The eternal message of Holy Week is conquering sin, death and evil, and Easter is my favorite service of the year. Easter is about our lives today, and its message is especially relevant for those who are encountering difficulties. This victory over death promises us a personal resurrection and eternal life.
I am from New York and many of my friends and colleagues are Jewish. They are correct in reminding me that Jesus was born into a Jewish family, he grew up as a Jewish boy, he worked as a Jewish young man, all of his teachings imply a Jewish setting and worldview, and he went to the Cross to be the Messiah of the Jewish people, as well as the “Lamb of God” who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We Christians joyously recognize that our Savior was Jewish.
I would also like to address the Muslim community. It is important to discuss Holy Week in light of many recent statements demonstrating religious intolerance. There are over 1 billion Muslims in the world. I agree with former President George W. Bush who described Islam as “a faith based upon peace, love and compassion.” He said it is a religion committed to “morality, learning and tolerance.” I believe the passages from Koran in this video are taken out of context.
The Koran says “Even if you stretch out your hand to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand to kill you.” Islam comes from the root word ‘salaam’, which means peace. The suicide bombers are bad Muslims. Suicide for any purpose is prohibited in Islam, and so is killing innocent people.
I do not have a religious test for the President and I am not making any judgments based upon his middle name. Obama critics are falsely claiming the President is a Muslim. They say: “Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim name. If it walks, talks, looks, smells and feels like a duck, it’s a duck.”
It is important to be tolerant of all religions, and John F. Kennedy addressed this when he spoke to Protestant ministers in Texas in the fall of 1960:
“Because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured. . . I today visited the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died Fuentes, McCafferty, Bailey, Badillo and Carey — but no one knows whether they were Catholics or not. For there was no religious test there. . . Do not judge me on the basis of publications that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and rarely relevant to any situation here.”
JFK also has a Passover/Easter message for all of us. It is the last line of his Inaugural Address, and it is engraved in marble at his Arlington tomb: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”