by Jennie S. Bev
Two millennia ago, a simple man from Nazareth made his debut in the world of politics and religion by starting a minuscule Jewish sect.
Jesus was a humble man whose values and virtues were remarkable. He was inspiring to all mankind, and Christians believe that he was divine, rising after his death on the day now referred to as Easter Sunday.
Underneath those glories, however, historians recognize him as a man whose vocation was likely to have been a crafter of wood.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was introduced as a carpenter. While theologians and historians are still debating whether it’s figurative or literal meaning, it’s not that important. In today’s pedagogical terms, he might have been referred to as a great constructivist.
In the field of education, constructivism is an umbrella term for the observation and scientific study of how people learn and construct their own understanding of how the world operates. Through adding new information derived from new experiences, new knowledge is formed in the constant process of redefining and discharging existing beliefs.
As a carpenter, Jesus might not have built a massive Trojan horse like Odysseus did, but he taught important life lessons nonetheless by making people wonder about his actions.
Questions arose and were answered through both his humble everyday actions and his grand miracles. He did things from accepting people from different backgrounds to bringing the dead back to life. Those are constructive lessons. They redefine and change beliefs.
He was endowed with the power to rise above extreme physical and mental hardship, and among Christians, his ultimate miracle is believed to be his resurrection. Looking at this event in today’s context, his influences are tremendous and people from all walks of life, religions and denominations have learned the lessons of courageous acceptance through contemplating the meanings of resurrection with both intellect and feeling.
Empirically speaking, while it is not our place to judge whether the notion of resurrection was literal or figurative, the triumph following a humbling experience can be used as the basis of understanding how things work.
During his early teaching years, Jesus might not have been as popular as self-help guru Anthony Robbins, yet his teachings are still relevant to this very day, except perhaps for some concepts that have been reinterpreted, renewed and redefined with documents from the Second Vatican Council.
Jesus, his teachings and lessons from his life and death can be interpreted in many ways without having to be religious or even be a Christian.
Liberal theologians are known to have disseminated models and concepts that reflect the social and political contexts from which they emerge by using religious texts as a vessel to bring about social changes without any evangelistic impulses. Poverty, for instance, is a form of hardship that should be addressed, in effect resurrecting the poor from figurative death.
The notion of Jesus as the oppressed is the fundamental philosophy of Christian liberation theology in Catholicism, which is also known as Christian socialism.
Jesuit priests with their independent efforts to challenge political structures are focused on bringing justice to the poor and the oppressed. In Indonesia, the late Father Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya, Father Franz Magnis Suseno and Father Sandyawan of the Volunteer Team for Humanity are fine examples of such dedicated figures.
Easter is a very special day for Christians and for all mankind. It’s both a miraculous day and a day to remind us of the greatest lesson a carpenter has given us: Nothing is impossible. We can “resurrect” from pain and suffering with humility and awareness of constructing our own reality or world view — even in the face of poverty and oppression.
There are many ways to God and there are many ways to be Christian.
Resurrection is, after all, here and now.
The Jakarta Globe, April 13, 2009