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Easter changes Everything

Q: Archbishop J, what’s so special about Easter?

Christmas may be the beginning of the mystery of Christ, but Easter is its climax. Without it, Jesus would be a good man, a prophet, or a spiritual teacher. It is Easter that changes everything once and for all.

Easter is God’s answer to broken humanity. It is the deepest expression of a love that is unsurpassed, the greatest affirmation of God’s commitment to save us. It causes a fundamental shift in everything we know and understand.


A Triduum

Easter is so important that it is a Triduum—three days of prayer and celebration. It begins on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) with the Washing of the Feet, the celebration of the first Eucharist during the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Olives and the betrayal of Jesus by a kiss.

So packed with spiritual significance is this Thursday that it has generated three separate solemn rituals—Chrism Mass, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Corpus Christi.

The Friday we know is the day of betrayal and the crucifixion of Christ. This second day brings us into the depth of despair and hopelessness. The Saviour is crucified and with Him all the hopes of Israel are dashed. A great earthquake shakes everything, and the veil of the temple is torn. The few who stay with His mother put the dead body into the tomb and seal it.

The events of Good Friday seem like a Greek tragedy—a play or work of art in which the death of the hero is the climatic ending. This was used to force the participants to probe the deep underlying questions about humanity and our role in the universe.

The tragic ending of Friday leaves no room for hope. Jesus is killed in the most brutal way. For one whole day there is a deafening silence. No response to the tragic loss that has befallen humanity. The small band of followers who are locked away in the Upper Room are traumatised, terrified that the faith of their master may well be their faith.

The drama is over, and all the actors are now slumped in grief. For them, it is the Jewish Sabbath so they must refrain from all work, from all activity and wait. You need to feel the depth of this grief, like the depth of sorrow and dejection that the prophets and psalmists expressed. But now the grief is worst: this was God’s Son, the Messiah, who was sent to save us.


The unexpected

Just when all hope was dashed and all faith extinguished, something happens which changes everything—something unexpected and unforeseen, with no precedent in human experience.

Some women went to the tomb very early on the first day of the week while it was still dark. They went to anoint the dead body. They found the tomb empty. Not understanding, they ran to the apostles and told them. Peter and the beloved ran to the tomb and found it empty. But they saw more, and they believed.

The Jesus story is not a tragedy, it is a very different literary genre—a gospel. Literally, Good News! Just when the most tragic act of violence against Jesus the Son of God was perpetrated, the most extraordinary thing happened. God answered, not in revenge or anger. God answered in extreme love for us and for His Son Jesus: He raised the dead body of Jesus to life.

Then He rolled away the stone and left an empty tomb. All the disciples saw at first was the empty tomb.


The encounters

There were many appearances of the risen Christ to the apostles. The most elaborate summary is given by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 3–8:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

St Paul ensures he includes that many of the people who encountered the risen Christ were still alive at the time of his writing. This is a bold claim to make, unless, of course, it is true.

Each encounter, narrated in the gospels, brings a different understanding of the risen Christ. But what is most important is the dramatic change it brings to the lives of those who encountered Him.

Ponder for a moment the significance of the Resurrection. Playwright Freddie Kissoon portrayed it very well in his play titled: ‘We Crucify Him’. Not the Romans, not the Jews of the first century but we, alive today, have participated in the crucifixion.

Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the literary genre of tragedy is undone in life. All that seems dismal and bleak and hopeless, even the war in Ukraine and the stuck state of Trinidad and Tobago, gives way to God’s action if we dare to wait and pray and yield to God.

If God raised the dead body of Jesus, then He will bring His life into everything that looks like death. Thus, St Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).


The sceptics

Frank Morison, a sceptic who, in 1930, set out to prove that the Resurrection was a ‘myth’ (untrue), did significant analysis of all the available texts and documents. The deeper he delved into the texts the more he was compelled to see things differently. Ultimately, he asked: Who moved the stone?

He came to faith and brought many to faith through his book.


Key Message:

Easter is the movement of three days, from the events of Maundy Thursday to the tragedy of the crucifixion, to the Resurrection.

Action Step:

If you have doubts about the Resurrection, read Morison’s work, Who moved the stone? It is available as an eBook and in hardcopy.

Scripture Reading:

1 Cor 15:3–8