Sunday, April 4, 2021 11:00 am
By Dons Eze
Easter celebration: The heroic friends of Jesus
Easter, Pascha, Passover, they all mean the same thing. In Christendom, they all symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Easter is the day Christians celebrate the triumph or victory of Jesus Christ over death. It marks the opening of the Kingdom of Heaven to mankind, that is, to those who are God’s friends.
Easter mirrors the Old Testament event when God used His mighty arm to bring the people of Israel out of captivity in Egypt through the blood of lambs sprinkled on door posts of the Israelites so that the angel of death would pass over them, and kill the first born sons of Egypt.
In the New Testament, it is no longer the blood of animals that are sprinkled on door posts, but the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday for the salvation or redemption of man. Through Christ’s death on the Cross on Good Friday, He redeemed man from eternal damnation.
Easter follows Good Friday, so that without Good Friday, there will be no Easter Sunday; without Cross there will be no Crown; without suffering there will be no joy; and after rains come sunshine. You cannot make an omelette without breaking the egg. That seems absurd, but it is the reality of life.
As we celebrate Easter, we no longer think about those who played ignominious roles in the life of Jesus Christ – those who betrayed Him, like Judas Iscariot, those who deserted Him, like His Apostles, those who denied Him, like Simon Peter, those who were indifferent or were shy to identify with Him in His hour of need, like the hundreds He healed of their various infirmities, or the thousands He fed with five loaves of bread, those who were afraid to stand for the truth, like Pontus Pilate, etc.
We now think about the heroes or the heroines of the gospel, the heroic friends of Jesus Christ, those who stood with Him at all times and in all circumstances, in particular, those who accompanied Him on the thorny road to Calvary, where He paid the Supreme sacrifice.
We think about Jesus’ Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. At every crucial moment in His salvific mission, Mary was there. She is the epitome, or the example of those who do God’s will. “Who are my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters?”, Jesus asked the people when he was told that His mother and brothers were outside waiting to see him.
He then stretched his hands and told them that “my mother and brothers and sisters” were those who do God’s will. Mary did God’s will when she told the Angel “yes”, that she would be the mother of Jesus.
How about us, do we do God’s will? Do we accept Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith, and stand by him in thick and in thorns?
Mary was there when Herod sought to kill Infant Jesus. She and her husband, Joseph, carried him and fled to Egypt. When Jesus was “lost” after his parents went with him to the Temple to celebrate the feast of the Passover, Mary and Joseph, frantically searched him for three days. How far have we searched for Jesus, and if we find him, do we appreciate him, by doing what he asks us to do?
Mary was there at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and through her prompting, Jesus performed His first miracle. She was there to rend support and identify with Him at the highpoint of His ministry, when large crowds gathered to listen to Him and they told Him that His mother was outside waiting to see Him.
Mary was there, very sorrowful, on the road to Calvary, accompanied by some sympathetic women (since men were nowhere to be found), when it seemed that the world was closing against Him, and that everybody had abandoned Him. For three hours, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, watching and sharing in the agonizing pains of her Divine Son, until He breathed His last. Do we stand with Jesus when things become difficult for us?
We think about Evangelist John, the last man standing. When all the other Apostles had deserted Jesus, John stood with his Master. He even tried to help the Chief Apprentice to come along, but the man disappointed and for three times, denied ever knowing Jesus. John stood till the end, and saw Jesus die on the Cross. Jesus gave John the important task of taking of his mother, which he obediently accepted and took her to his home. Where were the so-called brothers of Jesus?
We think about Simeon the Cyrene, a farmer returning from work, who was conscripted to help Jesus carry His Cross. At some stages in our life, circumstances may impinge on us to carry a cross, then, like Simeon, we should bear it with fortitude.
We think about the Women of Jerusalem. They were not afraid to identify with Jesus. They sympathised and wept for Him, but Jesus told them not to weep for Him, but to weep for themselves and their children.
We think about the repentant thief who was crucified along with Jesus, the one on His right hand. He was the first to enter Heaven. We should emulate him by atoning for our sins each time we sinned, unlike the other thief on his left, who was arrogant and unrepentant.
We think about the centurion who saw the veil of the Temple torn into two and darkness descended on earth when Jesus died, and he confessed: “This Man is truly the Son of God”. Let us also acknowledge Jesus, confess, and thank him for everything he has been doing in our life.
We think about Joseph of Arimathea who went to Pilate and negotiated that the body of Jesus Christ be released to him for burial. Perhaps, Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, might have died, and Jesus’ so-called brothers were nowhere to be found. We thus see outsiders play major roles in and around Jesus at this critical point in time. Are we ashamed to identify with Jesus in our trials and tribulations?
We think about Nicodemus, the man who visited Jesus at night. He brought a jar of myrrh for anointment of the body of Jesus, and also joined Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus in a tomb where nobody was laid before. Nicodemus might have been a lone voice in the council of the Jews, and he kept tenaciously to his belief. We should equally stand up against injustice, and be steadfast in our fellowship with Jesus.
We think about Mary Magdalene, Salome, and the other Mary. They followed Jesus till the end and took note where He was buried. They were the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection.
These characters were the heroic friends of Jesus Christ. They were not afraid to identify with Jesus. They were not fair weather friends. They were steadfast in their fellowship with Jesus. They stood till the end, under rainfall or sunshine, in joy and in tribulation.
How about us? Where do we stand? Among all these characters, where can we locate ourselves? Are we true followers of Christ, or nominal Christians, miracle seeking Christians, looking for joy without suffering, crown without cross, celebrants of Easter without Good Friday? Let us use our thong to count our teeth.
Happy Easter Celebration.
Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI