Today I am writing on Palm Sunday. For followers of Jesus the events from Jesus triumphant entry on a Donkey into Jerusalem until his ascension into Heaven forty days after his resurrection are the essence of our Christian faith. If there was no resurrection, the whole story was a hoax. If there was not an ascension the promise of a “life of the world to come” rings hollow. If Jesus stayed dead, we are not here today. Either he was doing something on purpose, or he was crazy. If what he promised before he was condemned by the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin and presented before the civil authorities on three separate occasions, before being handed over to an angry mob—the same people who had celebrated his triumphant entry into their city days before, the movement that bears His name would be dead. A dead man, living in a desolate land, would not be changing the world forever and today.
Not to confuse my faith with my politics, but to reassert that every aspect of my life is “informed by my faith” including my politics, I believe that there are some practical lessons to be learned when we study the events of Holy week. Jesus died a political death that was prophesized over hundreds of years. He was crucified by Roman soldiers who were under the ultimate authority of Tiberius Caesar’s agent in Jerusalem Pontius Pilate, who was dealing with an unruly mob, and he new that agents of Tiberius were in the crowd. If he did not stop the religious leaders from inciting the mob, his inability to control his subjects would be called into question by Tiberius. “If you let this man, go, you are no friend of Caesar’s” —John 19:12. He acted not on what he thought was right, but to save his own skin. Sound familiar? Isn’t that the credo of many politicians—”live to fight another day”, “get along to get along”, and most of all—”compromise (even one’s principles to get something done”).
The Pharisees and Priests that turned Jesus over to Pilate, were serious devout, religious men. They convinced themselves that they were acting based on THE LAW—God’s word. They thought they had a moral bases for their actions. Were they just really scared? Throughout history people who have believed in the same God, and the same moral law have opposed each other politically and on battlefields. In our own civil war people on both sides went to church and prayed to God—the same God. It is always for all of us difficult to separate our own self-interest and what God wills for us, from our own selfish political and economic interest. It is easy for us today to look back at the actions of our forefathers through a lens of contemporary self-righteousness and condemn their actions.
How are our actions today going to be judged by future generations? I hope and pray by the same moral standard by which all people should strive and wish to be judged. A standard that throughout the ages has been and always will be impossible to reach. And how do we know that we are on the side of “right”?
Abraham Lincoln was asked that question by a young woman around the time of the Battle of Gettysburg. She opined to the great President—”While God is on our side don’t you know”. He responded that “the question is not whether God is on our side, but rather if we are on His side”?
The answer to that question can only be found in prayer, and reflection after reading scripture, and examining our own life experiences, and finally by being quiet in our own hearts to listen “to the voice within”. The standard has been set purposefully high for us. We won’t always clear the bar. We should be humble in victory and defeat. We should be thankful for the gift of “Free Will” which is the bases of our liberty. We should ask God to inform our choices, and ask that His Will be done, and not ours”.
In our politics and in “every aspect of our lives” we should remember that any power over us and any power we have over ourselves, and others ultimately comes from God.