By The Brownsville Herald
“To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” So spoke Simon Peter, the man Jesus chose to lead his new church after he rose from the dead, to a group assembled by a Roman military captain named Cornelius. He was speaking about the man who had shown the power over death itself, yet talked of humility and service rather than riches and triumph.
Jesus, whose resurrection Christians celebrate today, was a study in contrasts, and not at all the kind of king the Jews were expecting. Many thought the Messiah would come in glory, with legions of angels who would lead the Chosen Ones to a kingdom where they would enjoy untold riches. Instead he came as a humble carpenter’s son. He lived his adult life with no possessions, and spoke of richness of the spirit rather than of the flesh. And even as he showed his powers by bringing sight to the blind and health to the infirm, he allowed himself to be executed.
“… (T)he chief priests and the teachers of the law and the elders made fun of him: ‘He saved others, but he cannot save himself!’”
Scripture is filled with references of people, including his own disciples, who didn’t understand Jesus’ message.
And yet that message is perhaps the most powerful of all: it’s a message of redemption, forgiveness and hope. Where the ancient scripture talked of a just god who punished the sinner, Jesus offered the corollary of great reward for those who were good and chaste. And no matter what a person had done in life, forgiveness and redemption were always possible.
Many fundamentalist Christians focus on parts of the Old Testament that predict bad fates for those who do wrong. The promise of forgiveness, however, is an even greater message. No matter what we might have done in the past, we can still reach glory through repentance and change.
That might be the greatest gift that Jesus gives to his followers: that a life of self-sacrifice and service to others can reward us with eternal life and spiritual glory. It’s a message of hope, that should inspire believers to respect the rights of others, and not try to use them for our own benefit — especially through the use of force, whether with threats of violence or governmental edict.
To those who accept Jesus as the Messiah, this humble man who showed his power through miracles that even included victory over death itself, taught that personal responsibility and respect for others is far more valuable than the desire to accumulate wealth and impose one’s will over others.
As the faithful celebrate the Resurrection today, may they also celebrate the message to which Jesus devoted his life — and his death: a message of tolerance, forgiveness and hope.