Beneath that was the Decurion class. These people were still wealthy, but not as wealthy as the Equestrians; however, they had some power in local government. Beneath that were the Citizens. They had less wealth, but had some rights as Romans. Paul, as you may remember, was a Roman Citizen. Below that were those who were called ?Free people.? These were people who had been Slaves, but somewhere along the line had acquired enough resources to buy their freedom. They were still not Citizens. Slaves occupied the lowest rung on the ladder.
Everything in their society reinforced this kind of caste system. Clothes showed what class you were in. I know that in our culture, it's hard to imagine a culture where clothes reflect someone's status, but in that culture they did. ''That was a joke. Not a very funny joke apparently . . ..'' In ancient Rome, only Citizens were allowed to wear a toga. The Decurions and Equestrians could wear stripes on their togas to show their status. If you were a slave, you wore a tunic¨you didn't get to wear a toga¨just as a reminder that this was your class.
Much of Roman life was arranged around Guilds that had wealthy patrons from the Equestrian class. The guilds frequently held festivals. If you went to a meal at a festival, the Equestrian class was served first, and after that, the Decurion class. Of course, the best food went first. Next the Citizens would be fed, and then Free people would be fed. If you were a Slave, and if there were anything left, you would get the dregs. That's the way that it worked. That was life.
But there was a new community, and they said to themselves: Jesus didn't really deal with people like that. Jesus said that He, the Son of Man:
So, you're a Slave, and you go into a house where the church gathers, and an Equestrian kneels down and serves you food. You start to cry. You're a Slave. You've never been served your whole life long, and now you're being served by an Equestrian. You're getting the best food. You look in his eyes, and you're weeping; and he's weeping, because he's never experienced the bond of common humanity or serving someone. There's never been a community like this! Jesus has gone on the road. Nobody's ever seen anything like this before.
By: John Ortberg
Category: The Request of James and John