Easter Weekend. It's the time when Christians recognize the crucifixion of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection 3 days later.
We talk a lot about Jesus' death on the cross. We talk about how it was for our sins. We talk about how many believe his life, death and resurrection were all foretold in the Old Testament. This is all well and good.
What we don't talk much about is WHY Jesus was crucified.
The simple fact is that Jesus was crucified because he was a revolutionary and a threat to not only the secular power (the occupying Romans), but the the religious authority of his time as well. In the New Testament he constantly berates the religious leaders of his time - even calling them a brood of vipers, and essentially dead within.
He was a revolutionary. The things he said and the deeds he did were extremely counter cultural then, and they are counter cultural now.
By counter-cultural, I mean that Jesus talked about taking care of each other - loving your neighbor as yourself. Denying self. Turning the other cheek. Seeking peace. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc (Matthew 25). Not buying into the worldly power structures, riches and ideas about "strength".
Those things eventually got him killed.
I've always felt that if you were going to design a religion (or make one up as many atheists contend), Christianity with it's message of peace, denying self and humility would NOT be the religion that man would make up.
I often wonder if he (Jesus) came back now for a short visit and visited any 10 churches chosen at random, would he even recognize American Christianity as espousing his radical life and teachings?
I was watching a news clip of the President talking to a group of religious broadcasters (most likely the likes of Pat Robertson, etc) and saying that toppling Saddam Hussein was the right thing then, and is the right thing now, and will always be the right thing. And these religious broadcasters greeted that with wild enthusiastic applause.
It is no secret that a lot of Christians of every variety support the war. A lot of them believe that George W. Bush and the power and might of the US Military is an instrument of God. Some of them believe that these wars may even hasten the return of Christ, and that is why they are so supportive of it.
I am no theologian or religious scholar (or even a religious broadcaster), but I have to wonder. If Jesus did not topple the occupying regime of his time (the Romans), despite repeated begging by his disciples to do so - to be the powerful, kick butt and take names Messiah THEY wanted him to be, and constant misunderstanding of his mission, why on earth would we think that he would approve any kind of violent regime change now?
A lot of people say that on 9/11 everything changed and that's why we need to have these wars. To "protect" ourselves.
God didn't change on 9/11/01. God's message, and Jesus example of his life and ministry was the same on 9/11/o1 as it was on 9/10/01 or 9/12/01, or now. We changed. We became scared (of course our "leadership" helped us along). We decided to trust in bombers and cruise missiles and tanks and infantry and not God. We decided that we were going to wreak vengeance on the rest of the world in a "Clash of Civilizations" or "War on Terror" or "War on Islamofacism" under the guise of "spreading democracy" and "making America safer".
I think every person in America who is Christian needs to ask and answer some questions this Easter Weekend.
These questions need to be asked and answered by each individual - not just spouting something your pastor said, or something you read in a book and calling the questions answered, but by each individual conscience with the guidance of the Spirit.
Do we REALLY understand how radical the entire message of Jesus really is? This includes his teachings on peace and taking care of the poor. Or are we so dulled by a week after week watering down of the message that we don't recognize it's radical nature?
I think these questions are so critical. I think we ignore them at our peril.
I close this with something I've put in this blog before from Luke Chapter 9, verses 52-56.
Jesus is not accepted in a certian village. Verse 54 says "And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
Verse 55 and 56 say "But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
Not to destroy men's lives but to save them. That includes Iraqi's, Palestinians, Africans, Asians, Arabs, Persians, and all other peoples - even the ones our media, government and certain "religious broadcasters" tell us we should hate. Even Americans. That is radical stuff.
Are we helping to save lives? That is another question each individual Christian must grapple with.