Walking in Their Shoes
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes.” Or, as Harper Lee quotes a Cherokee saying in her book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk and around in it.” You get the point.
When we read scripture, we should do the best we can to get into the shoes, the lives of those people who were the first recipients of God’s written work; two to four thousand years ago. How do you do that? Read some history of the times and culture. For the New Testament, read about first century Rome, Greece, and Israel. An example is “As the Romans Did, A Sourcebook in Roman Social History,” by Jo-Ann Shelton, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998. This books gives archeological details about the Romans in virtually every aspect of their lives, private and public.
Another thing you can do to get into the shoes of ancient man is to put yourself into their situation as much as possible. Imagine not having any modern conveniences. No electricity, no motors, no real medicines, vastly different clothing types, no glasses or contact lenses, no cars, virtually none of the modern conveniences. Try walking around one day with none of those items, not even your glasses and you might begin to see the difficulty many had. One other item, restrooms. Many restrooms in the middle east were communal with a long bench with oval holes about every three feet, no privacy dividers. See below. Forget toilet paper. Use leaves or sponge on a stick.
How is all this supposed to help us understand scripture? When you read of people who are sick, or hungry, remember they had little access to medical help or grocery stores or other items to which we are so accustomed. When Jesus said, let’s go to the other side (of the Sea of Galilee), understand that they had no lights, no weather forecasts, and they, as fishermen, understood the dangers crossing a body of water at night brings. Not even our modern conveniences would prepare us for seeing a person walking across the water to us in stormy weather.
When scripture speaks of the women going to Jesus’ tomb on the first day of the week in Matthew 28:3-4 (ESV) perhaps you’ll understand why the guards were so afraid and fainted because, “3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.” They were not used to people being this lit up.
When we start getting a feel for how the people of that time were impacted by what they saw Jesus do, when they read the words written about Him, heard the words spoken by Jesus, perhaps you will begin to grasp the amazement they did. Perhaps after you read Jesus’ words, you’ll be like the astonished crowds in Matthew 5 through 7 because Jesus “was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Perhaps you’ll will even consider following Jesus as one of His disciples.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a disciple of Jesus, give us a call at Parker Road Baptist Church.