Reflection for Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord. Year B. 2018
– By Fr Ugo Ikwuka
The former British Prime Minister David Cameron was once asked the meaning of Easter and he said: “Easter is compassion, forgiveness, hard work, and responsibility!” Wow! That’s a politician for you.
That could pass for answer to any question on Christianity. One-size-fits-all! But that also reflects how today’s Christians lack the full clarity of the core of their faith and the general tendency to water down Christianity, in this day and age.
In a recent survey, only 31% of Christians in the UK believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead.
Properly understood however, Easter is an earthquake, an explosion. It is the claim that Jesus of Nazareth, a first century Jew, who spoke and acted in the person of God, and was brutally murdered at the prime of his life, was alive again through the power of Holy Spirit. Hard to believe but magnificent in its uniqueness!
Jesus had to die in the most gruesome way because as a force for good (as God coming in human form), he had to be resisted by a sinful world.
The opposition came almost with the announcement of his birth as the King Herod massacred all newly born males hoping to eliminate him. Things escalated as soon as he started his public ministry and came to climax with his passion – his suffering and death on Good Friday.
Reading through the account of his passion, it is as though Jesus was met with the worst of human behaviour; the explicit betrayal of his friends, the injustice of the Jewish Authorities, the cowardice of Pontius Pilate, the people’s preference for a notorious criminal, the incredible brutality of the soldiers. Worst of all, we see those who mock him even as he hangs dying on the cross.
Indeed, he experienced the worst of human dysfunction. It is as though his own goodness draws out the worst in people.
And he is overwhelmed by it all. He dies, crushed by the evil of the world. This is precisely why it grew dark in the middle of the day as Jesus was dying.
Light seemingly gave way to darkness, love to hatred, life to death. In the words of Jesus himself, it was the reign of darkness!
Then, comes the resurrection!
We see Jesus emerge, saying ‘shalom’ (peace) to those who abandoned him, saying peace to those who had betrayed him; demonstrating that God’s love and forgiveness can swallow up all the sins of the world.
And that’s why St. Paul could exclaim with certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God; neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor height nor depth, nor any other power can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8).
Paul knows this because we crucified God with all that can go bad in the world and God still loves us. That’s Christianity!
That’s why the cross of Jesus saves us. That’s why we held up the cross on Good Friday and exclaimed: “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.”
The cross is therefore the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.
Sometimes it may seem as though God is silent in the face of evil but He has spoken, and his answer is the Cross of Christ which stands for love, mercy, forgiveness.
This too should be the answer of the Christian in the face of the evil that continues to work in us and around us. Christians must respond to evil with good.
One practical implication of the physical resurrection of Jesus is that it assures the victory of all people of goodwill, who, following in the footsteps of Jesus, must face resistance.
It assures that if justice, goodness, truth and life itself are suppressed, tortured, even killed and buried as is often the case, they will ultimately rise in triumph while the oppressor is put to shame.
The second implication of the physical resurrection of Jesus is therefore that it places under judgment all forces of darkness; those who suppress the truth.
In the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed his Jewish audience thus: ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he decided to release him. You denied the holy and righteous one and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life came and you put him to death.’
While Peter is glorifying the risen Jesus here, he is, by implication also placing under judgment those who contributed to his death; Pilate, the Jewish authorities, the apostles themselves, his friends who abandoned him at the moment of truth.
This is one reason why authentic Christianity that preaches undiluted physical resurrection of Jesus has always been a threat to tyrants; to oppressive systems and individuals.
Most of the great social revolutionaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were people who hold and are inspired by this powerful undiluted message of the physical resurrection of Jesus which shows that God’s judgment has fallen on all the powers of cruelty and hatred.
We therefore pray that this unique event will always re-assure those who face the daily challenge of oppression to persevere. And may it also enlighten the forces of oppression on the futility of evil.