Monday, April 5, 2010

EASTER

April 4, 2010 By Stephen Ellis

Today is Easter Sunday. To me, it’s interesting that most Christians do not know and do not appreciate the legendary significance of this, the most holy day in Christianity. Even more surprising is that very few Christians with whom I have spoken know the details of what we now call “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.

At the outset, I should explain that I am a Jew. I do not believe that the Jesus Christ we are all very familiar with was the Messiah; the son of God, the Holy Savior. In fact, if you read your history of the time Christianity burgeoned and became the chief religion of Rome (approximately 330 AD), there is very serious question as to whether the Jesus Christ we all know even existed. But that’s for another time.

Right now, I want to tell the story of Easter because it is a beautiful story and an important part of “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. Almost a third of the entire world is Christian, and most Christians do not even know the basis of their religion. I think they should.

The story begins when the mother of Mary, a Jew, is told that she will conceive a daughter, immaculately, so that her daughter can be pure enough to give birth to the son of God. Mary is immaculately conceived in her mother’s womb, and when Mary reaches puberty, God plants his seed in her womb. On the day we now call Christmas, a son is born to Mary who is now being cared for by Joseph (also a Jew), a carpenter who lives in the city of Nazareth.

Joseph was not a wealthy man, and so the baby first saw life in a manger, near Nazareth. The story goes that three wise men followed a bright star that led them to the manger and bestowed gifts upon the child. Mary and Joseph named Mary’s child “Joshua”.

The story continues that Joshua, as he grew older, began to realize that he was the son of God, and by the time he had reached his manhood he had developed the ability to perform miracles. The New Testament tells us that Joshua became a religious leader with a following larger than any other religious leader of his time.

According to this story, the Romans became wary of him because Joshua’s following had become so immense and there were leaders among the Jewish orthodoxy that did not like Joshua because he preached things that were not contained in the Jewish laws.

The followers of Joshua had started to call Joshua “Jesus Christ”, taken from two Greek words that mean “holy savior”.

To calm the growing fears of Joshua and his following, the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, put Joshua on trial for heresy; preaching a false God, and ordered that he be crucified until dead. This day is now memorialized as “Ash Wednesday”, the start of the “Lent” period where Christians are to repent for forty days. When Joshua was sentenced to death, the leaders of Joshua’s following (now known as the apostles) were all frightened and went into hiding.

While nailed to the cross, Joshua asked his father to forgive those who had ordered him crucified because they did not know what they were doing. Joshua died on what is now called “Good Friday”.

The following day, Saturday, Joshua’s body was removed from the cross and taken to a cave where his body was interned. Pontius Pilate, fearing that some of Joshua’s followers or enemies might steal or desecrate the body, placed guards outside the cave.

But on Sunday, the third day after having been crucified, now called Easter Sunday, when his followers went to claim the body, it was gone from the cave. The guards said that no one had come near the cave that night.

The very foundation of Christianity is that Joshua’s body had been resurrected from the cave. For the next forty days, Joshua allegedly appeared several times before his apostles.

Granted that this story of Easter has been capsulated and much of the detail has been skipped.

Still it is a story that all Christians should know…and it is a beautiful story. Not many of those who come from backgrounds of hating and persecuting Jews recognize that, according to the New Testament, Joshua or Jesus Christ…and all of his apostles…were Jews.

All religions should be respected and understood. Someone who believes differently than you do is still a human being. Those who kill others or desecrate their symbols of belief in the name of God remain the biggest blight in Earth’s history.

Stebrel@aol.com