In terms of religion, “mutual respect” refers to living comfortably and contently among all faiths and recognizing each religion’s value for different people. 

As a theologian and scholar, when studying the historical Jesus in many Eastern and Western texts, I always ask myself if I am reading them right. When I do, I discover an even more empowering Jesus emerges and I recognize how amazing life can be when we love one another no matter one’s belief.  

Approximately 2.2 billion Christians have just journeyed with this Messiah through the darkest of time, leading up to His crucifixion, to the brightest of time, emerging victorious over death from the tomb. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, followed by the Passover meal with the disciples on the night he was betrayed and arrested. 

Good Friday commemorates the trial, suffering and death of Jesus, then the stillness of Holy Saturday, with the week ending in new beginnings with Resurrection Sunday, when the women discover the empty tomb and are told by an angel that the crucified one is risen!  

Reform Judaism, birthed in the 19th century in Germany in reaction to the strictness of the Judaism of the day, made a radical change, and instead of praying for a Messiah, now pray for a Messianic Age. 

This led me to wonder: If I had been raised in Reformed Judaism, rather than Roman Catholicism, might I believe the same? The basis of Jewish belief is the Revelation at Mount Sinai, which they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, not dependent on the testimony of others … as it says, “Face to face, God spoke with you. …” 

While the Jewish people do not rely on miracles as the basis for their religion, Christians do, even if only one little drip at a time. These aren’t all life-changing moments; most are small, where only a few are renewed and redeemed, and many wonder if God has abandoned them as they look at their broken lives. Who can blame them if they send the same message to Jesus that John the Baptist did: “Are you the one, or should we look for another?” 

For reasons beyond my understanding, the Messiah decided not to come all at once like a tsunami, but like a steady rain fall for the past 2,000 years. And every time someone lives as Jesus lived, by loving as He loved, another drop falls. 

I understand that for some it is not enough, for others it is a way of life and blessed are those who take no offense at Him. The disciples of Jesus spent the days after His death fearful, confused and grieving. They were defeated, until they saw him alive again and his first words were “Peace be with you.” Shalom. 

So, I ask myself, what would cause these scared men to suddenly spread the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth? What would cause 10 to be killed for testifying that Jesus lived, while the 11th was exiled and imprisoned? I can’t imagine that these first followers were willing to die for what they believed was a lie! 

In this Eastertide of new life, 50 days from Resurrection Sunday to Pentecost Sunday, many across all time and generations, spirits and hearts woven together in love, stand in testimony that even in an age of unbearable pain, sickness and division, still we rise and sing “And Are We Yet Alive!” – for we are Resurrection People! 

Rev. Dr. Nannette Pierson is an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and pastoral associate at Campbell Chapel AME in Bluffton.