Passion Week, particularly Easter (or Resurrection Sunday), is the most sacred event for most Christians. We pause to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus has fulfilled God’s promise to send the Messiah to bring healing to humanity. Families plan Easter activities, and churches observe Jesus’ resurrection with a sunrise service.
We welcome the newness Easter brings. Winter ends and spring begins. Nature, which has been dormant, awakes and becomes alive again, as does the human spirit. We look forward to watching gardens blossom into radiant beauty. Many Christians fast, repent and practice self-denial in preparation. Churches with normally low attendance have fewer empty pews. Parents outfit their children with new clothes and attend worship as a whole family. If there is discord, we make every attempt to live peacefully.
I recently saw a car covered with political stickers. All except one were attacks on marginalized people: the working poor, immigrants, people of color. The one that stood out from the rest read, “Got Jesus?” The stickers had social implications, clearly stating what the driver cared about. But the “Got Jesus?” sticker put Jesus among those who do not desire justice.
Reflecting on the stickers as I look toward Easter Sunday, I can say, “Yes, I’ve got Jesus!” His activity was about caring for the least of society.
For me, Easter symbolizes being part of the Beloved Community. Jesus set people free from personal bondages. He was the ultimate reconciler. He lived and taught all humanity to live justly and in right relationships with each other. This caring for marginalized people and communities led to his death and resurrection.
Like the owner of the “sticker car,” we are held captive by relationships and actions that keep us personally and collectively in bondage. We live without controversy until we have to decide how to respond to unjust laws and broken relationships. We get caught up in our own mess, causing us emotional and economic pain.
All desire to be released from what keeps us in bondage. Finding freedom requires personal and collective action.
Jesus began a personal and collective movement toward a just society when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. . . . He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
This Jesus movement is guided by the need to change the status quo. Its core is anchored in urgency. Its life is propelled by the need for all to survive with their dignity intact and their needs met. We understand this intellectually. But “Got Jesus?” is less about head knowledge and more about heart passion.
Justice seekers will have a “Good Friday” experience. This may have physical, emotional, economic and social consequences. You might be tempted to abandon commitments to justice work. But Resurrection Sunday is ahead.
We expect good things as we head to church on Easter Sunday. There will be beautiful music and a rousing sermon. We hope to be inspired. As we go, I will ask the bumper-sticker question: “Got Jesus?” If you do, the people on the margins will be your priority as you leave church.
John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.