This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent. For those that aren’t religious in anyway Lent is a season of reflection. It is a time to think about ourselves, our place in the world, and to reaffirm our fate.
As I mentioned previously I am participating in Bible study at our church which is currently focusing on the Gospel of Luke. We have reached the part that my philosophy and religion professor in college called the turning point of the Gospel. It is the story of Jesus feeing his disciples and healing on the Sabbath and the Pharisees reaction. This was mentioned as the turning point because it is here that the Pharisees make the decision that they have to do something about Jesus. They have to wipe him from the board.
We are told countless times during the Easter season that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. St. Augustine and others theorized that this was forgiveness for the original sin of Adam and Eve, but if we look at the text and the text alone of the Gospels there are several sins present.
There is the obvious betrayal by Judas and the oppression of Pontius Pilate but there is also the doubt of Peter and the jealousy of the Pharisees. The Pharisees alone cannot act to remove Jesus. While they are speakers of the law they are not the law in what is an occupied land under the tyranny and oppression of the Roman Empire.
Even when Pontius Pilate is portrayed as finding nothing illegal in Jesus’ actions he still sentences him to death. That is the textbook definition of oppression. He knows and believes that Jesus is innocent and there is no reason to sentence him to death and yet he does so anyway. He might claim to wash his hands of Jesus’ death but without his orders nothing is possible.
Throughout the Bible the worst sin that man can commit is oppression of their fellow man. When it comes down to it and is broken down to its most basic element this is the sin that Jesus died for. Jesus died because the Roman Empire was an occupying force in the land of Judea. Without that there is no one for Judas to betray Jesus to and the doubts of Peter and the jealousies of the Pharisees matter not at all.
The conclusion I came to is Jesus died for the sin of man subjugating man, and that when we reflect on our own human frailty and ask forgiveness we should look for instances in which we took advantage of another person. If it is an act we are currently committing we should stop and if it is one already done then we should seek atonement by first and foremost never committing such an act again.
Oppression comes in many forms and can be hard to recognize. We often need others to tell us when we are committing even small acts that are harmful. We should listen when we are told our actions are harmful to others and seek to rectify them. Jesus died for the sins of mankind and the great sin of mankind is oppression.