Jesus Was No Stranger
The season of Lent is a time for solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance, leading up to Holy Week, when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, was crucified, buried and resurrected. During this season, it is appropriate for us to reflect on places in today’s time where there is loss, poverty, and pain. Throughout his life, Jesus was closest to people who had succumbed to illnesses, were marginalized by society, and who were experiencing rejection and suffering. Throughout this Lenten season, we will be reprising our series, “Jesus Was No Stranger,” which seeks to look at some of those places in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. We will ask ourselves, “How would Jesus respond to some of the experiences of both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians today?”
Over the coming weeks we will offer reflections and prayers on the themes of:
Jesus was no stranger to . . .
. . . . life under occupation
. . . . obedience
. . . . a life of poverty
. . . . death and sorrow
. . . . the cry for justice
. . . . waiting
. . . . being misunderstood
. . . . humble service
. . . . persecution and pain
. . . . persistent hope
We will wrap up the series with “Thy Kingdom Come” on Pentecost Sunday.
Jesus was no stranger to Life Under Occupation
Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden
When we compare the Holy Land in Jesus’ time and the political climate it suffers under today, we can easily see many parallels. The historic Holy Land, Judea, had been under the occupation of the Roman Empire before Jesus was even born. Rome kept control over the Jewish population with cruel tactics and exorbitant taxes. The Israelites were second class citizens in their own land, and forced to show respect to a Roman Emperor, in addition to their God. They were miserable in their lives and some were so moved to anger, the Zealots, that they violently fought for their freedom. While the names of those who are in power and those who are oppressed have changed, there are many parallels to be found today.
Jesus was deeply connected to the land and the culture. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He spoke the Syrian language of Aramaic and was Jewish by faith, culture, and practice. Jesus was no stranger to life under occupation. He came for a single purpose and he announced it publicly at the beginning of his ministry. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, his self proclaimed mission was to:
“proclaim good news to the poor,
proclaim freedom for the prisoners,
give sight to the blind,
set the oppressed free,
and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:35)
Fellow Jews had high hopes that this was the man who might finally lead the revolt and overthrow Rome, ending their occupation. But, Jesus had a much different revolution in mind. His priority was not to reclaim the promised land from the fists of the Romans and re-establish a Jewish nation. He came to reclaim the hearts of all people and establish the Kingdom of God. With this premise in mind, I’d like to imagine what he would say to the people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories today, both of whom are suffering under unjust political policies that currently have no hope for peace. This week, let’s take a walk with him through the land and imagine some of the conversations that might take place with the people he would encounter today.
As we enter into this season of Lent, remind us to spend time reflecting on those areas in our world where there is still loss, poverty, and pain. Help us to see the people on all sides of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict through your eyes, and to respond how you would respond. Break our hearts for what breaks yours. We pray the Holy Spirit will empower us to understand your Scripture, and to share your love with all people.
In your holy name we pray, Amen
For more in this series visit our website.