Impact of Jesus passion, death on politics

Published 9:33 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2016

By Jack Alvey

Alvey is the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Selma. 

Holy Week (the week before Easter) is traditionally the time when Christians remember Jesus’ Passion and Death which is marked by his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Jesus’ commandment to love, the Foot Washing, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ trial and sentencing before Pilate and finally Jesus’ death on a cross.

Unlike in previous years, this Holy Week is calling my attention to how Jesus’ Passion and Death impact the political landscape. While it is not my place or calling to lift up a particular candidate or agenda, I do believe it would be irresponsible of me, as a preacher of the good news, not to talk about how Jesus’ Passion and Death impact the political arena — not only in first century Rome but also today in 21st century America.

Regardless of what side of the aisle you find yourself on, it is becoming increasingly clear that anxieties about the future of our country are growing out of control. During this season in our national life, it is inevitable that we will be drawn into heated conversations about the future of our national life. However, these conversations are more than heated because we as a people are quick to speak and slow to listen. Therefore, these heated conversations quickly turn into arguments and mudslinging.

According to Speed Leas, an expert on conflict management, we are beyond the point where resolution or even management is possible. The metric that is used to decide how far is too far in conflict management is called “name calling.” I am sure I don’t have to convince you that we are there.

In first century Palestine, political tensions were high between the Roman Empire and the Jewish people. These tensions are highlighted in detail in the scriptures that detail Jesus’ Passion and Death. In short, the religious freedoms of the Jewish people were growing increasingly limited by Roman occupation.

Jesus finds himself in the middle of this storm between the Jews and the Romans, a storm that could also be characterized as a conflict beyond management. The good news says that Jesus comes to bring peace. The bad news says that Jesus brings a peace that will cause a seismic shift in the political, social, and geographical landscape of the world.

Jesus does not offer peace by settling earthly disputes over land and power. Instead, Jesus offers peace by inaugurating the kingdom of heaven on earth, a kingdom that is populated by one nation, ruled by one God.

The way of true peace will see Jesus expose just how fragile and futile earthly attempts at peace really are. The way of true peace will lure the power hungry on both sides of the aisle to condemn Jesus to death. Jesus is put to death because pride, hypocrisy, cowardice and fear put him there. All of the things that earthly systems depend off of for life put Jesus, the Author of Life, to death. Holy Week not only invites Christians to acknowledge how the power hungry systems of this world are quick to kill the One who comes in the name of peace, but Holy Week also invites Christians to witness to how the power of God’s sacrificial love in Christ makes name calling, mudslinging and bullying look weak.

While our political system might be beyond the point of managing, God gives us a hope that is not of this world, a peace that is not of this world. There is no doubt this peace will cause great disruption to earthly illusions of peace. However, the way that God has given us in Jesus is the only way that will move us out our cozy seats on our particular side of the aisle and into the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom ruled by acts of mercy, compassion, justice, and love — all things that call us to speak less and listen more.