President Barack Obama took advantage of his annual Easter prayer breakfast on Wednesday to deliver his take on the message of Easter.
Speaking to a group that, according to CNN, was “thick with Christian leaders,” President Obama said the coming Easter weekend provides an opportunity to consider “all that Christ endured — not just as a son of God, but as a human being.”
“It is only because Jesus conquered his own anguish, conquered his fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection,” he said.
“We all have experiences that shake our faith,” the president continued. “There are times when we have questions for God’s plan relative to us, but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph.”
Reporter Lauren Markoe of Religion News Service said President Obama indicated that “Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice during Holy Week puts the travails of his own life in perspective” — although she said the president elicited laughter from the audience when he talked about the burdens of the presidency and quoted from the New Testament Gospel of John: “In this world you will have trouble,” adding, “I heard an amen.”
“It’s only because (Jesus) endured unimaginable pain that wracked his body and bore the sins of the world that burdened his soul that we are able to proclaim ‘He is risen,” the president said.
But did Jesus experience the “doubt” and “fear” President Obama attributes to him? Christian blogger and Boyce College Biblical Studies professor Denny Burk says no.
"The anguish of the cross was real, and (Jesus) knew it," Burk wrote. "Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that Jesus’ vision never stalled-out on death. Jesus saw right through the cross to the resurrection on the other side. You and I may fear death, but Jesus never did. You and I may doubt God’s purposes in suffering, but Jesus never did."
After expressing his feelings about the Christian Easter holiday, President Obama told America’s Jewish community that he is looking forward to “a good bowl of matzo ball soup” during the traditional White House Seder celebration he will hold with his staff on Friday, the first night of Passover.
In a Passover greeting posted as a video on Thursday, the president noted that during the holiday “Jews will ask one of our life’s most difficult questions: Once we have passed from bondage to liberty, how do we make the most of all that God has given us?
“The search for answers has deepened the Jewish people’s commitment to repairing the world and inspired American Jews to help make our union more perfect,” President Obama said. “And the story of that first Exodus has also inspired those who are not Jewish with common hopes and a common sense of obligation.”
Speaking of his own Passover plans, the president said his staff-led Seder is “a very special tradition — and it’s one that I’m proud to be taking part in on (Friday) night.”
“Led by Jewish members of my staff,” he said, “we’ll retell the story of the Exodus, listen to our youngest guest ask the four questions and, of course, look forward to a good bowl of matzo ball soup.”