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The Sunday TimesPlus

30th March 1997



Today Christians celebrate Easter Sunday

The Lord has risen - Alleluia

By Leonard R. Mahaarachchi.

Today is Easter Sunday. If there was any reason for Christianity to begin here on earth, it was this miracle of Christ’s resurrection and none other. For as St. Paul says, ‘If Jesus did not rise, our faith is in vain."

This is how the Holy Bible records the incident. ‘On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. She saw the stone taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord away from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."

Mary of Magdala, Lazarus’ sister, knowing prophetically that she would not be able to anoint Jesus after His death, did anoint Him, at the last supper. No wonder Jesus, described the incident as something, that she has done for His burial. But there was also a custom in Palestine of Jesus’ day, that people visited the grave of a relative for three days. They could not visit Jesus’ grave on the previous day, because it was the Sabbath, and no journeys could be undertaken, in defiance of the law. Their problem was to roll the stone away, the massive stone that St. Mathew says was sealed. (27/66) At first Magdalene thought that the Jews had taken the body of Jesus away, not satisfied with having killed him. What surprised them as they went in to the tomb was that the clothes inside were neatly in their place. Then they remembered what Jesus told them, when still alive, that He would rise on the third day.

Magdalene though she had sinned much, also loved Jesus much, and that explains why He was seen by her first, before the other disciples. Mary only recognized Him, when He called her by her name. We know the rest of the story, how Jesus appeared to His men, while Thomas alone was absent, and how Jesus reappeared when Thomas was in the company of the other ten, save Judas. The rising of Jesus was foretold many times in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.

Among the facts that confirm Jesus’ rising, is the fact that He died and was buried, as stressed in the ‘Nicene Creed’ - Jesus would not have risen again, had He not been buried. He would not have been buried unless He was dead. The reminder of Jesus’ humanity is an accountable factor in the Resurrection episode. .

To those willing to deny the Resurrection of Christ, the Holy Bible has the answer. St. Mathew Ch. 28 ,verses 9 & 10 says, ‘and as they went to tell his disciples behold, Jesus met them saying ‘All hail’, And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him. Then said Jesus to them, ‘Be not afraid, go and tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.’ - In fact in his concluding verses Mathew had this to say. ‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and earth, go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son & the Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you and, lo, I will be with you always even to the end of the world.’ (‘Vs. 18-20). St. John at ch. 20/26-29, 21/1-14, describes the story in detail, that none can dare oppose the incident. Even St. Paul who joined the Jesus company after his Resurrection, testifies that, Jesus was seen by about five hundred at one time, again by James and others, and last by Paul himself. (ICor. 15/6-7).

Unfortunately in the Christian liturgy, the Resurrection theme is not stressed to the extent of Jesus’ death. The 40 day period called ‘Lent’ is associated with the Passion, and death of Jesus to that extent, but its culmination which is Easter is toned down, and the post-Resurrection liturgy is less dominant, and ends in a mere week, which the church, has not even called ‘The Resurrection week’ vis-a-vis Passion Week and a Holy Week on top of it. Famous Jesuit priest Gerald O’Collins, in his book ‘The Resurrection of J.C.’’ laments that, though we have Passionists, Stigmatists or even the Society of Precious Blood we do not hear of any Fathers of the Resurrection, or Sisters of the Empty Tomb, or even an Institute of Easter, to boost the significance of the Rising of Jesus. (pg 119).

The Resurrection of Jesus has made Christianity unique. If not for His Rising, our dear Religion would have been a worldly’ religion like other beliefs. Paul was not a disciple of Jesus, in fact even after Jesus’ death, Paul used to persecute the church of God. It was after meeting the Resurrected Lord Jesus, that he became changed, to the extent that he could outdo the other known disciples of Jesus. It is the Resurrection that made Jesus the Lord of Heaven and Earth, that every knee should bow, and every tongue should praise.

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