Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop used his Easter Sunday sermon to condemn last week’s Brussels attacks. But Jesus gave His strongest rebukes to His own people.
At this time of year 2000 years ago, Jesus’ Easter messages were quite different to what we would expect. Instead of criticising Roman oppression or the annoying Samaritans, Jesus went to His own temple and drove out the religious leaders who were making money out of the temple services. Not once but twice. Both at Easter (the Jewish Passover).
The Samaritans were to Jesus what the Muslims are to Christians today. They were distant relatives, but most of the religious people hated them. Samaritans were part pagan, and part worshipers of the God of Israel. They were not unlike the extremist Islamic terrorists of today, hanging around creating a real nuisance.
Surely Jesus could have used His Easter (Passover) messages to criticise the Samaritans!
Or at least the Romans.
Yet Jesus effectively told a story of a ‘Good Muslim‘ who stopped to help a wounded Christian when other Christians wouldn’t. It was called the parable of the Good Samaritan back then. In our day it would be the Good Muslim.
Jesus could have gone to the Samaritan temple to tell them they were doing it wrong. But He didn’t. He went to the temple of His own people and told them they were missing the point.
So today He wouldn’t go to the mosque to sort out the Muslims. He goes to the Christian churches – the ones who claim to believe in Him – to challenge their message.
Jesus continually said good things about Samaritans. He was a friend of the Samaritan; and a friend of the Muslim today.
The Samaritans were the equivalent of modern day Muslims. Yet somehow Jesus seems to ignore the hostility of a few of them and focus on the hypocrisy of His own chosen people.
It’s noteworthy that the Bible has very little to say about religions not based on the Bible. You’d think the Bible would focus its warnings on people that don’t profess belief in it:
But the Bible has very little to say about any of those nations or belief systems – or lack of belief systems. Except that God loves them, too!
So for us Christians to get up on our high horse and condemn those on the other side of our fence is not consistent with the Bible’s message. The Bible’s message is that we need to understand God’s character of love and forgiveness. This starts with us – the people who claim to be Bible followers.
God wants to protect us all from our distorted picture of who God is. No matter what club we belong to. Whether we’re part of this church or that church, or atheist, or Muslim, or Hindu.
God is especially concerned about the false pictures that His own professed people paint. He’s not so concerned about correcting the teachings of ISIS, because that’s not deceptive. Most of the world naturally recoils from that. He’s not so concerned that they are preventing people from understanding His character. People are only drawn to that as a seemingly viable alternative because the so-called Christian West is so corrupt and selfish.
The people that can do the most damage to the way people picture God are His professed followers.
That’s why Jesus’ Easter message was to clean up the Jewish temple – His own people! He didn’t worry about going to the Samaritan temple at Mt Gerizim to clean it up. But He cleaned up the Jerusalem temple – twice.
For many today Easter is just a long weekend holiday. An excuse to eat lots of chocolate, as much as we can get hold of.
But it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity to understand the truth about Easter and to appreciate God’s love for not only us, but the rest of the world too.