Ash Wednesday: Jesus Was No Stranger To Life Under Occupation

Jesus Was No Stranger

Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

The season of Lent is a time for solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance, leading up to Holy Week, when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, was crucified, buried and resurrected. During this season, it is appropriate for us to reflect on places in today’s time where there is loss, poverty, and pain. Throughout his life, Jesus was closest to people who had succumbed to illnesses, were marginalized by society, and who were experiencing rejection and suffering. Throughout this Lenten season, we will be reprising our series, “Jesus Was No Stranger,” which seeks to look at some of those places in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. We will ask ourselves, “How would Jesus respond to some of the experiences of both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians today?”

Over the coming weeks we will offer reflections and prayers on the themes of:

Jesus was no stranger to . . .

. . . . life under occupation
. . . . obedience
. . . . a life of poverty
. . . . death and sorrow
. . . . the cry for justice
. . . . waiting
. . . . being misunderstood
. . . . humble service
. . . . persecution and pain
. . . . persistent hope

We will wrap up the series with “Thy Kingdom Come” on Pentecost Sunday.

Jesus was no stranger to Life Under Occupation

Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden

Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

Jesus was no stranger to life under occupation, and from the examples of his life, death and resurrection, we, as Christians, are called to respond to the political turmoil in the Holy Land. The historic Holy Land, Judea, had been under the occupation of the Roman Empire before Jesus was even born. In the time of Jesus, the Roman soldiers were everywhere in the land he lived and traveled. The Israelites were second class citizens in their own land, and forced to show respect to a Roman Emperor, in addition to their God. They were miserable in their lives and some were so moved to anger, the Zealots, that they violently fought for their freedom. Under this occupation, Jesus brought a visionary revolution. He came for a single purpose and he announced it publicly at the beginning of his ministry. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, his self proclaimed mission was to:

“proclaim good news to the poor,
proclaim freedom for the prisoners,
give sight to the blind,
set the oppressed free,
and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 
(Luke 4:35)

Jesus’ priority was not to reclaim the promised land from the fists of the Romans, but to forgive as he did not seek to redeem the temporal kingdom on Earth, but sought to reclaim the hearts of all people and establish the Kingdom of God. With this premise in mind,  I’d like to imagine what he would say to the people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories today, both of whom are suffering under unjust political policies that currently stifle the peace process.

As Christians, we seek to respond to political and societal turmoil the way Jesus did- with forgiveness, open hearts and goodness in our intent as we are called to be the voices for those who have been affected. This week, let’s take a walk with Jesus through the land and imagine some of the conversations that might take place with the people he would encounter today.

Dear God,

As we enter into this season of Lent, remind us to spend time reflecting on those areas in our world where there is still loss, poverty, and pain. Help us to see the people on all sides of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict through your eyes, and to respond how you would respond. Break our hearts for what breaks yours. We pray the Holy Spirit will empower us to understand your Scripture, and to share your love with all people.   

In your holy name we pray, Amen

For more in this series visit our website.

Elli Atchison is the Ambassador of Donor Engagement at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). Molly Lorden is the Church Engagement & Millennial Voices for Peace Intern at CMEP, and is also currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.