Easter Message: ‘The Conquest of Death’

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A lot of events normally happen in April. On the very first day of the month, people around the world have become used to the jokes and pranks of April Fools’ Day. It was a constant event and sometimes people waited in anticipation for pranksters to come along with their jokes and caught them red handed when they dropped their bombshell. But at other times, many people would forget and fall for pranks like “your mum says you should come immediately” and you rush to meet your mum, only to be told that it’s an April Fools prank.

However, this year’s April Fool Day went by very insignificantly as if it never existed. Not many people were even willing or ready to crack such hard jokes any more. As the Igbo say, something bigger than the elephant entered into the entrance to the cricket’s home. The level of insecurity of lives and property across the country certainly attended to the general nonchalant attitude of people this year towards the usual friendly and family jokes that are normally cracked on April 1. 

On the second day of April, we celebrated Autism Awareness Day in a very low key way. On the 5th, we celebrated the National Maritime Day also on a very low key. On the 6th, we celebrated the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace.

As we celebrate Good Friday on 15th and Easter on 17th, we must remain steadfast in our faith in the love of God. For those of us who are Christians and even for those who are not, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ has a lot for us. And we must, as Christian business men and women, key into these, so that through them, we are properly guided in our business dealings and service provision.

Jesus had foreseen all that would happen to him in the near future. It was not easy. When he went to pray in Gethsemane with his most trusted disciples, he asked them to wait somewhere while he went further to pray. He fell on his face and requested from God that if it was possible “this cup”, the suffering and death of humiliation that awaited him, should be rescinded. His spirit was willing but the human flesh on him was scared. But then, he said it should not be as he desired but as God wanted. Thus, we learn about the importance of subjecting our will to the immortal will of God.

After he was falsely accused and crucified, terrible things happened to mark his violent death. First, there was an earthquake that rendered many homes useless. Then the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies in the temple tore into two at the middle, from head to tail. And when the soldiers guarding the temple saw all that happened, they said: “Truly this man was the son of God.”   

It was early in the morning on Sunday. 

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph together with Salome, Joanna and other women brought spices to the tomb to treat the body of Jesus. 

The two Marys were the women who watched as Jesus died on the cross and also witnessed where he was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. On their way to the tomb they wondered aloud who would unroll the tomb for them. On arrival, they discovered that a violent earthquake, the type that had taken place when Jesus died had occurred. It was the second earthquake in three days!

An angel appeared, rolled back the stone from the tomb’s entrance and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, his garment as white as snow. In Matthew’s gospel, we have an imaginative narrative of the actual event. The angel informed the women that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He showed them where the body had been laid, and they remembered it so well. The angel told them to go and inform the other disciples that Jesus had risen from death and would see them in Galilee. Consummated by fear and joy, the women ran off to break the good news to the disciples.

Mary found Peter and John and reported to them: “They have taken the Lord away from the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him.”

The two disciples ran off to the tomb. John, being the younger of the two ran faster and arrived first at the tomb. He stooped down to peer into the tomb. He saw the bandages with which Jesus was bound lying around in the tomb. But he did not have the courage to get into the tomb. Minutes later, Peter arrived and instantly jumped into the tomb. He too saw the bandages and the white linen used in wrapping Jesus rolled up in one corner of the tomb. John followed and jumped into the tomb. They were worried that Mary might be right after all. They went back home puzzled. And Mary went back to the tomb.

Overcome with grief, she wondered: where could they have laid Jesus? She began to weep gently. She looked into the tomb again and this time she saw two angels dressed in dazzling white robes. One was sitting at the head and the other at the foot of where Jesus had been laid. “Woman! Why are you crying?” one of them asked. Mary explained that some unknown people had taken away the corpse of Jesus and she did not know where they laid him. Just then, someone repeated the question: “Woman! Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Imagining that it was the caretaker of the garden housing the tomb, Mary pleaded with him: “Sir, if you carried him away, please tell me where you laid him so that I can go and take him away.”   

“Mary!” the voice called out. Immediately Mary recognized Jesus and exclaimed “Rabboni”, meaning “Teacher!” She made to hug Jesus but he restrained her: “Don’t cling to me yet until I have ascended to my father.” 

None of the writers of the synoptic gospels gives us a definite description of the actual resurrection of Jesus. Instead we are given a dramatic account of events surrounding it. The earthquake was violent. The angels are dressed in dazzling white. The tomb is empty. Jesus is nowhere to be seen. With time, more sensational versions of the account of the resurrection are added as people try to narrate a unique story that took the world by storm and changed its course and direction.

As the women hurry from the tomb, Jesus met and greeted them. It was an ordinary everyday type of greeting, nothing special to show his triumph over death. There was no show of arrogance, no show of pride. Yet they fell at his feet and worshipped him. Jesus told them to go and tell his “brothers” what they saw. 

The denials and desertions of his “brothers” that happened from the time of his arrest at Gethsemane until the moment he was crucified in Golgotha would have shaken any man. Their remembrance would have left a serious doubt in his mind whether the disciples could indeed carry on from where the master stopped. But they never affected Jesus’ confidence in his disciples. He still trusted them as he had always done from the beginning. All his suffering was a confirmation that nothing could now change that brotherly trust he had in them. 

It is important for us to note that Jesus opted for women to be his first witnesses. Ordinarily, women were not allowed to give evidence in Jewish courts of law. It is also necessary to note that Jesus first appeared in Galilee rather than in Jerusalem, the national capital. The resurrection, to a large extent, became a challenging assumption of people and places. Although Galilee was regarded as a cosmopolitan and very corrupt city, the fact remained indelible that the prophecy of Isaiah had to be fulfilled which said: 

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”

Jerusalem rejected and killed God’s messenger. Galilee sustained the message. The eleven remaining disciples met with Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. It was on this mountain that Jesus gave them his new commandments. We vividly capture the moment the disciples first saw Jesus after his resurrection. The truth slowly dawned on them that Jesus affirmed that he was lord of all things. He then commissioned the disciples to continue with his Mission. They were to disperse to all the nations of the world. They were no longer restricted to Israel as before. The gospel must get to the Gentiles. To signify that they had accepted Jesus as the Saviour, the disciples must baptize all believers in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

Many non-Christians often wonder why Christians have continued to ‘claim’ that Jesus conquered death. “How can a man who died and was buried be said to have conquered death”, they query. 

For the sake of clarity, let us say that “to live the hearts of those you love is not to die!” Jesus still lives in the hearts of billions of both the rich and mighty and the downtrodden, neglected, suppressed, hungry and sick people across the universe. It was for their sake he died. It was for their sake he lives. May this Easter period bring all of us at Imo State Business Link Magazine great joy and prosperity in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

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