He met a Jewish populace so engrossed with flushing their nostrils and anuses sparkling clean to please some mighty deity up there, whereas their treatment of fellow humans beings remained callous, brutish. Trust Jesus, he lashed out: “Woe unto you (ofo banza!) you teachers of the law and Pharisees! You give a tenth even of the seasoning herbs… but neglect to obey the really important teachings of the law, such as justice, mercy and honesty.”
Tragically enough, roughly 2,015 years and much advanced technology later, mankind is yet to grasp what the Nazareen was trying to get into the thick heads of the Jewish religious leaders: That the greatest act of God worship is Man Care — Care for man. And that in the absence of this, all other acts of worship amount to mere “sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Jesus stressed in teaching after teaching that God rates the welfare of man above even his own laws.
An instance: Jesus and his boys were returning from a round-town preaching trip one Palestinian evening when the famished disciples, passing through a wheat farm, began helping themselves to the grains. It was Sabbath day. And the Pharisees were enraged. To them, the mere act of plucking the ears and rubbing them between their palms to get the grains amounted to working on Sabbath day. They screamed: “See! Your boys are breaking the law!
But again, trust Mary’s first child. He cut them to size: “Haven’t you read what David did? While returning from a battle, his warriors were so hungry that they descended on the bread placed on Yahweh’s altar which (ordinarily) was not lawful for them to eat.”
Jesus’ message was clear: in the face of human need, rigid observance of the law — even God’s law— takes second place. In fact, he ended his response with a master stroke: “The law is made for man, not man for the law.” That is, the welfare of man takes precedence over the laws of God.
But like many today, the Pharisees were so obsessed with currying God’s favour, through empty observance of the rules, that they lost their humanity (omoluabi). They were willing, even eager, to offend their neighbours in their craze for outward show of “godliness”.
Some even slaughter fellow humans to secure entrance to some “paradise”(Al-janna)—not only in Kano but also in Canaan.
Expectedly, it was for these wrong-headed religionists that Jesus reserved his most scathing allegories. He called them gilded sepulchres — Saare alawo funfun— so sparkling white outside, but full of corruption/ rotten flesh inside.
Yet another beautiful one. Jesus entered the synagogue one Saturday and lo, there was among the congregation a woman bent almost double, obviously by some spinal defect. She had been so for 18 years.
As characteristic of Jesus, pity brimmed in him. He did not wait for the poor woman to seek his help. He called her over and was about to give the healing command when our Pharisee friends raised objections again: It was Sabbath day, so it was unlawful for Jesus to heal the poor fellow.
Jesus stood stock still.
This time, what brimmed in the Nazareen was not pity. It was anger. Fury.
But Scorpio Jesus, he fought down the explosion. And replaced it with a logic as deadly as the guillotine: “Which one of you, if his ox (the mainstay of his economy) falls in a well on a Sabbath day will not work hard to pull it out?”
They were stunned into silence.
Of course, each of them knew he would pull out his ox. But obviously, they won’t pull out ` a human being’.
Oh, another beautiful one from the Nazareen.
If you are on the way to the church ( synagogue), he told his audience, and you remember that you had offended your neighbour back home, turn back right there—no! don’t go to church first and return later — go right back and settle the misunderstanding before you proceed to church.
Jesus’ meaning is crystal clear: going to church or mosque (or whatever worship centre) though good, is not as important as maintaining good relations with fellow humans.
Religiosity is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. And that end is becoming better persons. Being religious without striving to become better persons is self-deceit.
The pitiful truth is that the hell we see all around us today, in the world, in our country, is a reflection of the hell we carry within us— despite all the designer wears, houses and cars we flaunt.
Only betterpersons can make a better world.
But even today, many of us miss that point. We are busy building our faiths without building our character.
It is like students who attend school regularly, greet teachers profusely, iron their uniforms well, cheerfully run errands for teachers, but fail in the most essential: their studies. They deceive themselves. They will continue to fail their WAEC exams.
Again, Jesu — wait o, when did I become a preacher? Preacher? I reject it in Jesus’ name!
Must be all this Easter mood or the anticipated Easter rice…