You will read this halfway through Holy Week, a week-long journey following the final days of an itinerate speaker who changed the world. Good Friday marks his death, and Easter Sunday his resurrection.
Jesus of Nazareth was about 33 years old when he suffered what was known as the cruelest torture and death - to be crucified. He did not preach violence. He showed compassion to all, healed the sick, not only physically but mentally and spiritually and helped outcasts, thieves, prostitutes. He treated men and women, the poor and rich, with respect. His teachings were not about “I” or “me” but about “you” and “them.” He was a radical.
Jesus knew money and power would not satisfy those inner longings and in fact they would too often be used first to corrupt one’s self and then others. His faith was based on the Jewish religion, but He would take many of those laws further, like the Ten Commandments which are known by many. One is you shouldn’t kill but Jesus said, not only that you shouldn’t kill, but it is just as bad to hate and think about killing. Anger can lead to hate which can lead to killing, so nip that before it has a chance to go anywhere. Don’t forget to forgive your enemies and turn the other cheek too. Not easy stuff to do.
Jesus’ death and resurrection struck a match which in turn shone a light around not only the known world 2,000 years ago, but the world as it expanded across oceans and continents. Today 32 per cent of the world’s population are Christians, noted as 2.5 billion, and it is still the largest.
Those who follow this humble teacher will have spent the last 40 days, we call Lent, contemplating their faith and how they could improve it as they journey through life. Some deny themselves a favourite food or activity, while others may add extra reading and studying time so they can reflect and grow in their faith.
I must confess, my own faith journey solidified yet again. I led an Alpha Course last fall, and this Lenten journey actually had great meaning for me. I added more study and a special service every week but what really made the difference was being asked to share my faith journey and how it related to the pain I have. That was quite an eye opener for me.
I have always had pain from childhood, with extra bones in my feet and knees that didn’t work properly so I could never really run, jump, kneel or skip. I had surgeries during public and high school to fix them. Faith was okay then, I did Sunday School and other youth activities at our church. But I changed as I got older, I kept getting new and exciting syndromes, and problems that didn’t go away. I stopped going to church as it hadn’t fulfilled anything in me for a long time. I had to change professions twice and eventually couldn’t work because of my health. By then I was pretty mad at God, but still searching for ‘something.’ I have told the Alpha Course story many times, in this column, which changed my life and helped me restore my faith and learn how to handle my pain.
Comparing my pain life to my faith life has helped me to grow even more. I have never lost my pain although our healing service often brings some relief. Pain I think is my wilderness, where I learn to deal with all the new and not so wonderful things life brings me. How to handle it, how to handle myself, and how to help others with what I learn. One thing that always works when I feel the worst is to haul myself out of bed, or the house, get to Aqua Fit, help my body, and then do something for someone else, if by no other means than working on the computer.
The end of lent begins holy week, the last days Jesus was alive. He knew what was going to happen, so what did He do on his last days? The day he died, we call Good Friday, He allowed himself to be crucified for us. Why? Then He rose again from the dead. Cool! But why?
Well that is what the Easter holidays are all about, for you to have those questions answered. They are big question with answers that can change your life. Crack open a bible this weekend. Pop into a church, let them know you're new and have questions. You can learn the story of this man... the greatest story ever told and yes, it can change your life. Have a Happy Easter Sunday.