Easter always brings about a time of reflection for me. It also brings about a bloated stomach from an over indulgence in chocolate. I wonder whether my reflection is the guilt I feel from the over-indulgence, or my guilt in not remembering the importance of who Jesus is and the hope I have in Him. I also wonder what my response to Jesus would have been if I saw him walk this earth.
Now, if I was around in Jesus' time, I am sure I would have recognised Jesus was doing the work of God. Maybe it would have challenged me to live my life differently. But Jesus didn't just claim to be doing the work of God, he claimed to be God. He said to those who would listen, "You want to know what God is like? Well, take a look at me. I am a true reflection of the Father." Would I have recognised He is God?
I love the fact I have hindsight and can read the Bible. I can do a quick Internet search and consider all the arguments for and against Jesus' claims. Yet, back in the day, would His teaching and miracles have been enough to make me believe He was also God?
When I imagine myself back there, I think Jesus' promise of power would have been very attractive to me. There was the power to heal the sick and the hurt, but also the desire to stand up for the downtrodden, the sick, the hurt and the vulnerable.
I'm inspired by people like Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners in the United States, Tim Costello and one of my heroes, Kurt Fearnley, (the great Australian Paralympian who crawled Kokoda!), who are social justice advocates who speak up for those who do not have a voice. I know I would have been attracted to the way Jesus stood up for the downtrodden during his ministry.
Freedom from oppression
If I was a follower of Jesus back in the day, I would have been living in a time of oppression. There was oppression by the Roman government in Israel, and the constant fear of death and persecution. The Jewish leaders who put religious tradition and ritual ahead of people also oppressed Jesus' followers. Then Jesus comes along and points out this oppression was wrong. As an oppressed follower of Jesus I would have thought, 'Finally, someone is saying what we've all been thinking and he's doing some pretty amazing miracles along the way!'
Jesus didn't always create momentum with just words, but also through actions—actions that seemed to upset everyone, turning circumstances upside down. I can imagine how some of these actions made the more fervent followers feel. People like, well, me.
This was their big chance to overthrow the government of the time, and have a time of fairness and justice for all. God's government would surely be better than what they were experiencing. This was also the chance to overthrow the religious establishment. A chance to once again be 'in', get those who disagreed with the philosophies and Jesus' teachings to be 'out'. The chance for the new way to work out who was 'in' and who was 'out'.
Imagine the hope filling the minds and hearts of the followers of Jesus. Finally, they would have been the ones with the power. Their hope for a new world order and power was promised to them by Jesus.
But then, Jesus got arrested.
Jesus was got whipped, scourged and beaten.
Jesus then went and got Himself crucified!!
Where was His power? Where was His overthrow of all that was wrong with the world?
I don't think I would have slept. I don't think I would have hung around for long in that place.
What happens next...
Then the word gets out that Jesus is alive!? It has been rumoured by some women that the stone was rolled away and His body was not inside the tomb.
I wonder, would this be enough for me to now believe He was who He said He was?
I am with Thomas on this one. I think I would have needed to see the scars first just to make sure. And I am confident that I too would have fallen at the feet of Jesus and cried, as Thomas did, 'my Lord, my God'.
But what about this power He promised? It was the power of the Holy Spirit. The power to believe without seeing. The power to transform society, not through words alone, but by actions and living the good news of Jesus. The power to show the world a new way to live, a new way to love and a new way to come to God.
The power to change the world, not by the establishment of new religious traditions, or by the rise to political governance, but by the grace of God.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html