Fr Paul Lelen Haokip
Around the world, the Christians (2.3 billion) commemorate the feast of Easter (resurrection of Jesus) during the spring season which usually coincides with the Indian Holi festival of colours and newness of life. Traditional Churches observe the Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday and carries on through Maundy Thursday (washing of the feet, institution of the Eucharist, renewal of priestly vows), Good Friday, Holy Saturday and culminates on Easter Sunday. In all ways, Easter is strange and unique.
Strange things of Easter and the Bible
(1) Easter is possible because of Good Friday. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgave even his enemies (including all those who act against God, humanity, environment). (2) Resurrection was an impossible thing till then, but Jesus made it possible. (3) Many religions around the globe keep the memory of their religious leaders either on their birthdays or death anniversaries but no religion except Christianity keeps a memory of the resurrection day of their leader. (4) Many of the teachings in the Bible are communicated through allegories, metaphors, stories, allusions, etc. This book cannot be read like reading any ordinary literature or storybook. This is a difficult book because it contains God’s words which humans find difficult to comprehend. (5) The Bible is the first book to be printed and the highest sold-out book on earth. (6) Perhaps the Bible may be the most popular book read in prisons and drug rehabilitation centres. (7) Just memorising some verses of the Bible does not mean ‘knowing the Bible’. Even the devil quotes the Bible. To know the Bible, one needs reflection and some Biblical foundation to understand the true message therein.
I am God
Did Jesus say, “I am God ?” Some non-Christian preachers say, “Show me at least one unequivocal statement in the whole of Bible where Jesus claims that he is God.” This kind of challenge is an occasion for Christians for a deeper analysis of their faith. Let us begin this way. When the Prime Minister or President of a country visits places or countries, he/she does not usually claim to be the Prime Minister or President. Someone else introduces him/her and the audience know who the Prime Minister or President is. Believing in Jesus is not because of a statement or a verse. Rather, the whole Bible has to be accepted as the inspired word of God (with ugly incidents and encouraging occurrences that make up human history). Christianity believes in a trinitarian God, one God in three persons (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). All the persons are equal and connected with the others. To show how Jesus was connected with the triune God, let us take an example of an incident after the resurrection. Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21). A pre-resurrection verse reads, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe in the evidence of the works themselves” (John 14:11). Further, he predicts the future for his followers saying, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Jesus is what he is because of the Trinitarian Gods. Jesus always pays respect to the Father and the Holy Spirit. His submission in the garden of Gethsemane was a consultation with the trinitarian persons. His submission to the trinitarian plan brought about Good Friday (the crucifixion of Jesus) that enabled Easter (Resurrection of Jesus). Jesus was truly God because he was and is always with the trinity. Human beings cannot exhaustively comprehend this reality. Trying to capture God’s mysterious ways of revelation in our limited knowledge bank equals trying to empty the mighty ocean in a glass. Just like the trinitarian God, Christian spirituality is based on communitarian principles. So, it would be right to say “we exist because we are”. On the truer side of life, we can witness many Christians living in a community but thinking and worried only about themselves.
The message of Easter: (1) Jesus kept his promise when he said, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise" (Mark 9:13). (2) God is generous and he/she gives us beyond what we deserve. He/she is ready to give up life for the good of others. This is a true sacrifice, a sacrifice of expecting nothing in return (nishkama karma). (3) ‘Peace, go and tell my brothers that I have risen, tell the good news to the whole world’. Jesus’ focus was on the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of people. Easter is for all, not just for Christians. Peace is for all, and Jesus is the Prince of peace and giver of peace. (4) God is God not because of our definitions, descriptions, assumptions, projections. He is beyond ‘death’. Unfortunately, some half-baked Church leaders project God as if he/she is a PT Master, Army Officer, Revenge taker, etc. These and many projections of God people have accumulated are all infected by limited human thinking. God cannot be caged inside the boundaries of human thinking. God is all-embracing, it is strange that humans are constantly trying to confine him/her within some parameters.
The author is a PhD Research Scholar, Department of Sociology & Social Work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, India. Email: [email protected]