Posted by: morgan1965 | April 4, 2012

Jesus, Holy Week and Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 4, 1968 was a typical Thursday on the campus of Drew University where I was a senior theological school student. I was sitting in the dormitory lounge with a small group of seminarians watching the evening news anchored by Walter Cronkite. We were stunned when Cronkite interrupted his regular broadcast to announce that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot in Memphis, Tennessee. Before the newscast ended, Cronkite confirmed the death of Martin King at the hands of an assassin. 

At that time, I was serving as pastor of the St. Mary Street United Methodist Church in Burlington, New Jersey. The Burlington community, like so many communities across the nation, gathered for an ecumenical service to remember Dr. King and his legacy. Dr. Andrew Braun, a Methodist pastor, was the preacher for this special service. In his sermon he declared that King like Jesus took a towel.

Jesus, on the night before his death on the cross, took a towel, washed the feet of the disciples, and dried their feet with his towel. Jesus was a true servant to the people whom he loved dearly, regardless of their background. In the spirit of Jesus the ultimate servant, King also took a towel. He served the people, black people, poor people, and the disinherited. Jesus was crucified on an old rugged cross, while King was gunned down on the balcony of the motel where he was being housed while demonstrating in support of the sanitation workers.

Martin King’s funeral service was held on April 9, 1968. In 1968, Good Friday fell on April 12, while in 2012 God Friday falls on April 6. As I write this blog, it is Holy Week and I am thinking about the death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter) of Jesus. I am also thinking about the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Jesus inspired Dr. King and was for King “the way, the truth and the life.”

Jesus was the victim of a cruel crucifixion, while King was the target of an assassin’s rifle bullet. Both men endured a public death. Both men had their supporters and detractors. Jesus was tried by a mock court at the hands of Pilate, who washed his hands. Martin King was tried in the cruel arena of public opinion. Both of these servants were found guilty. Yes, Jesus died on a cross; and King took up a cross and died bearing that cross.

Holy Week 2012 brings us face to face again with the passion of Jesus. Jesus faced death without flinching. He did not turn away and flee from death. He suffered on the cross. He bled on the cross. He died on the cross for you and for me.

Jesus was placed in a tomb with seeming finality. But, God was not finished. On Easter Sunday morning, the third day, God raised Jesus from death to life. Death had no sting, no victory. Death could not conquer Love. After Jesus’ death his disciples went to the Upper Room and eventually received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They began to preach the Good News, and they engaged in ministry and mission. They could not be silenced. They recruited new disciples who followed Jesus Christ. 

Martin King became a disciple of Jesus. He became a prophet in his own time.The assassin killed his body, but he failed in his effort to silence King’s voice. I can still hear King’s voice casting the vision of a society where all people would be able to get along together, the Beloved Community. 

In this Holy Week, I give thanks to God for giving us Jesus, the Gift of Love, who lives in our hearts today. I give thanks for Martin King who answered the call of Jesus, taught us new lessons about love, and became a servant of the people, especially the poor and the disinherited.



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