- Holidays and Celebrations
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Significance of Easter:
The resurrection of Jesus is the central point of Christianity. It is a joyful celebration of the victory of Jesus over death. The joy of Easter gives so much strength and hope to all the earth. What is the significance of this profound celebration? What does resurrection mean to us Christians? What is the significance of Easter?
The Easter message transforms our lives. On Good Friday the church was bare and desolate. Our Lord’s body hanging on the Cross revealed to us His love for us all and His wish to redeem us from sin. The Way of the Cross and Lenten observance fasting, abstinence and mortification help prepare us for Easter glory. The vigil of anxious expectation will change into joy of the resurrection. Our sins are forgiven and broken humanity is restored.
In the Easter celebration, we see and experience for the moment at least, our true potentials as human beings in communion with God Himself. We are likely to fall from this state of grace if not careful. Sin will intrude again. Our faith will become dimmer. Our lives will once again accumulate dirt and darkness. We shall need forgiveness. But we know that, however, often we stray from it, the route to salvation has been opened permanently with the resurrection of Christ.
i. Easter celebration and challenges:
The joy of Easter began with sharing of the news by the devout women. The women went to the tomb and found it empty. An angel announced the message of the resurrection. The women ran to the disciples who did not believe them immediately. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found that their witness was true; the tomb was empty. There the gospel stopped. At that point there was mixture of hope and fear in the hearts of women and the disciples. Something had happened, but exactly what? They were in a state of confusion. But the Lord Himself appeared to them and dispelled their fear.
i. Easter celebration challenges us individually to resurrect from our old selves of prejudice, discrimination, resentment, despair, fears, gossip and all kinds of bitterness.
ii. Resurrection challenges us to see ourselves completely dead to the way that we have always been, and to see ourselves as a new creation.
iii. It challenges us to rise up from despair, doubt, and chaos to a new life of hope, peace, and joy, and also to see everyone in the Christian community as our brother and sister. We cannot continue to live in the past.It is only when we can let go of our old way of life that we can truly celebrate a beautiful Easter.
iv. The spirit of Easter challenges us to say with courage, “NO” to the people who are constantly dragging us down and to remove ourselves from the group of those who always look for what is wrong with us and everyone else. We are now a new creation.
v. The spirit of Easter challenges us to think in a different way from the way the world thinks. May our celebration at this period of Easter raise us up and renew our lives through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever.
ii. Jesus hanging on the Cross:
The Acts of Apostles pushes this point further by stating that the Israelites preferred to have a criminal released instead of Jesus, and that Jesus the prince of life, who was murdered, has been raised from the dead and in the words of Peter, to that fact, namely the fact of being raised from the dead, “we are witnesses.”(Acts 3:15) We should be witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and the Jesus reality, this central event of our faith- witnesses by action and word. A Christian must be one who makes Christ present in our world. We should engrave the values of Christ in the realities of our times. The teachings of Christ and the law of Christ is our message; we are to insist on it by our actions and words, in and out of season. We must let others know that we feel about good and evil, our preference for a good government and distaste for any government that does not care about the suffering masses even if it claims to be democratic.
iii. Resurrection of Jesus as the central point of Christianity:
As Christians we are to be witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. The Gospel of John tells us about an encounter in the Upper Room not long after the empty tomb experience; an encounter between the resurrected Christ and His apostles and loved ones. What they knew was that Jesus had brutally crucified and murdered, His body was even not found the following day. Those who braved it to visit the tomb found an empty tomb, no Jesus. So rightly seeing Jesus who they knew had died, they should be disturbed, not only disturbed but agitated; they were in a state of shock, thinking what they were seeing was a ghost. But remember this was despite the fact that Jesus had already wished them peace. Jesus’ encounter or visit was to certify and confirm their faith, in the resurrection.
The resurrection event is historical but not scientific; it is real but does not lend itself to prove; it is reasonable but not logical. The resurrection is the greatest event in our Christian faith just as it is the greatest mystery of our faith. So as to make his apostles and loved ones witnesses of the resurrection event, Jesus had only to prove that he was the Jesus who suffered, was crucified and died. Jesus had to bring them to His awareness. The simple reasoning of Jesus is that if these His apostles and loved ones can bridge the link and see that this same person they lived and worked with, that person they loved and shared his anxieties, is the same person, who after suffering crucifixion, died; that same Jesus is now present to them really after death, then it means He must have been raised from death. So Jesus showed them His identification- pieced marks; hands and feet. They could see the gruesome wounds from the rough nails. Jesus also invited them to touch His pieced sides. This should scare them the more. To conclude this ceremony of proving that He is the same Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, Jesus now took a piece of grilled fish that was available and eat before their eyes. Then what else do you want? Jesus quickly took them through the relevant passages of the scriptures about who He is and some of the prophecies about him and conclude “you are witnesses to this” (Luke 24:48).
iv. The duty of Christians of every age to bear effective witness to the resurrection event:
Yes, we are witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. We must witness to the resurrection by the way and manner we handle life itself. We should be optimistic and hopeful; we belong to the risen Lord, and we are to witness to His resurrection. This event we are to witness to is central and crucial to our faith. In fact, St Paul attests that “without the resurrection, our faith is nothing,” the resurrection is the content of our faith just as it is the cause of our faith; the resurrection is also the reason of our faith just as it is the goal of our faith. It is the duty of Christians of every age to bear effective witness to the resurrection event.
The Church exists to make Christ present; she exists to witness to the resurrection event; she exists to make real the resurrection. We Christians become faithful to this mission the more effective we become witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. Our Christian life should eloquently speak for our faith in the resurrection. With a sincere faith in the resurrection we become better prepared to live out our Christian life.
With a real commitment to witness to the resurrection event and to Christ, we become Christians alive to our calling; we become Christian who takes seriously our understanding of Christ as our only Redeemer and Saviour by understanding the Sacred Scriptures, the eternal Word of God; we become Christians who seek daily to know God better by keeping His commandments.
If individually and collectively we become faithful and effective witnesses of Christ to our small world in Nigeria. Certainly, the story of our nation will change for the better. Then, we may come to the realization that God can and will indeed assist us to build up a nation; then also we shall come to know that the peace Christ promises us demands our own fullest cooperation. We Christian in Nigeria should look beyond the Church and seek ways on how the Church would reach out to transform our nation concerns. It is here most probably our witness to Christ and his resurrection would have extra meaning. Our witnessing must lead us to speak
© 2017 ODEWOYE FRANCIS SUNDAY