We here in America are very fortunate that we are pretty much free to worship as we please. The prejudice we encounter against our religions is very minor compared to what Christians suffer in the Middle East. Here, no one is taking our lives because of what we believe. This is so different from what we find in the Middle East.
The Middle East is where Christianity began. This is the area where Jesus was born, lived, and died. The Middle East was the center of the worlds population at the time. It was the perfect place for Jesus to be.
The area was and is always at conflict. Very rarely is this part of the world at peace. Of course, those who lived there thought it was all of the world. They did not know that the world was much larger than their little portion.
Even today this area is still in military conflict. The Iranians, ISIS, Hezbollah, are all at war. The Sunni Muslims hate the Shiite Muslims. And everyone hates the Israelis. It seems that wars and hatred are always there.
Jesus spent the first thirty years of his life living in obscurity. His parents protected him from adversity so he could grow and develop.
When Jesus did begin to preach his message, the power structure felt threatened. Jesus could overthrow their control of the people. He was teaching a message that was strange and different than what the religious taught to the people. Jesus was a threat to the powerful and the religious leaders.
For the three years that Jesus preached, his turmoil grew. He healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, fed hundreds till they were full on very little food, etc. Jesus preached what God wanted, not what the religious wanted. And the religious were scared of Him.
As Jesus was nearing the end of his life, God must have let Jesus know what lay ahead for him. He gathered all the disciples together for what Christians call the Last Supper. Judas was already betraying him. There is a misunderstanding about Judas. He was an avid believer who was more political than most of the others. Judas believed Jesus should cause the people to rise up and overthrow the conquering Romans. God used Judas to help Jesus fulfill the scriptures that Jesus would rise from the dead. Jesus had to die first.
And die he did. It was a horrible death filled with pain and suffering. All the scriptures were fulfilled. The disciples were scared that the same would happen to them. They scattered and hid. They did not remember what Jesus had taught them. They all witnessed what Jesus endured.
On the third day after Jesus died, his body disappeared. The disciples thought the Romans had taken him away. But Jesus appeared to them. They saw him and believed. Jesus had risen!
There are many in this world who refuse to believe this story. That’s OK. However, the disciples came out of hiding and began to teach what Jesus had taught them. They were no longer hiding. They were no longer scared. They suddenly had power to forgive people for what they did. They were able to communicate with everyone, no matter what language they knew. The disciples later all wrote their stories. Even though they wrote many years after Jesus died, there has never been a conflict with anything they wrote. All their stories, in each of their styles, told the same story. They were written in different parts of the world and at different times.
Christians have almost been removed from the Middle East. They are hated and killed in most of these countries. As we celebrate this Easter season, let us stop and remember those who struggle to survive and call themselves “Christian.” Let each of us reflect on exactly what the holiday means. It is so much more than chocolate bunnies and colored eggs. So in closing let me wish all of you a Happy Easter.