Today is Good Friday, which is a day set aside by Christians to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. Sunday will mark Easter (my preferred term is Resurrection Sunday), which is when believers celebrate the resurrection of the crucified savior.
The week before Easter (much shorter to type than Resurrection Sunday) is always a good time to reflect on what the cross means to us. Holy Week, as many call it, is also a good time to ponder our beliefs, which to many are quite crazy.
Millions of people believe there was a virgin, impregnated by a ghost, who had a baby that was fully human and fully God. If that’s not out there enough, the baby grew up to be a man, who lived a pretty-low key life for around 30 years, before starting a ministry. During that ministry, he performed many miracles — making the blind see, healing the sick and even raising folks from the dead. This fellow ticked off a lot of people (mostly religous folk), which led to him being hung on a cross. A few days later, he strolled out of a tomb and talked to people, including many of his friends, for a month or so before floating away to heaven.
Why is that so hard for people to believe?
As a follower of Jesus myself, I can see how a person who doesn’t believe might find it odd that I stake everything on a Jewish zombie.
Easter has always been an odd holiday for me. As a child, it was all about eggs, bunnies, candy, dressing up and taking a family photo. My family were all Christians and I knew the story of Jesus, but He was kind of on the backburner to everything else.
In the church denomination that I grew up in, we didn’t really hear phrases like Palm Sunday or Good Friday much. As far as church goes, the biggest thing I remember is Easter plays.
Our church would have these elaborate plays that depicted many of the things that I mentioned above. The miracle scenes were always the most memorable. The guy playing Jesus would go around the room “healing” other actors in the play. Before you knew it, folks were getting so into it that the play and real life began to blend together and Jesus would be laying hands on people in the audience. People were so excited.
While Palm Sunday and Good Friday became clearer to me as I grew up, I had never heard of Maundy Thursday until a few years ago. It’s a weird phrase. I thought it was probably similar to Fat Tuesday. While it has nothing to do with Mardi Gras, it is definitely a day that needs celebration.
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus brought his 12 disciples together at a table to have the Passover meal. He knew everything that was going to happen the next day. He knew his best friends would betray, deny and turn their backs on him. Jesus knew he would soon die.
What did he do?
Jesus took time to hang out with his friends. I imagine that this bunch of guys were laughing and joking for much of the time. Jesus washed all their feet, He gave them some great food and He showed them his love.
Near the end of the meal, Jesus got pretty serious. He showed us all a way to remember Him through the Eucharist, which many of us call Communion or the Lord’s Supper. He also gave his disciples a commandment, something that he expected from all His followers. Jesus said, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.” — (John 13:34-35, The Message)
Do people know Christ’s followers for our love for one another these days?
•They know us because we go to church on Sunday and we leave a terrible tip at the restaurant afterwards.
•They know us because we like to tell folks they are going to burn in hell if they don’t change their sinful ways.
•They know us because we badmouth beer drinkers, smokers, people with tattoos and piercings and those terrible people who dare show up at God’s house without being dressed in their Sunday best.
•They know us because we gave them some weird piece of paper that tells them about their future in hell, because we didn’t want to take the time to get to know them and tell them about God’s love.
•They know us because we hate homosexuals.
•They know us because we hate anyone that disagrees with our political views.
•They know us because we flip our lids when we don’t understand satire on “Saturday Night Live.”
•They know us because we tell them to share a picture of Jesus on Facebook or they don’t love Him.
If we aren’t known by our love for each other, how can others ever see us as God’s reflection of love and grace to them?
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with everything you got and then love your neighbor as yourself.
What if we put that into practice? What if stopped worrying about stupid stuff? What if we loved?
What would Easter be like?
James Phillips is editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.