were in fact considered outsiders – even among those we thought were our fellow Christians. Of course such experiences pale into insignificance in the light of how many immigrants or asylum seekers must feel in our country and others.
The ultimate outsider was, of course, Jesus – he still is in many places – including churches. I believe if Jesus came secretly and physically today – many churches would still throw him out. Religion has not changed much over the last 2000 years.
As today in the religious establishment – the experts, theologians, and Bible Teachers of Jesus time could easily justify their rejection to him. One of the most learned and devout of these was a man called Paul. He hated Jesus and everything he stood for. After the death of Jesus, Paul, a Pharisee, made it his goal in life to hunt down and destroy the fledgling church and its members – even applauding and supporting their execution. Paul was certain Jesus was a fraud – an imposter – a law breaker and under the rightful curse of God. He even had the irrefutable backing of the Jewish Scriptures for his opinion of Jesus – “Anyone hanging on a tree is cursed of God” [Deuteronomy 21:23 (TLB)]. Personally I might have thought this a tenuous connection – but Paul did not and later gives written confirmation of his position and belief [Galatians 3:13]. An outsider Jesus certainly was – in every sense of the word.
But not only was he considered an outsider – he personally, willingly and graphically took on the role of the outsider. And – “He suffered and died outside the city” [Hebrews 13:12]. The use of the word “outside” here is not only literal but also symbolic of his separation from Yahweh and the community of Israel. The prophet Isaiah had foreseen this – “They thought of Him as One Who broke the Law. Yet He Himself carried the sin of many… ” [Isaiah 53:12 (NLV)]. And of course Jesus himself had predicted as much in his parable of the Wicked Vinedressers – “So they threw him [the beloved son] out of the vineyard [his vineyard] and murdered him.” [Luke 20:15].
It was as an outsider Jesus lived. It was as an outsider Jesus died. And it was as an outsider that Jesus became The Redeemer of man. So the writer to the Hebrews concludes in the verses we have already mentoned –
“Let us go to Him outside the city to share His shame.”
Hebrews 13:13-14 (NLV)
I don’t know what God is up to today – but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is working outside the walls of received religion. I also suspect that if we what to be part of it we will have to meet him there. So if you feel like an outsider today – take heart – you might meet Jesus just round the corner.