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Good Friday – Easter Special:
THE DEAD MAN LIVES EVEN TODAY
 
Jesus truly died:

It is hard to imagine how Jesus died such a cruel death! He was condemned to the  cruel capital punishment of the Roman Empire. And he died. The Roman soldiers conducted his crucifixion testified to this; “But when they ( the soldiers) came to Jesus and  found that he was already dead,  they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of  blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony , and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also  may believe” (John 19/33-35).  The Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, who ordered the execution himself allowed him to be taken down from the cross and buried: “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. And with Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who had visited Jesus by night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. ….  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19/38-42)   The enemies of Jesus, the Jewish priests got permission from Pilate to safe-guard his body against stealth by his disciples: “The next day, the one after  Preparation Day, the Chief Priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember while he was still alive that deceiver said ‘After three days I will rise again’. So, give the order for the tomb to  be made secure until third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.

‘Take a guard’, Pilate answered, ‘Go, make the tomb secure as you know how.’  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard” (Mt. 27/62-66).  It means that it is true that Jesus died and was buried.n
But He rose again:

As the Jewish custom, three of his women-disciples led by Mary Magdalene went to anoint his body kept in the tomb, while his men disciples hid themselves in a room, away from the place where he was buried.  It was dangerous for them to move freely in the open lest they be caught and tortured, as they were his disciples. Thus, Mary Magdalene and her companions came to the tomb first, to became the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. They were told by an Angel at the tomb, “ Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Mt. 28/5-6)  As they returned to the place where the men-disciples were hiding,   Peter and John ran to the tomb to find an empty tomb with his wrapping clothes lying around.  After these events,  Jesus  appeared to his disciples in their room.  He again challengingly appeared to St. Thomas, his doubting disciple to confirm him in the fact of his resurrection.  Then, Jesus appears to disciples at various places and times. And at last he is taken up to heaven in their presence.

Saul, the persecutor of the early community of Jesus’ disciples, worked hard with a view of their extermination.  Jesus appeared to him with a blinding lightening, creating a diametrical change in Saul, the persecutor and making him Paul, the ardent disciple and greatest proponent of Christ’s resurrection and of Christian faith. It is surprising and interesting to read the Damascus experience of St. Paul, and his later discipleship as found in the Chapter Nine   of the Acts of the Apostle in the New Testament. 
The whole of Christian religion remains on this one historical fact that Jesus died, but rose from the dead on the third day. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in this way regarding the resurrection of Christ: Now,  brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel, I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
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 Peter, and then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers 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.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserved to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am. And his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach and that is what you believed.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (! Cor. 15/1-14)   Ten off Jesus’ first twelve disciples and Paul who preached the Lordship of the Risen Christ, gave their lives as martyrs of this truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the claim that he is the expected  Messiah  of the Jewish nation.

Christianity spread on these claims. Christianity even today flourishes on these claims. Christians are sure of Jesus’ promise – Fear not; “I will be with you till the end of the world”. 
Some people think that Christianity is facing a serious crisis!  Some others speak of “post-Christian era,  even some dare to declare, “God is dead”.  But those who think of a failed Christianity and a dead God would be disappointed and disappear.  For if there is  God he can neither die for ever nor can he fail.  On the contrary, He stands as the never-changing rock on which each   way-ward ship shall strike and sink.
 It was Jesus’ claim that he is the Son of God that compelled the Jewish priests to hand him over to Pilate, the Roman Governor of Palestine. Buy Jesus stuck himself to that claim repeatedly, knowing well as to what it would cost him. Pilate was compelled to crucify him; but the resurrection and the spread of Christianity ever since is the abiding proof of Jesus’  divinity and the reign of God.  So Christianity has no crisis, Christian-era will continue and God is not dead but living and ruling not only the human world but the whole universe. The Jesus who died, rose from the dead and  lives even today as the risen and ever-ling Christ  because he is the Son of God. May he save us, and lead all of us to eternal life, even those who are mislead into a belief that Christian Faith is fake and unfair.
The message of Good Friday and Easter for all us is this: repent, believe and return to God lest we perish. Read the Testimonies of Jesus’ death and Resurrection from the New Testament and look around and see the all-pervading influence of Christianity and  the ever-living Christ. (To know more, Click on “The Death and Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ”) 

– Fr. Varghese Nediakalayil  SVD
 
To know more about Jesus Christ
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