Tomorrow is Easter Sunday; Christians worldwide will celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead after his crucifixion. It seems timely to ask ourselves, “If Jesus were alive today, what would he think of us?” And more importantly, what would Jesus be doing in this tumultuous time of war?
On April 17th this year, Christians will commemorate Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead after the third day of his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary. Many Christians celebrate Easter by attending churches of their chosen denomination; in these churches they may gaze upon stained glass windows or paintings that depict Jesus as a blue-eyed, light-haired Caucasian, mimicking the iconic “Head of Christ” painted in 1940 by Warner Sallman. This image came to be included on everything from stained glass windows to prayer cards, calendars, hymnals-even night lights.
Would Jesus be surprised at this depiction of himself? Because Jesus likely had the brown eyes and darker skin of other first century Palestinian Jews like himself. His robe would have been handmade, dusty at the hem as most probably were, as well, his sandals and the feet within them.
Jesus was the son of a carpenter, schooled in the Jewish faith and its traditions. Jesus has been described variously as the Prince of Peace, a beautiful outlaw and a rebel. Christians are taught he was a teacher, miracle worker and healer. He was thought to be a defender of the poor and oppressed, accepting of the sinner and the foibles of even his disciples. But Jesus was also capable of anger: he was accused of destroying a temple wherein merchants had set up stalls and were selling worldly goods. Jesus was well acquainted with political unrest-he would have grown up with stories of conquest and oppression-as depicted in the Old Testament. By the time of Jesus’ birth, the Romans had established a two-tiered system of government with themselves as overseers and Jewish leaders who exercised control. As an adult, Jesus was seen as a threat by the Roman leadership, as well as by the Sadducees, wealthy pragmatists who sought to conserve wealth through compromise with Rome. They saw Jesus’ radical brand of religion as a threat to their own power and status. So did the Pharisees, with their emphasis on the law as they saw outlined in the Torah (Jewish written law).
Jesus made enemies of the politicians of the time. He was subsequently arrested and convicted for uttering and allegedly carrying out a threat against the temple. Pontius Pilate ordered Jesus scourged, then crucified by the Romans, because he was considered a rebel and a traitor against the empire. We certainly are living in a time of uncertainty and political unrest. Whether you are ‘churched’ or describe yourself simply as a ‘believer’ or ‘person of faith,’ you likely have heard or asked the question, WWJD? I invite you to look at the following questions and ask yourself:
If Jesus had come back on January 6, 2021, what might he have thought about the impervious and angry crowd that stormed the Capitol?
What would Jesus look like? Would he identify as white? A person of color? Jewish? Palestinian?
Would Jesus have a social media account where too often trolls spew their hateful political rhetoric?
What would Jesus think about “Prosperity Gospel?”
Would Jesus receive a covid vaccine and encourage others to do so?
Would Jesus more closely align with Democrats? Republicans? Why?
How would Jesus treat women who have had abortions?
What would Jesus think about the US border policy?
What would Jesus think about the environmental & hunger crisis?
What would Jesus ask me to do about any of the above?
I like to think that Jesus would meet me where I am and then encourage me to live and think compassionately. Contemplating the above questions might make one feel uncomfortable-and that is likely a good place to start.
*This article first appeared in the 2022 Mar/Apr issue of Ms. Heel Magazine*