Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Jesus: A Man from the Hollers

Jesus was from the hill country, from Nazareth in Galilee.

In Mark 1, Mark contrasts two geographical areas from which people came to John the Baptist for baptism. In verse 5 we read of massive amounts of people coming north to the Jordan River area from Jerusalem and Judea. By contrast, in verse 9 we read of Jesus coming south from "Nazareth of Galilee" to meet and be baptized by his cousin John.

Unless you know the social milieu, you will miss the tension in these seemingly insignificant geographical notations. A mass of people come from "the developed" areas, the closer to God areas, the areas of Zion, the area of the Temple, and the area where there were some very wealthy Jews. Jerusalem was Ivy League, double-shot, mocha latte country. Hummers were not uncommon.

Jesus is from "Hicksville." Can anything good come out of Nazareth? was asked later. Jesus was raised in Appalachian "hollers" (see below). He was poor and from a poor family, a country bumpkin. Nazareth was hand-plow and ox country, corn bread and beans country. Jesus was dumb as a stump according to the edgy-cated ones in Jerusalem, dangerously dumb.

Galilee was a region known to be disinterested in and ignorant of Torah. This was a stereotype, of course, but it stuck to Jesus. He was considered a "no name" (see John 9:29) from across the tracks, perhaps, even born out of wedlock. Well, he was conceived out of wedlock, for sure. One rabbi, Johanan ben Zakkai, once lamented, "Galilee, Galilee, you hate the Torah; your end will be seizure by Romans!"

Jerusalem. Judea. Nazareth. Galilee.

But of all the ones that John the Baptist baptized in the Jordan, only one saw the heavens ripped open, saw the Spirit gently floating down on him like a dove, and only one heard a voice from heaven saying, "You are My Son, whom I chose. With you I am outrageously delighted."

Yep. It was the hick...from Nazareth...of Galilee.

So much for God favoring smart, cool, "white" people who live in gated communities and suburbs and who drive Hummers and other SUVs to latte-making cafes, read New Yorker and discuss Mozart.

God seems to dig mule-and-wagon types with missing teeth and tobacco breath and who read the Sears catalogue and drink black Folgers from cracked cups and say things like "Jeat yet," which being interpreted means, "Did you eat, yet?" and who like country music that laments the loss of all that is precious...like my dog, my trailer, my pick 'em up truck and my boot-scootin' woman.

Don't you just love God?

* A "holler", a variant of "hollow," is a small valley between hills in the rural South.


At 9/12/2006 8:03 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Just awesome

mind if I link?

At 9/12/2006 8:06 AM, Blogger John Frye said...


I don't mind at all. Link away! I'm pleased that you like the post.

At 9/12/2006 4:19 PM, Blogger Tim Jeffries said...

I'm fine with the poor and from the backwards part of town bit. It's the country music/culture side of things that I'm struggling with. :-D

At 9/12/2006 5:38 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Aww, come on, mate! You know Jesus would like Willy Nelson and a good rodeo. ;o

At 9/12/2006 7:03 PM, Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Good one John! Thanks. (and it makes me feel better)

At 9/12/2006 9:25 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

I am glad you feel better after reading it. Keep up the good work, bro'.

At 9/13/2006 4:57 AM, Blogger Evan said...

I think i'm with tim here... I see Jesus more as the classic rock type ;)

At 9/13/2006 5:58 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Evan, oh, Evan,
You couldn't be more wrong. A guy who hangs out in corn fields with other guys and eats right off the stalk, that's country. Classic rock? Iiiisssh! A little known manuscript has been found with the lyrics to a song...found in Nazareth actually. Scholars speculating on the lacunae believe the song went, "My baby's done left me/Gone off to the Sea/he got 12 fishing buds with him/oh what will he be?/(chorus) He's the man from old Naz'ret/the man with the eye/to see what ya doing'...

At 9/13/2006 10:28 AM, Blogger Linda said...


Great piece and great comments.

I'm a little speechless after your last comment John.

If I remember right, country music might be on the list of 6 things the Lord hates, 7 that are detestable to him. ;)

I'm pretty sure Jesus would be more R&B, soul style.

I always love it when you write about Jesus and I agree that it was very much part of God's plan to bring Jesus from a marginal place.

At 9/13/2006 2:49 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

I glad to bring a smile to you face. When will we surrender to the truth that Jesus likes country music?

At 9/13/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Me working on my spelin' and gramner, two.

At 9/13/2006 8:12 PM, Blogger Jim Martin said...

What a great post! Such a great reminder of the environment in which Jesus lived and did his work.

Did me good to read this!

At 9/13/2006 9:19 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Jim Martin,
Good brother, thanks for the encouragement. I'm glad you liked it. I think Jesus is one amazing Man, don't you?

At 9/14/2006 6:18 AM, Blogger Evan said...

haha! but is that ancient manuscript inerrant? ;)

At 9/14/2006 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, someone in touch with the true Jesus, a country boy. He would have listened to Merle and driven a pick up. Not a fancy one, just a plain ol' truck. A great post, we would do well to remember this when folks visit our congregations and don't look just like us.

At 9/14/2006 8:03 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

From what I've been told it is NOT inerrant, but it does bear the fingerprints of one Jeremiah ben Billy Bob. Go figure.

At 9/14/2006 8:05 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

We live in a "who's in/ who's out" world and Jesus just turns everything upside down. "Thank God He's a country boy!"

At 9/18/2006 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John: You be walking in high cotton now. You really put it to them hi-flutin' city folks! I'm gonna post a link tomorrow. Thanks, hillbilly.

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