If you’re looking for the basics of Easter in terms of Christianity, the best place to start is the Book of Luke.
Also important, understanding the difference between Christian and “Christian”. The former is the true belief system as you find in the Old and New Testaments, the attempt to lead a life based on those values. The latter is what happens when those ancient scripts are applied selectively–and inevitably in an effort to create a different narrative which invariably is politically convenient.
The message of Easter is simple–>Jesus was executed, buried, and resurrected–and through that, believers are guaranteed eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
The problem is that I see numerous ‘spins’ put on this–and I realized what bothers me the most about them. They turn Jesus from a savior into a victim. Thus, those telling the story in this fashion glorify playing the victim, declaring you are a victim, and that as believers, you are inevitably being persecuted–and that to show your ‘Christianity’, you must fight back against this.
I’ve got a couple gripes with this.
#1: The New Testament doesn’t really teach that. Actually, Jesus is pretty specific in correcting views of his time regarding ‘an eye for an eye’. That was used to justify violence against a presume wrongdoer (when really the Old Testament wanted it used mainly as a deterrent against perjury…Deuteronomy as a whole provides the context). In Matthew, describing the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outright says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42, Standard Version)
It’s not really about being a victim. It’s about being the bigger person. It’s about having the strength of your own beliefs that you don’t need to lash out–that you control yourself and that no one can take that from you. Jesus’ teaching is not just a way to be pacifist, it’s emphasizing personal discipline and inner strength!
#2: Jesus isn’t a victim. Not one iota. Jesus, in Christian terms, is the Son of God. In the other Abrahamic faiths, he’s a rabbi (yup, Jesus was a learned Jewish scholar) and a prophet of God (in Islam, his status is a small step behind Muhammad in importance). So–Jesus is important.
By playing up his victim status, we lose sight of who was in control of events. We also lose sight of Jesus’ refusal to act out–that in his crucifixion and death, he held true to his teachings (the passage above) and that death is not enough to take away the immutable truth he was teaching. Do we REALLY think Jesus was a victim? We shouldn’t. As much as he could be, he was in control. He accepted the path he was told to take and went willingly. No one was coerced.
–Personally, I think that not only did Jesus know Judas was approached to be a turncoat, but that Jesus encouraged Judas to do so–that Judas took the gold BECAUSE Jesus told him to…that otherwise, Judas would have remained loyal to Jesus’ teachings. Nope–Jesus was ‘in control’–and made sure Judas understood. I think that adds a level of tragedy–Judas remained loyal and by turning Jesus in, became hated and hanged himself–because it was never about the money.
So why do we teach he’s a victim? Because that’s how institutions maintain control. Don’t worry about your suffering here today–Jesus died so that eventually you’ll get eternal life. In the meantime, keep donating to my church so I can have a 20,000sq ft mansion or private jet (or lets you maintain the largest sex toy archive in the world…right in the heart of downtown Rome). Jesus isn’t a victim–he’s empowering.
Jesus’ story shouldn’t just be about the afterlife. The best lessons, the best stories are applicable to us as we live! The Easter story does that–though that’s never been mentioned, not once, any time I’ve been to an Easter service. Eternal life’s important, I get that–but…what about making things better here and now for me, my family, my community? I don’t think Jesus would want that ignored along the way.
I’ll use personal examples here:
EXAMPLE 1: *I built a volleyball program from dirt into a state-level team. I taught at that “Christian” school, emphasizing integrity and thinking…and out of nowhere, I was fired–lost my job coaching and teaching because a donor was upset at a letter-grade earned by his daughter…and her playing time on the court…and then the parent applied pressure at the club I started and…out the door I went there, too. Worse–the head priest then called two other schools I applied to work at telling them to not hire me. This left me unemployed and at a loss–because I hadn’t done ANYTHING wrong. I was at rock bottom.
And then–I applied for a job far from home. That was Allen Community College. I was hired there two weeks into the 2004 season to coach and teach. I was there 18 months before my current position opened at LLCC. I’ve been a college coach now 18 years, able to help more than 100 young women get degrees, become leaders, and play some great ball.
My coaching career was wrongly terminated–yet I was able to start again in a better place, and able to thrive beyond what I had had at that “Christian” high school.
EXAMPLE 2: *I owned a business. I sold it and went to work for the purchaser. The purchaser hired someone to supervise me who turned out to be insanely incompetent. The purchaser racked up quite a bit of financial loss and it was determined I wasn’t pulling my weight, so I was let go to save money. From starting the business until termination, I’d put TWENTY years into the company. And then…gone.
I didn’t do anything about that for a couple years. I saw a couple of my products I’d sold to the purchased do well and I started thinking “Wow, I could’ve made a ton of money”…and then my brain snapped. My family is not in financial need (thankfully)–but I was missing running the business, helping designers bring their games to market, etc., so I started the Dietz Foundation. I’m making games again–but as a NON-PROFIT corporation. When I make money, it’ll go towards helping kids get their education degrees, help teachers learn how to use non-traditional means in the classroom. So–I had a successful company, lost it, yet here I am…building something better than what I had before.
Do you see how Easter should empower your own life?
And it’s not just about me–look at others from history who lost and then returned:
Martin Luther -excommunicated before creating Protestantism
Abe Lincoln -never could win an election…until he became President in his nation’s greatest time of need
Ulysses Grant -total business failure…but then rose to command Union armies and be Lincoln’s right-hand man
Steve Jobs -built Apple, got booted from it, then returned to turn it into the mega-corporation it is today.
Milt Hershey – Yup, you recognize the name…of course, he wanted to be a publisher and got fired from a printer before starting a candy company…that failed. His second…failed. So did his third. The Hershey Company–that was the fourth time Milt climbed off the floor.