- Religion and Philosophy
The Death of Jesus and What it Might Say About Power
I have struggled this Easter with hearing over and over again that Jesus "died for our sins" or "died so that we could be forgiven" or "died to make us good". And somehow for the first time, this really doesn't make sense to me. I don't know why I haven't thought about it before.
So I have done a little reading and a little thinking and now I am going to share my thoughts.
Well, it seems to me that people were kind and compassionate and repentant and forgiving before...and after Jesus died. And it seems likely that on average, people are just as likely to be "good" and "bad", nowadays, as they were in the time before Jesus.
I have spent most of my working life, listening to people who have been hurt by other people, and it doesn't seem to me that, overall, things are great. We have a way to go. So it's probable that Jesus dying, hasn't radically improved our behaviour towards each other. It also doesn't seem as though the hurts that we do to each other, hurt any less than they did before Jesus was alive, although of course that's just my assumption.
So here's my take:
We really do have free will and God really can see everything that happens. Jesus was a highly enlightened man and had a divine connection with God - was at one with Him (I don't think that it's as simple as the father/son relationship that we know). He was phenomenally brave and corageous in every way. He was curious and demonstrative, but He was also very aware of the implications of what He was doing. He had grown up in the place that He lived and died, and knew the religious establishment, the politics and the nature of the people of the time. He knew that He was drawing attention to Himself from the religious leaders and the political leaders and He knew that to really make a difference and to inspire others, He would have to stay the course. He didn't fudge the issue, He didn't let fear overtake Him and He didn't get distracted by popularity.
He must have felt the pressure of others and noticed the fear in those around Him and known that it was likely that He would be shamed or silenced by those with power around Him. Whether or not He knew He was going to die, it would have been more than likely that He would have suffered some serious physical punishment.
Anyone that stands in the face of those in power and seeks change, knows that they face attack. I think it is a more miraculous story when I think that He might not have known how it would turn out, but that He knew that it would not be "easy". When any of us stand up for what is right or do something that causes those in power to check themselves, we know that we stand to be attacked.
So for me the Easter message is not that somehow, miraculously, sin is erased, or that the passage to heaven is easier, or that there is going to be an end to suffering.
Rather, it is that the road that is "right", is hard. Jesus didn't have a happy ending in a saccharine world full of air-brushed people. He was a man who tried to do right where He could. He came up against the religious leaders of the time, who were more worried about their own power and might, and a political super-power that was nervous about instability....sound familiar?
We are in difficult times. With religious groups getting even more dogmatic about what they think, rather than trying to do "good" where they can: more interested in covering up the tracks of those that sin, than in trying to mend what has been broken. And we are facing a change in super-power as the East rises over the West.
Perhaps we should learn from His death all those years ago, that we can't trust the religious leaders and those who group together to maintain their power. But we can learn from each other and we can listen to those around us that do "good" and are brave and compassionate. The "good" that Jesus lived and died for is in each of us and I think this is the true wonder of life. That despite our past, we can live today well; we can make a difference; and we can be brave. And whatever the cost, that goodness lasts...for thousands of years.