It was Mahatma Gandhi who made the often cited quote, “I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect person ever born. His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there is anything mysterious or miraculous in it, my heart could not accept.”
Like Gandhi, there are many serious critics and ardent cynics who find the belief in death and resurrection of Jesus a cockamamie and a fraud. They readily assign Jesus a distinct place in the hall of fame, but more ground they cannot cede. Yet, in this, the mark is widely missed.
Jesus never came on a heroic mission – to find space in the human gallery of gallants and stalwarts. To the contrary, when one called him “Good Teacher” he refused to accept it. When others tried to crown him king, he slipped by and ran away. When He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the Jews assumed He had finally come to overthrow the Romans and set up His Kingdom.
But, ignoring the ecstatic palm waving crowd, He proceeded to the temple and instead overturned tables and whipped dumdfounded traders. So radical were His actions that the same people who had just sang His Hosanna, soon joined in a unanimous and passionate call to crucify Him, choosing instead to save a known convict.
In the good old days of Caltex petrol stations, they had a powerful slogan that asked, “What drives you?” Of a truth, every one of us is driven by someone or something. We think, act, or behave in accordance with an internal or external drive. The philanthropist gives in response to a drive, while the thief steals compelled by a passion or drive. So, what drove Jesus? It is what theologians may term as a kenotic mindset – a self-sacrificing attitude that empties self for the sake of others. Writing to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul articulated how Jesus ceded His privileged position and instead humbled Himself even to death on the cross – a true counter-culture. In the first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman world, the honour of a man was inextricably bound up with the office he held. Thus, status drove men to not only covet but also hang on to power.
As Abraham Lincoln aptly observed: “The surest way to reveal one’s character is not through adversity but by giving [them] power.” It is therefore infinitely significant that Jesus, though possessed of absolute power, divested Himself of the same in order to serve and die for others.
In this kenotic mindset, Jesus set a great example during that Passion Week and first Easter. In humility he washed His disciples’ feet; He let Judas the betrayer go free; and overlooked the abandonment by the disciples that slept at His hour of need. When Peter chopped off the ear of one of the soldiers that had come to arrest Jesus, He rebuked Peter and reminded him that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Before he died, Jesus forgave those who crucified Him; and after resurrection, He not only restored Peter – who had denied Him – but also installed him as the chief Apostle. But most of all, through His death, all of us are forgiven.
As we enter into this election season, for a fact there are going to be many betrayals, abandonments, denials, and crucifixions.
The outcome of our social intercourse will depend on our mindset – how we view others and handle issues. We should embrace humility, free betrayers, and restrain the sword. We should forgive the crucifiers and restore Simon Peter. That’s the spirit of Easter; and in that spirit – Happy Easter.
- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM)[email protected]