Fourth Sunday of Lent: Jesus Was No Stranger to the Cry for Justice

Jesus Was No Stranger to the Cry for Justice

Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8)

Jesus was no stranger to the cry for justice. Through the Gospels, we see Jesus engaging with people in a calm and gentle manner. However, injustice against the vulnerable made him very angry. He acted upon this concern for the oppressed by taking a public stand and protesting in Jerusalem: “Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts” (Mark 11:15-16).  Jesus’ concern was not just because the house of God had been turned into a place of business. He was also protesting the exorbitant fees people were being charged for required sacrifices—fees that would have likely been burdensome to both the local poor and the people who had traveled a long way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This corruption of the sacrificial system prioritized money over the ability of people to worship.

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.
Photo: Kyle Anderson Photography

Often, Western Christians do not realize that Christians have been living in the Holy Land since the time of Jesus. Many of these faithful followers can trace their family histories all the way back to the birth of Christian community after Pentecost. But, for Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank, the daily pressures and hardships of living under military occupation for almost 50 years have contributed to a great migration of the native Christians from the land. In addition to the occupation, lower birthrates for Palestinian Christians than their Muslim counterparts, and the lack of economic opportunity within Palestinian society also contribute to the decreasing Christian population. It is estimated today less than 2% of all Palestinians living in the occupied territories self-identify as Christians. Today, these Christians are called the “living stones.”

One of these living stones is the Palestinian Christian writer, Jean Zaru. In her book, “Occupied with Nonviolence”, she describes the pressures on Palestinian Christians this way: “Although we are the modern heirs of the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem and despite our rich contribution to the Middle East, Palestinian Christians have become unknown, unacknowledged, and forgotten by much of the world. We are a highly educated community with deep historical roots, a community that is, unfortunately, diminishing every day as a result of political and economic pressures. Our future is uncertain; the pressures are enormous.” Jean, a Quaker and a pacifist, also describes being misunderstood as one who accepts the injustice Palestinian Christians experience, while in reality she is active in nonviolent action against injustice.

I think Jesus would have a strong message to us, as Christians. He would remind us of the need to speak out, to take a physical stand, and to be steadfast in our prayers and petitions for justice in the Holy Land. He would remind us of the requirement from the Lord in Micah 6:8, “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8b). Jesus might remind us of the parable of the persistent widow who would not give up in her plea for justice. In this parable, even the judge who did not fear God eventually gave in to the widow’s constant pleas.  “Will God not bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:4-8). We, too, should advocate for justice on behalf of our Palestinian Christian siblings in their times of suffering.

Dear God,

You know that it is not easy to suffer under the injustices of this world. As your followers, we are not promised to have an easy path through life. But, you did promise to walk beside us along the journey, and for that we give you thanks. Strengthen our Palestinian Christian siblings in their daily struggles. Comfort them with the peace of your presence. Help us all to continue to speak out and to pray without ceasing as our hearts cry out for justice. May we trust in you to bring justice to the world in your way and your time. May our hope always be in you.

In your holy name we pray, Amen

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