For an Easter post, I want to focus on Jesus. In the Christian calendar, today is the day that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to Mary Magdalene.
Everyone is well familiar with the stories of Jesus from the Bible. What interests me more is the ever-growing body of research that describes Jesus in terms of his actual life as Jew in Judea two thousand years ago. The biblical account is what followers like Matthew or Luke want us to know about the Lord. Saint Paul, even, creates a Jesus in the various letters who may or may not be the same as the man Jesus who walked the Holy Land.
If you try to strip away the religion from the science, the man was an extraordinarily remarkable person in his own right. What many Jesus scholars have to say, is that he was an itinerant preacher in a country occupied by the brutal Roman government. His philosophies were very liberal compared to some Jewish sects, even quite radical for those who strictly follow the teachings in Levitticus. That Jesus was even considered a rabbi was highly disturbing to them.
What must have also been troubling is that Jesus gathered a following, and it was a following of people who did not fit in to the order of things in Judea. Whatever Jesus must have actually preached, I feel, is contained in the writings that came, at the latest, 100 years after. Whether it was so radical as to be outside of Judaism, or a re-interpretation or re-imagining of what it was to be a Jew, is a debate that must have occurred even from the immediate days after the Crucifixion. We mostly know Saint Paul’s interpretation of this. But there must have been a dozen different ones at the time.
You can believe in the Risen Christ or you may not. You may take a different tack, and wonder what it means to be “risen again”. The Christianity of tradition holds that it means what it says, that a dead person came back to life, though, in science, this really doesn’t happen. Dead people do not come back. In our world, in our life.
You can try to convince people of this actual thing; it will either be a very hard or very easy thing to do. After a time, it might become very tiresome, and that’s why it’s more enjoyable to look at Jesus as he was, and to leave the theology aside.
The philosophy of Jesus must have been very simple, as transmitted by the Sermon on the Mount. Points of view that let others in, and asked why God would do unjust and cruel things to creates made in His own image. A philosophy that asked followers to focus on what God wants. These parts are clearly the roots of Judaism.
As you know, the teachings of Jesus made authorities upset. Since the Romans were occupying Judea, and always in fear of revolt, once Jesus “got on the radar”, the Roman government decided to get rid of him. And they used an extremely brutal method, which was their means to use against very bad criminals, [but also] against troublemakers. They wanted to send a message to other potential “Jesuses” not to get out of line. So they had an afternoon-long public execution by the cross.
To be Born Again. To Live Again. To Rise from the Dead. To always be with you. We know the literal meaning. But, in essence, what do this things mean?