An Easter Sunday Reflection
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Did you know the first Easter was not a bold celebration as it is today, just like the first Christmas? Recall that the disciples deserted Jesus and fled when he was arrested (John 14:50). The apostle John however, recorded that he was with the mother of Jesus and other women at the foot of the cross on Good Friday before Jesus died (John 19:25-27).
On the resurrection day, only Mary Magdalene and a few other women dared to visit the tomb very early in the morning while the other disciples hid away for fear of the Jews (John 20:19).
In short, we can say that the joy of Easter we know today was not found on the first Easter; instead, there was confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty, but these did not destroy the power and effect of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in alignment with his salvific mission.
The Enigma of The Empty Tomb
The four Gospels Evangelists recorded the resurrection of Jesus Christ though some gave more details than others. However, they all agreed that there was an empty tomb.
The reality of the empty tomb points to the fact that Jesus was no longer where they had laid him after he expired on the cross. Furthermore, the funeral clothes in the tomb at significant positions demonstrate that he was not moved away as a dead body.
Recall that when Jesus raised Lazarus, he said to the people, “Untie him and let him go” What they untied from Lazarus’ body was the funeral clothes, exactly what Jesus left behind after rising from the dead.
Without the empty tomb, the resurrection would have been a hoax. Notice that the chief priest and the Pharisees were more attentive to the words of Jesus Christ about his resurrection after three days than the disciples. So, they made Pilate secure the tomb with soldiers (Matt. 27:62-66).
Nobody could contend with the power of the resurrection. When it was time for our Lord Jesus Christ to rise from the dead, there was an earthquake, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled away the stone from the tomb, and Jesus rose in power and majesty. The soldiers were petrified and were as good as dead.
The Powerful Benefits of the Empty Tomb
It should be clear to everyone that the chief priest, the Pharisees, and other religious bigots of the time who were challenging Jesus were used by the devil who started from nativity to fight the person and mission of Jesus Christ.
Victory Over Sin and Death: There is more to the fact that the tomb is empty. It means that Jesus won the victory over sin and death. St. Paul puts it this way (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
No More Barriers: One of the important things that happened after the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden was that they were banished. God sent Cherubim with a flaming sword to set a barrier between divinity and humanity (Gen. 3:23-24). On the resurrection day, an angel from heaven rolled away the stone, representing the barrier that separated us from God.
Return of Everlasting Life: The Gospel of John (3:16) tells us why God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: “to give eternal life to those who believe in him.” Recall that Adam and Even were restricted from the Tree of Life after the fall. But with the event of the empty tomb, the divine facility of everlasting life is made available to everyone.
Salvation is Now Available: Salvation is defined as the divine liberation of the human soul from sin and its consequence of eternal separation from God.
This means that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ at the instance of the empty tomb revitalized our long-strained relationship with God. So now everyone who believes and behaves will be saved.
Moving Forward: Personalizing the Benefits of the Resurrection
The benefits of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ from the Last Supper, which culminated on the day of resurrection, are open to everyone, even the unborn. However, each person is expected to access them through personal commitment. St. Paul reminds us that: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
In alignment with the resurrected Lord, we have become a resurrected people as we cannot afford to remain in the tomb when our Lord has risen. Accordingly, we are invited to seek what is above, not the base things beneath (Col. 3:1-4). It is time to disconnect from the tomb lifestyle because it is empty.
Someone jokingly said that Jesus appeared first to women when he rose from the dead so that the news of his rising would move faster. Beyond that, however, we are all invited to spread the good news of the resurrection.
Recall what Jesus told Mary Magdalene and the others “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me”. (Matt. 28:10). Jesus is giving us the same instruction today not to be afraid and to spread the joy of his resurrection; in doing so, we shall see him.
God bless you, and have an intensely rewarding Easter celebration.