Yes, it’s now Easter – a time which for many of use provides a brief reprieve. Four days away from work, or school, and other activities. A chance to recharge the batteries before plunging back into it again.
For some of us, Easter has a particular significance. It’s at this time that Christians remember a man who died over two thousand years ago and we believe that, as a result of his death and subsequent resurrection, we have the opportunity to be united with God and live a life eternal.
I understand there are a number of reasons that people are not Christians – many very valid – so this post isn’t intended to be an argument for my faith. However, I do believe that we can all learn from a range of great people – from various religions, philosophies and cultures. I know that I find lots of inspiration and insight from outside my faith.
In this context, and given this is a day of reflection for us, I thought I’d share some lessons I see leading to the day he died, now referred to as Good Friday. These are not by any means exclusive (and I have particularly tried to identify lessons that are relevant to those who are not Christian, as well as those who are). So without more background, here are five key lessons I see from Jesus’ life, which I also think are really relevant to my own.
- Jesus welcomed all people – particularly those who society marginalised
He particularly looked out for the poor, the marginalised, the people others feared (lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors) and welcomed them. He implored his followers to care for everyone. He included women in his broader missionary team, and the early church was one of the first to allow great leadership. Plus – in setting up a team, he did not try to do everything on his own. He recognised the need for team work.
- Jesus could not stand hypocrisy – and called people to account regarding it
He held those in power at a higher standard. ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked’. source He was particularly scathing with the leaders of the church, who manipulated interpretations and systems for their own benefit source.
- Jesus saw the bigger picture
Now, I know some people grapple with the idea of Jesus and God being as one (which then means God sacrificed himself on the cross) or being separate (in which case, he was sacrificed by his own father, which is abhorrent), or even more confusingly, that they were both one and separate. And let’s not forget the Holy Spirit – making things more complex still. So let’s leave this theological conundrum to one side for the moment (I can easily get sidetracked).Jesus knew in advance of his capture and trial that he would be killed, and the manner in which it would happen source. He didn’t deviate from carrying out what he understood to be his purpose in life. He never stopped focusing on God. Jesus took a punishment for which he wasn’t guilty – in order that others could be saved source. He was prepared to wait until he was around 30 for his ministry to properly commence – a long time in that era (especially considering he was only alive for another three years or so) – even though he knew at an early age what he was destined for (see the time he was preaching in the synagogue at twelve). He was patient when necessary, focused when necessary, and prepared to suffer when necessary.
- Jesus was human
He was tempted throughout his life to turn away from God, he was in anguish at the thought of the suffering (both in dying and in death – separation from God) source and he died fairly unremarkably (he didn’t show any superhuman strength in surviving the crucifixion (apparently the time period it took for him to die was pretty standard – it’s a horrible slow process source but at the time wasn’t that uncommon a means of punishment. After all, there was a man either side of him also being put to death at the same time).
- Despite what happened to him, Jesus was still able to forgive and to see the limitations of those who wronged him
One of the often quoted statements of Jesus is, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). This was said as he reached the place where he was to die – a place on the outskirts of Jerusalem referred to as Calvary or Golgotha (in English, meaning ‘skull’ – in other words, where people were sent to die). He was then nailed through his wrists and feet to a wooden cross, the cross was raised and lodged in the ground, the people around mocked him. Forgive them − they do not know what they are doing.
These five lessons are remarkable, I think. Although I have used bible quotes throughout, most of this is pretty well documented in non-religious historical documents – there are some variations in the telling, as you would expect given we are relying on multiple versions (not only the four that appear in the bible), written down some decades after the event (and this gives me a chance to show a favourite cartoon of mine – see below).
However, for the era, the history leading to this point is better documented than for most people – there is limited contention that this took place. I believe that there is a further stage – the resurrection – however that requires more faith, as it is less documented, and is a story for a couple of days’ time.
We can do a lot worse than following even these five lessons from Jesus’ life that I have listed above (and as I said, this is just a sample of many other points I could have drawn on). Unfortunately, the Christian church in many instances HAS done a lot worse. It has lost its way at times, left very big scars emotionally or physically on individuals, groups and cultures, and has forgotten the importance of ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’. The church, of course, is made up of all of us who believe. Not everyone has done worse – but many of us have.
So, as well as forming part of God’s plan to save people from the impacts of sin (which is what we believe as Christians), I believe that Good Friday is also good as it provides a reason, and time, to enable us to refocus, remember what is important, and get our act together. And that can only be good for everyone.