By Egbe Attah
Christians all over the word are celebrating Easter Sunday to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an event which, according to Christian belief, occurred on the third day after his death, sometime between 27 and 33 AD.
The festival is observed in different ways by Christians and non-Christians alike. Among the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and some other denominations, the celebration begins with the Easter vigil. In this vigil, the service of light, readings, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist are observed. In some other churches, it is celebrated as Sunrise Service, Memorial, Last Supper and Passover. Whereas, some people who do not believe in Christianity organize other spiritual programmes to renew the faith of their members to mark the day.
Easter Sunday comes after a series of activities lasting for forty (40) days. The period is known as Lent. A time of prayer, fasting, and charity. It is the period of spiritual purification and self-denial by Christians to prepare themselves to die spiritually with Christ.
Within these 40 days, there is Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter. It is the day Jesus entered Jerusalem as saviour and king. As Jesus rode a donkey into the town of Jerusalem, a large crowd gathered and laid palm branches and their clothes across the road chanting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” This triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem set him apart as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
On the heels of Palm Sunday is the Holy Week. This is the week Jesus began his journey towards his crucifixion. On the fourth day of the week, known as Holy Thursday, Jesus had his last supper with his disciples and on Good Friday, he was crucified after he was betrayed by one of his own, Judas Iscariot.
Holy Saturday is the last day of the Holy Week. A day of keeping vigil, in anticipation of Christ’s resurrection.
It commemorates the day Christ’s body lay in the tomb and the Harrowing of Hell. Coming after the Holy Saturday is Easter Sunday. it was on Easter Sunday that one of the greatest miracles on earth happened.
According to the scriptures, it was on this day, on the third day of Christ’s death, that there erupted a violent earthquake that shook the place where Jesus’ body was kept. And that in the midst of the glorious tumult an angel from heaven came down and rolled away the stone from the tomb, prompting the lifeless body of Christ to sneeze to life, rose and then waltzed away from the scene.
At the early hours of the day, when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome and other women went to his tomb to anoint the body, they were shocked to see the tomb empty with the guards supposedly stationed to prevent him from rising trembling with fear. An angel sat upon the stone and announced to the women: ‘Christ has risen!’
Although, several attempts were made to discredit Christ’s resurrection theory including bribing the guards to lie that his body was stolen but the truth prevailed when Christ appeared in public to prove that he had indeed risen.
Jesus death and resurrection is significant in many ways:
Through his death, Christ destroyed humanity bondage to sin; through his resurrection, he brought the promise of new life, both in heaven and on earth.
Secondly, through his death, our sins were atoned and by his resurrection, man was reconciled with his creator having fallen from his grace.
His death and resurrection are expressions of God’s love for man.
Above all, by his resurrection, man conquered death and got eternal life.
Many false prophets and self-acclaimed Messiahs have come and gone. They were the Jesus of Oyinbo, Jesus of Ikot-Ekpene, Jesus of Siberia, Jesus of Kitwe, Jesus of Mata Yoshi and Moses Hlongwane among others. They all performed signs and wonders. They had their ministries and had followers. But unlike Jesus the Christ, non of them died on the Cross of Calvary to save mankind from damnation. Neither did any of them resurrect on the third day of their death. Like all mortals they died, were buried, got rotten and became food for worms. Only Jesus Christ, the son of the living God was crucified, died, buried and rose on the third day so that man may have eternal life.
Christ’s death is one death too unique.