The life that changed the world


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Being raised in a small Baptist church, we celebrated Easter, but, unlike many Christian denominations, we didn’t spend any time talking about the season of Lent.

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. It is a six-week period of preparation for Holy Week. Holy Week extends from the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to His betrayal, crucifixion and the resurrection. It is a cherished time for many people.

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the core beliefs of Christianity. Is it a miracle? Absolutely, it is. Christians believe in that miracle and many other miracles that are described in the New Testament. Miracles that are all attributed to Jesus.

For the past six weeks our adult Sunday School class has been studying and discussing the relationship that existed between Jesus and his disciple, Peter.

Most people will remember that Peter was described as the rock on which Jesus said he would build his church. They also remember that just after Jesus was arrested, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. He denied him not once or twice, but three times.

That horrible night, when he realized what he had done, Peter cried uncontrollably.

Just a few days later, along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus appeared to the disciples and again He acknowledged that Peter would be the person, the rock, on whom he would build his church. On the rocky shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Peter said he did.

Two more times Jesus asked Peter the same question. Two more times Peter said he loved Him.

After each answer, Jesus told Peter, “If you love me, then feed my sheep.” That was Jesus’ way of telling Peter to care for others; to serve others. Peter became a living example of servant leadership.

Peter became the leader of the early Christian church because Jesus gave Peter a second chance.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

I feel sad for people who do not have a rock on which to lean. I feel sorry for people who get mired down in the sand and mud of daily living. I feel sorry for people who cannot see beyond the end of the day. Those are the people who scramble to make a daily living without any regard for others.

Jesus taught that we are on earth to serve others; to help others.

Around that time in history, 2,000 years ago, the Israelites were waiting for a messiah, a royal military king, to come and rescue them from the oppression of their Roman rulers. They expected a strong military leader; a fighter.

Instead, they got a poor teacher, the son of a carpenter. Had it happened any other way, the movement that became known as Christianity might never have grown.

Before and after the life of Jesus, others have claimed to be the messiah. About 450 years after Jesus, Moses of Crete convinced many Jews who lived on the island of Crete that he was the messiah. He convinced many people to walk from the shore into the sea as Moses had done. However, those waters did not part. The results were disastrous. Little was ever heard of Moses of Crete again.

In the mid-1700s, Jacob Joseph Frank claimed to be the reincarnation of King David and the messiah. David Koresh and Jim Jones also claimed to be the messiah. Over 900 people, who were totally brainwashed by Jim Jones, died in the jungle of Jonestown. He was certainly no messiah.

This is certainly a different kind of column for me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the many things that happened in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago — Jesus and the emergence of Christianity. Nothing has changed the world as much as the life of Jesus.

The date on our calendar — the date that appears every day on this newspaper — is measured from the life of Jesus. The religious movement that became Christianity impacts our lives in untold ways every day.

The small group of people who followed Jesus as he walked from village to village, from the Sea of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem, changed everything. His actual ministry lasted only a few years, but the message he taught has endured to this day and has changed everything.

Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist, once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Thank goodness that Peter was given a second chance.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist