- - Wednesday, March 31, 2021

This weekend, the world’s two and half billion Christians will celebrate the torture, execution and resurrection of an obscure Jewish carpenter.

Others will simply note in passing the execution of that same man.

Those are really the only two choices that people have in this instance. Either Yeshua bar Yusef (better known as Jesus) was God, in which case his torture, execution and resurrection is the central story of our lives and those of everyone on the planet, or he was a carpenter and itinerant Jewish preacher whose life and death meant nothing.

While both seem incredibly improbable, the second possibility may be as difficult to explain and believe as the first.

If you believe that he was just another Jew executed by the Romans, you’re still left with the uncomfortable fact that what he did and taught touches almost everything we do, say and see. His life, teachings and example have driven humanity for the last 2,000 years.

Even now, at this desiccated spiritual and intellectual moment, the religion he created remains the most powerful force for good in the world. Most of what we consider Western civilization was built by his followers. Most of what we believe about fairness, goodness, charity, individual freedom, the proper role of rulers, etc., is derived directly from what he taught.

That’s not bad for someone who never wrote a thing, never left his small Roman province on the edge of the Mediterranean, never had children, and died a pauper at the young age of 33.

Some, including members of my family, have suggested that his effect on mankind could be a consequence of excellent public relations. That’s possible, but unlikely given that most of his immediate associates were probably illiterate and only one or two could manage a bit of spoken Latin or Greek, the dominant languages of commerce and statecraft for the 500 years after Good Friday.

While both options are admittedly improbable, one of them has to be accurate.

It is almost easier to believe that the man tortured and executed on a hillside outside of Jerusalem rose from the dead.

The power of the story of the execution and subsequent resurrection, which we retell every year, is that it has the all the themes that have followed humans throughout the ages. The corrupted official who asks mockingly “quid est veritas?” The awesome hypocrisy of the tribal elites who seal the prisoner’s fate by asserting that they “have no king but Caesar.” The fickleness and the brutality of the mob. The treachery of a friend. The loneliness of the accused. The love and desperation of a mother.

The resilience of truth. The ultimate victory of good over evil. The possibility — for all of us, even those who do not yet believe — of redemption.

Seven hundred years before Jesus appeared on Earth, the great prophet Isaiah wrote about the carpenter and his terrible moment on Good Friday: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Like one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. But he has borne our griefs, and he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him.”


The hope that we feel on Christmas bears full fruit on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The certain knowledge that God loves us. That He wants us to be happy, to live lives of meaning and beauty. That we are important. That whatever travails we endure are temporary.

The cross on Friday and the rolled-away stone on Sunday are testaments to that.

This weekend, think carefully about which of the two options is most likely to be true, and have a happy and reverent Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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