Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Easter is coming. This week Friday Christians all over the world celebrate Good Friday, Sunday they celebrate Easter Sunday. What are these days about?
Good Friday celebrates the death of Jesus, who is also called Christ, at a cross on a hill called Calvary close to Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, who is said to have appeared many individuals up to 500 people at once in the 40 days after his crucifiction. He is then said to have vanished before their eyes on a mountain in Galilee, saying he is going to the father.
Let us explore the easter story today, let us think about what happened and what it means for you and for me today.
Jesus was crucified for his claim to be equal to God in Palestine approximately in the year 30 AD, the exact year between 29 and 33 is a matter of intense debate in the historical branches of theology. The crucifiction itself is not really questioned today, historians claim that it is one of the best proven events in the whole of ancient history.
The meaning of the death of Jesus can only be understood when you start to look a little bit into the Old Testament, the story of the relationship between God, the creator of the Universe, and Israel, the people which are traced back to the ancient fathers called Abraham, Isaak and Jacob. Israel identifies with these fathers, to be descendents of them who came from Mesopotamia about 2000 BC, then became a people in Palestine in the time between 1900 and 1010 BC, when the legendary King David started to be the second king of the Israeli people.
The story of Jesus starts with ethics. It starts with a relationship. It starts with the question what humans are and how they can live. It starts with identity, with mercy, with truth, with righteousness. Israel lives with the Mosaic law, which started about 1400 BC, but is believed to be put into todays form only in about 550 BC around and after the Israelic excile in Babylonia 580-530 BC. This law formulates rule of justice and mercy. Follow the rules, and you will live, ignore the rules, and you will die! God is told to be a god of justice and righteousness, of truth, mercy, love and purity. He is told to be furious about injustice and missing mercy. Here, we come to the death of Jesus.
… and Resurrection …
The Old Testament tells the struggle of people to follow the law. The identity of humans is a severe challenge to them. It is until today. We are living a tension between freedom and boundedness. How do we gain real freedom? The Old Testament and the New Testament alike teach that humans are falling into boundedness to many things all the time. We tend to follow false Gods, and we tend to become dependent on these false Gods.
Jesus is said to be God himself, who in the form of his son became human. He lived a life which did NOT fall into dependence on false Gods. He stayed in full trust to his heavenly father, and in his faith he lived fully righteous. Here, a human with full righteousness lived. This is a unique point of world history. It never happend before. Even Moses, said to be the most humble of all humans, failed severly, he mistrusted God and put himself into God's role at some point in his life. But Jesus did not.
The death of Jesus is not deserved. He died, he was punished, though he was faithful and innocent before God. This death is put into a prominent place by the heavenly father - according to the Christian message. His death is the starting point for any other human who wants to become righteous before God. Here, we can enter his kingdom, which is characterized by full freedom, full righteousness, full purity. It is a state given as a gift, it is not bought by actions. The only thing a human needs is faith, which is trusting God to accept him or her in and through Jesus.
The resurrection symbolizes the perspective which God puts into our life. He does not want our life to be over so soon. He does not want us to die. But we need faith and purity to live with him. In Jesus we get it all: the purity and the eternal life. That is the easter story.
When we first hear the easter story, we might find it a very strange story. And indeed, it is strange. It should be. It passes through the limits of this world. It passes through the dependencies and the guilt of our life. It destroys sin and death. It should be strange. But the more you think about it, the more you will realize that he is touching a deep truth here. When you follow the path of faith you realize that indeed, Jesus died for you as he died for me. He lives today, and through the holy spirit he is with us, to help us, to guide us and to establish the community, which we are made for, in full freedom!
Easter is a great and fantastic weekend, full of deep meaning and real perspective for our life! (Roland Potthast)