Paisley Daily Express
Church News Society’s hungry soul
In these weeks from Easter to Pentecost, we are trying to set the Easter gospel of the Easter Jesus into our modern society.
The Jesus of Cross and Resurrection.
Today, let us think of that most vexing of all dilemmas, the place of religion in our society.
Many think religion– and that still means Christianity – is now dead and buried in Western society.
We are all familiar with the gloomy statistics detailing the decline of the Christian religion.
While there are bright spots where Christianity is flourishing, many people have dispensed with the church’s Christianity and found other spiritual experiences.
But does our society nurse a spiritually hungry soul?
Jesus’society was a religious volcano.
In 70 AD, the Roman legions levelled Jerusalem to the ground to end the first Jewish War (66-70 AD).
The Romans devastated an area outside the Old City called the Western Hill.
In 1970, this area was excavated by archaeologists. They uncovered the remains of luxurious villas.
These villas had been decorated with the latest Roman fashions. Imported pottery and expensive glassware.
These luxury villas were owned by the elite members of the high priestly families.
Contrast that scene with the conduct of the widow and her mite (Mark 12.41-44). The harsh contrast between the rich and elite clergy and the poorer priests reveals the starving soul in Jesus’society.
Furthermore, many people in Jesus’time were simply unattached and unconnected with religion.
Their occupations and lifestyles prevented them living according to the religious laws.
These were the very people Jesus met, and was criticized for his friendship with them.
‘Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Jesus to hear him. The Pharisees and scribes murmured saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’’(Luke 15.1-2).
These people were scorned as the‘am ha arest’,‘the people of the earth’.
Was this the reason why Jesus felt so deeply for the widow of
Nain? (Luke 7.11-17)
Just like the clergyman in the Street Ministries in Burnley.
He ministers to decent people but who have become so poor they are unable to pay for their family funerals.
‘Too poor to die’, as the press reported.
Within Jesus’society, people did try to lead a better religious life.
The Pharisees were decent folk and helped poorer members in their community.
Regrettably, they became an exclusive group and were highly critical of others.
The scribes were decent people but, as Jesus pointed out, they sought public attention (Matthew 6.5).
The most extreme religious group was the Essene community at Qumran whose way of life was described in the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were highly critical of those who did not reach their demanding standards.
But the gospels do record the conversations of thoughtful and serious-minded individuals.
Nicodemus was sincere in his questions to Jesus. ‘We know that you are a teacher come from God. For no one could do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him’(John 3.2).
Nicodemus progressed to defend Jesus in the Sanhedrin (John 7.50-52) and to assist
Joseph of Arimathea with Jesus’ burial(John 19.39-40).
While one of the scribes, after questioning Jesus, ventured the comment that to worship God correctly and treat one’s fellow man properly was better than all the animal sacrifices of the temple.
Jesus replied approvingly‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’(Mark 12.34).
Then Jesus provided the spiritually nutritious diet for his society’s hungry soul.‘Blessed are you when you hunger and thirst for righteousness you will be satisfied’(Matthew 5.6). ‘Righteousness’means ‘a right relation with God’.
In other words, you know the ultimate issues between you and God, time and eternity, are settled.
It follows that you will then be in a right relation with others, in your attitude towards others and your behaviour with them.
Finally, if you are at peace with God then you will be at peace with yourself. Surely that is what the soul of a hungry society desperately requires?
That is what God gave us in the Easter Jesus.
Our cross-freedom from the old and our resurrection-liberty into the new.
‘I am the Bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger.’ (John 6.35).
said on the hour.