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In the previous article, we discussed two new truths we can all learn from the martyrdom of Jesus. In this final part of the essay, we’ll look at three more of those enduring truths.
Before his crucifixion, Christ taught his followers—and all of us–how to pray.
3. How to Pray
Most people from a Christian tradition remember Jesus’ suggestion to “pray like this”, just before the Lord’s Prayer–but the Bible recounts many other times during which Jesus prays. The night before the crucifixion, we find him in the garden, troubled. And during this troubling time, what does Jesus do? He turns to God in prayer. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
What a beautiful example of prayer, and yet so different from the Lord’s Prayer. While very short, this prayer has a straightforward, simple beauty. Prayer, as the Baha’i teachings say, is conversation with God, and here we see a very elegant example of that close communion.
Prayer doesn’t have to be long and complicated:
The most acceptable prayer is the one offered with the utmost spirituality and radiance; its prolongation hath not been and is not beloved by God. The more detached and the purer the prayer, the more acceptable is it in the presence of God. – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 78.
When troubled, we can do as Jesus did–we can turn to God in humble and sincere prayer. State your wishes, but, like Jesus, resign yourself to God’s will.
4. The Equality of Women and Men
We often speak of the Apostles, and their admittedly vital role in the development of Christianity, but how often do we consider the women of Christianity? We all know of the woman at the well in Samaria, but who was there at the time of Christ’s crucifixion? Only women are mentioned amongst his faithful followers—especially Mary Magdalene, the one who brought the glad-tidings of Christ’s resurrection.
When we look for it, we can see that women play a vital role throughout Christ’s ministry, but at no time more so than during the period of his crucifixion. While their role may not be exactly the same as the men, it is by no means any less important. Equality means “of equal value”, not “identical to”. And we see this very clearly in the crucifixion story. While Jesus may not have explicitly affirmed the equality of women and men, it is certainly easy to infer it from this, and many other stories from his life.
5. You Never Know when Your Opportunity Will Arise
How often do we get the chance to do some small deed, something that we will never think about again, but that becomes worthy of mention in the Book of God? We will never know. That’s the point, isn’t it? If we knew that this seemingly insignificant act we are called upon to do was that important, we would gladly do it. But it is precisely because we don’t know that it becomes worthy of mention.
Look at Simon, the Cyrenian. While many legends abound, we know virtually nothing of him. We know from the Gospel of Mathew that Roman guards compelled him to carry the cross for Jesus for a short time. But can you imagine what he must have thought?
Simon the Cyrenian, presumably on his way to town, sees this procession with a man going to his execution. He stops to watch, when suddenly the guards tell him to pick up this heavy cross and carry it for the prisoner.
Is he joyous at being given the opportunity to help his Lord? Is he annoyed at being told to do a difficult task by his oppressors? We don’t know. But we do know that he did it, and we also know that his name has been recorded in the Gospels for all time.
We can all profit from this lesson—that we never really know how far-reaching an effect a simple offer of help will have:
We must look upon our enemies with a sin-covering eye and act with justice when confronted with any injustice whatsoever, forgive all, consider the whole of humanity as our own family, the whole earth as our own country, be sympathetic with all suffering, nurse the sick, offer a shelter to the exiled, help the poor and those in need, dress all wounds and share the happiness of each one. Be compassionate, so that your actions will shine like unto the light streaming forth from the lamp. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 41-42.