From Death to Life

6 April 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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They are:- Christ has overcome death; Christ has offered us new life and Christ has given us the task of sharing the message so that others too can enjoy the free gift by crossing over from death to life.
During Jesus’ time (even at present) people have many options based on which they could choose to live. When Jesus reached the age of about thirty years he wrestled with those options in the light of the scriptures by studying and meditating upon them. There is no doubt that Jesus’ upbringing in his young days helped him in this formation. He understood that God wants him to live and serve the people without performing cheap miracles, seeking power, and worshipping mammon (wealth). He chose the option of serving the people instead of being served. Jesus made many sacrifices and let others live without being a stumbling block to them. He began his ministry according to the Gospel of St. Luke; by selecting a portion from the scriptures and declaring it as his “Manifesto” or “Mission Statement”. However, he omitted a section from Isaiah 61 where vengeance was mentioned. Jesus’ life and work was the mission of LOVE not hatred, envy and revenge. He created space for all peoples irrespective of race, class, gender, social status, religion or other human made divisions, because he lived for others on the basis of LOVE.
Luke 4: 18- 19 says that Jesus spelt out his mission from God as, proclamation of good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord. The objects of Jesus’ mission were the poor, down trodden and the marginalized. He changed the people from mere objects to become subjects. He lived and worked to bring back those who were in the periphery to the centre stage and by doing so bring God’s reign on earth as it is heaven. If we use a modern terminology we could name these objectives as ‘Good Governance’; from God’s perspective. Jesus Christ in obedience to God took steps to raise awareness, empower and mobilize people to work towards communities of love, respect and dignity. That was not an easy task because he had to confront various situations and conditions from within the religious system as well as outside it - i.e. the political powers of his day. There were constant tensions between the structures and Jesus, when he went on working towards these objectives God set before him.
The religious leadership of his times constantly watched his words and actions to trap him, while the political leadership was spying on him. When Jesus was making an impact on the lives of the people and the people in the periphery were empowered the political and religious leadership considered this as a threat for their authority and survival. These two groups made an unholy alliance to silence Jesus.
During the time of the most important festival of his day - Passover - both Jews and people from other nations and religious backgrounds went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the event. The people who went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem voluntarily sang ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!’ - Mark 11: 9- 10. “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!” is to be found only in the Gospel according to St. Mark. Hosanna means ‘Save us now’. The people sang this song with much expectation looking forward for the dawn of a new age. It was a prayer to God in hope. 
The reference to David is very important. David was a shepherd boy and came from the working class. He knew the struggles of the working class. He is the one who defeated mighty Goliath and protected the Israelites. David was later made the king. The Israelites looked up to David as the ideal king in spite of the many faults and weaknesses he had. As time passed on they looked to a person to emerge from David’s family to rescue them from all types of bondage and threat and restore them. When the people entered Jerusalem in a procession they had a hope of the coming of the kingdom of David. Probably they i.e. the working class who wanted change for better saw Jesus as the person who was going to establish that kingdom. It was a political aspiration the people who went in procession had and with that expectation they sang this song.
The people would have recognized in Jesus the ability to teach, enlighten, raise awareness and the courage he had to challenge all inhuman structures - powers and principalities of his time. The political and religious hierarchy saw this people’s movement as a threat. They could only think of one option to curtail a movement where the people were rallying around Jesus. The political leadership intensified their plans to silence Jesus - the Prince of Peace. They joined forces with the religious leadership to kill Him.
Good Friday is the story of the coming together of all evil forces; all life negating forces joining hands to silence and destroy the life affirming Jesus and the people’s movement. The political leadership bribed a person to betray Jesus. They brought accusations against Jesus and passed judgment under pressure to kill Jesus. But Jesus didn’t deviate from his mission of LOVE. Even while hanging on the cross with so much pain and agony Jesus continued to pray and take appropriate steps to comfort and transform situations. Jesus didn’t change his stance of LOVE even to the enemy - the ones who were responsible for his death; the one who betrayed him, those who arrested him, brought false accusations, sentenced him, nailed him and so on. Jesus prayed for the people who were doing wrong through ignorance and in so doing gave right sight or vision - samma ditti - even to the ones who were sentenced to death along with him, and established a new caring community by handing over care and responsibilities to his mother and disciple. Finally, he boldly said ‘It is finished’ or accomplished and handed his life back to God. Jesus didn’t allow life-negating forces to triumph even when he was crucified. That was the commitment he had to the task.
The Easter message is that these oppressive powers cannot defeat Jesus’ Mission of LOVE in which inclusive communities are created. Jesus overcame these life negating powers. The first Easter coincided with the Feast of the Passover of the Jews; crossing over from slavery in Egypt to move towards the Promised Land under the cooperate leadership of Moses, Aaron and others. While some were in fear after Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, few others had the courage to move forward. The first such event recorded is of women going to the place where Jesus’ body was kept/ laid to rest. They went to the tomb very early in the morning. When they saw the empty tomb they went and shared with the disciples what they witnessed. They were able to mobilize the indifferent disciples. This in turn became the message the early Jesus community proclaimed - ‘Christ is Risen, Hallelu Yah’! We have received this message because of the courage of a few women who went to the tomb against all odds.
The early Jesus communities contextualised this message with the words, ‘you crucified him, but God raised him up’. Easter challenges us to proclaim the Easter message to the world of today. Today’s world is full of atrocities and injustices carried out by the powerful, whose acts negate life and promote death. At every Easter, God offers us a fresh chance to make a difference in all spheres of life to stand against all destructive forces because Jesus enters into every sphere of life (socio-economic-political-cultural-religious) where there is pain and suffering. God can transform all evil situations whether religious or political. This is the message of hope and life freely offered to all and to the world. In the midst of so many acts of injustices and violence that disfigure human beings and creation, Christ’s resurrection transforms darkness to light, despair to hope, death to life, envy and hatred to reconciliation, sin to forgiveness, the reign of the evil, to the reign of God that Christ offers.
St. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Jesus community in Corinth, “Death is destroyed and victory is complete” (1 Cor. 15:54). Christ’s resurrection is a new exodus, liberation for those who are oppressed, comfort for the persecuted, abundance for the deprived, exaltation for the humiliated, hope for the despairing. The women disciples who went into the tomb show us the way: They were there where the apostles feared to go. These ordinary women acted courageously whereas the apostles were paralysed by their doubts and fear. They wiped their tears and went to proclaim the good news to the world.
May this Easter transform all of us from fear to Hope! May the powerful message of Easter work towards transforming systems that work to enslave people and communities to those that work for the liberation of individuals and communities!
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