Calling All “Others”
March 26-30, 2018
Maundy Thursday / Good Friday
Atheists and Non-Believers: This post is for you. I confess that when I began this blog over four years ago, I did not expect to write a post specifically for non-believers. It is, after all, a lifestyle blog about incorporating faith and daily living, connecting our spirituality with our relationships. During this time commonly known as Holy Week and especially on Maundy Thursday and the weirdly named “good” Friday, though, the story is really more about atheists and non-believers than about the faithful.
The last week of Lent is designated as “holy” because it depicts the final days of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. One cannot ignore the story. It has changed the face of history, brought about world wars, been used as the basis for genocides throughout the centuries and still is the impetus for many works of art and musical presentations, the latest being NBC’s concert version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Sunday, April 1st.
As a child, I always connected the term atheist with the character in the story known as Caiaphas. Caiaphas is one of the lesser characters who seemed to be pulling the strings and controlling the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, the one who gave the order for Jesus’ crucifixion. There was very little separation of church and state in the Roman Empire since Roman law titled the Roman Emperor as the savior of all within the Roman Empire. Succinctly put, no one – man or god- was higher than the Roman Emperor.
The faith of the Jewish people was insignificant to those in power within the Roman Empire. Someone violating Jewish law meant nothing to the powers that controlled the land. Caiaphas and his five brothers-in-law saw Jesus as a threat but knew Rome would not care that he cured the sick on the Sabbath or went about preaching without being an actual Rabbi or living what we might call a “kosher” lifestyle. When John the Baptist, however, called his cousin Jesus the new Messiah…well, Caiaphas could take that to Rome and claimed treason.
The Jewish historian Josephus, a fist century historian and writer, lists Caiaphas tenure as a high priest as beginning in 18 ACE. Caiaphas married the daughter of the previous high priest Ananus, the son of Seth, Caiaphas was known as Joseph. We know very little about his life or other duties as a high priest. In 1990 an ossuary was found that many claim contained his remains. Another was found in 2011 and was declared to be authentic. Because of this later find, Caiaphas has now been assigned to the priestly course of Ma’aziah which was instituted by King David. It is thought Caiaphas (Joseph) served eighteen years as high priest so he apparently got along quite well with the Roman authorities.
It is written that Caiaphas and others felt Jesus posed a threat to their faith, its holy places, and would give Rome cause to destroy them all. In both the gospel of John and the book of Genesis, references are made that it would be better for one man [Jesus] to die rather than the Jewish nation be destroyed.
The villain of the final days of Jesus to many is the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. He in fact says he has no reason to charge Jesus with any crime and urges the priests to take their own action. They tell him they have none and only Pontius Pilate can do so. Pilate then gives the assembled crown a choice of which prisoner to set free. Jesus is not their choice. Caiaphas would go on to reign as a high priest longer than any other under Roman rule.
Maundy Thursday is the day many remember the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, the event which ended in his capture by the Roman soldiers. The character Jesus knows what is coming and tells the disciple who points him out to the soldiers to hurry up and do what he must. He then tells the others to be as servants to each other and purportedly washed their feet, placing himself in a servant role to them. They eat and then sleep in spite of his asking them to stay awake with him. They are awakened by the soldiers and watch helplessly as their leader is taken away. Within the next twenty-four hours, the disciple peter would pretend not to know Jesus. Good Friday ends with his torture and crucifixion.
We all live on this big blue marble called Earth one with another. Whether we are believers or atheists, we must interact with each other. To intentionally do harm to another does not benefit any of us. The last advice Jesus gives to his disciples about helping each other are not just words for those who believed in him. They are the key to successful living for us all.
Whether your messiah is a man called Jesus, a political figure, or someone who has yet to come, the wisdom still works. To help one another, to serve humankind …. This means successful living for us all. Not everyone loves themselves so I am not going to say love others as you love yourself. What I will say is this: Please treat (love) others as you would want to be treated. We truly are here to help each other.