I woke up to the knowledge that this is the day we celebrate Christ's resurrection from the dead. I have songs of my childhood Sunday school in my mind..."Jesus Christ is risen today - Hallelujah." I ponder that day - an event that occurred more than two thousand years ago, and wonder. All things considered - and correcting for the obvious differences based on technological advances, was the political environment similar to what we find today? The wars and clashes between people of ancient days were violent and bloody - torture was common place and people could be easily persuaded to bend one way or another. This hasn't changed. Just read the news. In ancient days - and for the moment, I'm talking about Jesus' time - the debate about who should rule over whom was a main topic of discourse. This also hasn't changed. And where does religion fit into the political dialog? Though I still retain my childhood Christian religious education, I am currently much more of a spiritualist - a free-thinker who embraces the positive attributes of all religions. I'm raising my two youngest children in the Jewish faith - in the tradition of their father. Just last week, we celebrated Passover - and I am also celebrating Easter -- so I've been contemplating religious rituals for several weeks now. I think about these two particular religious beliefs - Christianity and Judaism, and how different they are. Yet there are striking similarities too, and somehow, over time, they have learned to exist side by side without trying - at least in the literal sense, to kill each other off.
When Jesus Christ lived on earth, political unrest was not a new topic. People were enslaved - if not literally with shackles, then figuratively by political propaganda. Rome ruled the area we now call Israel and Palestine. But the indigenous people there, exhausted as they were from the yolk of a distant dictator, often fought among themselves for superiority. The story as I learned it in Sunday school, was that the Jews of the day were tired of being oppressed - a common, recurrent theme of the Jewish people. They hoped for their Messiah to come to save them. For some, this Messiah would be a King of Kings - more powerful than any administrator or prefect of Rome. This King would be strong - he would be tough. He would lead his people to a position of might and power.
But the Jesus of my early learning was not so tough. He was wise, and kind, forgiving, and meek. He wasn't portrayed (at least in my Sunday school), as a mighty ruler who would bring Rome to its knees; who would take the helm in a bloody earthly battle in a King of the hill-type event. Jesus became King of the Hill, of course, but not in the way most Jews of the day had hoped. Rather than sporting armor, shield and sword, and assuming his rightful place on the throne of Jerusalem, Jesus was a simply-clothed, sacrificial lamb who asked his followers to turn the other cheek, and forgive each other. If He could have used miracles to prevent his hideous torture, humiliation, and long-drawn-out, painful death, He, for some reason, chose not to. I was always taught that He was doing God's will. Dying hideously, piteously on a cross was His destiny, and His sacrifice was meant to signify redemption for all mankind. The people who could have saved Him, railed against Him, so conflicted were they about the sociopolitical environment they found themselves in. Instead of a tough ruler; a King with muscle to overthrow the bondage of a long-distance dictator, Jesus was a gentle shepherd, using kindness and reason to gather God's flock. He claimed to be able to perform miracles, but would not do them on command, and would not do them to save His own life.
Meek? Perhaps. Yet, the story about the King of Kings lives on. This morning, the story of this bit of history passed down after thousands of years without the benefit of tape-recorders, internet technology, cell-phones and the current-time news feeds we're all used to, still moves me to tears. Our world is still crazy. Torture and mindless killing occurs all over the globe. Though we may think we've evolved, and that intelligence has persuaded us to use our words, our thinking skills, and diplomacy to resolve differences and problems, one only needs to read the news to see that in many ways, we are still petulant, violent beings. Logic, kindness, forgiveness and intelligence are often absent from the dialog altogether.
Easter Sunday signifies hope for Christians all over the world. But for me, it is a sad reminder that we still haven't learned our lesson.