SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 2011
THE BEDROCK OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
Today as we celebrate Easter, let it be stated clearly that ‘if you remove the story of Easter from the Christian faith, you remove the heart, the soul, and the engine from her believes’. The story of the Easter therefore revolves around the cross.
But death on the cross was shameful and painful too. Klausner, the Jewish writer says: ‘crucifixion is the most terrible and cruel death which man has ever devised for taking vengeance on his fellowmen’. Cicero called it ‘the most cruel and the most horrible torture’. Tacitus called it ‘a torture only fit for slaves’.
How did crucifixion on the cross start? William Barclay says, it originated in Persia. From Persia crucifixion passed to Carthage in North Africa; and it was from Carthage that Rome learned it. Although, the Romans kept it exclusively for rebels, runaway slaves, and the lowest type of criminal. Gaius Rabirus says ‘the word cross should not be mentioned to the ears of a Roman’. Yet, the Romans used it as a form of punishment. Jews at this time were under Roman domination, no wonder Jesus had to be crucified. But was Jesus a common criminal?
Klausner goes on to describe crucifixion. The criminal was fastened to his cross, already a bleeding mass from the scourging. There he hung to die of hunger and thirst and exposures, unable even to defend himself from the torture of the gnats and flies which settled on his naked body and on his bleeding wounds. It is not a pretty picture but that is what Jesus Christ suffered – willingly for us.
To further ensure that Jesus was done away with, soldiers were stationed to guard his tomb.
Unfortunately, this Easter Morning, when some of the guard came to the Chief Priests and told them the story of the empty tomb, the Jewish authorities was desperately worried men. Was it possible that all their planning had come to nothing? So they formed a simple plan: they bribed the members of the guard to say that Jesus’ disciples had come while they slept (on duty) and had stolen his body.
Jewish authorities used treachery to lay hold on him. They used illegality to try him. They used slander to charge him to Pilate. And now they were using bribery to silence the truth about him. Magna est Veritas et Praevalebit, ran the Roman Proverb; great is the truth and it will prevail. It is the fact of history that not all men’s evil machinations can in the end stop the truth. The gospel of goodness is greater than the plots of wickedness.
So, every attempt to silence Jesus and the story of his resurrection failed. Christians all over the world today are in a joyous mood for the Saviour came back to life. In our Christian salutation today we say: ‘Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed’.
Looking at what transpired, St. Paul wrote: ‘And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’. It is possible the enemies of the gospel could have taunted us further. Thanks to God for such a glorious resurrection. And here marks the difference between Christianity and other world religions. Christ died and came back to life. But other religious leaders died and did not rise again. Remember, if you remove the story of Easter from the Christian faith, you remove the heart, the soul, and the engine from her believes.
It becomes pertinent therefore to draw the attention of believers to the fact that this Easter celebration this year should not be spent on rabble rousing, eating and drinking. But it calls for sober reflection, prayers for us and for our nation, Nigeria. God loves us; He brought back His Son from the pit of shame to glory. May our faith be strengthened for we have a better place when this earthly race is spent. We can sing unashamedly and boldly too with the Saviour of the world:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
O let the song of praise be sung:
VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre,