There’s nothing worse than being excluded.
There’s nothing worse than everyone else in your class going to a party and discovering that you’re not invited. I remember clearly lining up for games and not being picked. How is it that at a disco everyone else knows the latest moves to the current favourite tracks but you don’t?
Okay, these examples are fairly frivolous, although painful at the time. There are of course more serious examples. Children being excluded from school. Prisoners being excluded from society. Women being excluded from the vote until not so long ago. Blacks being excluded from white’s only areas under apartheid. Immigrants excluded from entering because of the country they come from. This list could go on and on. The human race excels at stating who is in and who is out, who is welcome and who is not. Perhaps there are times when living in a fallen world that this is required in order for society to function, but often our exclusions derive from our fear and selfishness.
Exclusion is another of those themes that runs through the Bible. After the Fall Adam and Eve are excluded from the Garden. With the collapse of the Tower of Babel, and the establishment of different languages and cultures, inevitably different groupings would be excluded from each other through the inability to communicate with each other, which would in turn lead to suspicion and rivalry. Foreigners are excluded from marrying into the People of God. Although the Israelites were to welcome aliens in their midst and offer them hospitality, Gentiles were excluded from the Temple, as were children, eunuchs and the disabled. As for the lepers…
But then comes Jesus and everything changes.
He welcomes children and calls them the greatest.
He talks to women and treats them with dignity and equality.
He heals the lepers, sending them to the Priest so that they can be re-integrated into society.
He offers forgiveness to any who seek it and eats with tax collectors and prostitutes.
After the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday, he rides to the Temple, overturning the tables. We are told that the blind and lame came to him and he healed them and the children came and were shouting in the courts (Mt.21:12-16). Up until this point they were barred from entry!
This growing circle of inclusion spreads even further in Acts. The Ethiopian Eunuch is baptized in Acts 8 and then the disciples discover that the Spirit is given to the Gentiles too – and how can they reject those who God has accepted!
This is the glorious message of Easter, Jesus has smashed the barriers and all are allowed in. To borrow the words of the wedding service, what God has joined together let no man put asunder!