Many of us have just come through the most holy time for Christians and also for those of the Jewish faith (Easter and Passover), I find myself on the outside looking in. Good Friday for the Christians commemorates the death of Jesus on a cross. It has been interpreted for centuries that his death was necessary – Jesus became the Pascal Lamb of the Jewish tradition that was sacrificed for the good of all (which was part of the Atonement tradition not that of Passover). Passover required to placing the blood of an unblemished lamb to show God whom not to kill.
Over the centuries the Good Friday story has been retold by the Christian Church emphasizing the importance of Jesus’ death. One of the interesting facts coming from this story is that we are told that Jesus spoke seven times from the cross yet we do not find these saying in all accounts of the day. There is no doubt scripture can be confounding and something downright contradictory, as well as being written for a specific purpose of its own.
Over the centuries questions have often been asked as just who it was that caused the death. Was it the scheming religious leaders of that day? Did they present false information to the Roman authorities? Can we simply say it was just “mob mentality”? It became more difficult to determine the cause other than to say Jesus was making suggestions that scared the leaders. It seemed best to just quiet him once and for all.
Even the “cross” story has just as many variations. When did he die (usually death was much slower than we are told). At the time of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple was torn in two, at least in one account. Since the gospels containing these accounts were written twenty to thirty years apart, parts must have been forget and left out. (Which brings into question for me the scriptures as the word of God, written by God, or least under power of God’s Spirit – why are they so different?)
Then of course is the story of the first Easter. What happened? Who was and who wasn’t there. What did they see or not see. Who rolled the stone way? In Mark’s original ending, there is no account of the risen Jesus, only stories of women fleeing out of fear because they found an empty tomb.
As you can see, I have these problems and don’t know what to do about them. Part of my problem and I would say a large part, is that what will happen if I reject that which I have been taught and have taught for the last three quarters of a century. Does God really expect that the only way for anyone to become worthy of God’s love is to accept that Jesus had to take our place on the cross – our suffering was vicarious at best. Of course, that also means that I have to assume that anyone born of “earthly parents” (from the time of Abraham or is it from the time of Adam) is born bad and can only be saved by the “shedding of the blood” of Jesus.
What if Easter has a different meaning? What if Jesus became part of a call to live with God in a new way that didn’t require Jesus’ death, rather a desire to follow the Jesus way? To me this way involves that we forget about the God of our fathers and mothers; that we choose not to allow ourselves to be blessed if we are good and punished if we are bad. Cannot babies who have died before they were baptized live fully with “the great multitudes of God’s children”?
To me Easter is a call to celebrate the love to which we are called. It is not a love of those who think like us, or even love us. Love moves beyond borders of gender, orientation, even religion. Easter is the essence of life calling us to live fully the life that is before us. A life not fenced in by our personal prejudices and hatred and even centuries of wrongful, hurtful teachings.