Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Columns

Taft: Is something big missing from Easter?


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Are we missing something here - maybe something really important - when we talk about Easter? It's quite a story, you know, whether or not you think it's true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Some see this joyful holiday as a made-up happy ending to a possibly true, movie-like story about a nice but often misunderstood Jewish boy who died tragically 2,000 years ago. Others recognize it as a milestone in the existence of a being who was at least a prophet and perhaps much more.

Many Christians view this day as a confirmation of their faith that the Jesus whose birth they celebrate at Christmas was, and is, more that a man. He is the son of God who can forgive the sins of those who believe because he sacrificed his earthly life to wipe out any eternal punishment for them. He is, for them, their hope of Heaven.

In addition, those Christians believe that, along the way, this God-man called the Christ (the Greek word for the Hebrew word 'messiah') taught those who would follow him how to live a courageous, peaceful, caring life on this planet. End of story.

But wait. Jesus said, according to the Bible (John 14:3), "I will come back."

A Muslim will agree that this Isa (Jesus) is coming back although a follower of Islam believes he never died. The Qu'ran (the holy scriptures of Islam) teaches that confederates smuggled Jesus away and a counterfeit was substituted for him on the cross. From his hiding place, Isa was taken directly up into Heaven by Allah (God) himself.

Nevertheless, the prophet Jesus IS coming again to destroy the anti-Christ and announce the soon coming of Allah himself to judge mankind.

Many Hindus also might agree that Jesus (who could be one of many gods) is coming again - a reincarnation, perhaps, as an avatar, a direct descendent of the Divine.

While Christ (the messiah in Judaism) is yet to come into this world as far as Jews are concerned, they do believe in the second coming - in this case, of Elijah. According to Jewish interpretations of the scriptures of Judaism (the Tenakh and Talmud), the prophet Elijah never died but was taken directly into heaven. From there he will return to announce the coming of the Messiah.

Jews look forward to that time so much that, as they did earlier this week and every year for nearly 3,000 years, during the Seder (ritual meal of symbolic foods) highlighting the celebration of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew), a glass of wine for Elijah was placed on the table and the door was left ajar so he would feel welcome to come in.

So the Jesus story does not end with Easter. His coming (with first, second or other) is yet to be.

Only God knows when that will be, Jesus said. But when he comes, everybody will know it. It won't be entirely pretty, Christ warned in such places in the Bible as the 24th chapter of Matthew. While those who see Easter as the seal of their redemption believe his second coming will lead to a joyous time forever with their savior, God, they fear what it means for non-believers who face judgment from the God who gave his all for them only to be rejected.

Maybe we should talk about this.

Adon Taft was religion editor of The Miami Herald for 37 years. Now retired, he lives in Brooksville and can be reached at adontaft@yahoo.com.

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