By Albert Thyrniang
Christians all over the world are celebrating Easter on April 21. The word ‘Easter’ most likely was derived from ‘Ēostre’ or ‘Ēosturmōnab’, the old English month for April. It was an English monk named Bede who wrote that ‘Ēosturmōnab’ was the ‘Paschal month’ or Easter month.
‘Paschal’ comes from the Greek word ‘Pascha’, the Jewish festival known as ‘Passover’, the feast that commemorates the Jewish deliverance from the slavery in Egypt. In about 50 AD, St Paul interpreted the Resurrection of Jesus as ‘passing’ from death to life. Hence Easter is also known as Paschal Feast. In fact, in Khasi it is called ‘Paskha’. Simply put Easter is the Resurrection Sunday. It is a Christian feast that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death.
The Person at the Centre
The person at the centre is Jesus Christ. His story is found mainly in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the four central books of the New Testament. The Summary of his life and teachings extracted from these Gospels written between 70 and 100 CE is as follows:
Jesus was born miraculously, namely by the power of the Holy, in Bethlehem. His mother Mary, a young unmarried virgin was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth. There is no authentic account of his childhood but he lived in Nazareth till he was 30 years, the age of maturity according to the Jews. He then quite suddenly appeared in Galilee. Having been baptised by John the Baptist, he called the twelve Apostles who were mainly fishermen to be his followers.
For three years he preached the message of love, peace and forgiveness. He performed extraordinary miracles – making the dumb speak, the lame walk, the possessed liberated and the sick cured. He was a friend of the poor and the marginalised, the sinners and tax collectors, even of the adulterers and the prostitutes.
Many of his miracles he performed on Sabbath Day — a day one can’t do any work. Hence, he often came into conflict with the Jewish authorities. The conflict intensified when he claimed himself to be the Son of God. Accused of blasphemy, he was arrested and handed over to the Roman rulers in Palestine who put him to death by crucifixion on a Friday, roughly in 30 AD.
However, that was not the end. Having been verified by the Roman soldiers of his death on the cross, his body was taken down and buried hurriedly in a tomb outside the city of Jerusalem, near the site of his crucifixion called Golgotha by Joseph of Arimathea without his body being anointed. His tomb was covered by a big stone and the Roman soldiers kept vigil on it. Early Sunday Morning, with the intention of anointing his body, Mary Magdalene and other women went to the tomb. To their shock they found the tomb empty. Jesus then appeared to them at the burial site with the command that they should go to Jerusalem to convey the ‘Good News’ to the disciples.
Later their master appeared to his disciples in the city. The Gospels narrates that he appeared to the doubting Thomas and made him touch his wounded side, hands and feet. In owe Thomas uttered the now famous words, “My Lord and my God”. It is to be noted that prior to his death Jesus himself had prophesied that he would rise from the death after three days. After his resurrection, the apostles were afraid of the Jews became courageous and ventured out to boldly proclaimed to the very people who had put Jesus to death that he rose from the death.
The Feast of Easter
So Easter is a Christian feast that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The festival is a culmination of the season of Lent – a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and sacrifice, of which the final days are Holy Thursday (the celebration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his 12 Apostles), Good Friday (crucifixion) and Holy Saturday (burial).
Significance of Easter
Easter is the most significant, oldest and the biggest festival of Christians. It is the centre and foundation of Christian faith. Without Easter there is not Christianity. It is the celebration and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the person who ended the old age called Before Christ (BC) and ushered in the new age called Anno Domini (AD) AD, meaning “in the year of our Lord”. For Christians, this chief tenet means that their faith is on a living person who is God himself.
Evidences of the Resurrection
The resurrection of Jesus is astonishing. No one has ever come back to life from death. Naturally critics galore! For centuries sceptics have accused Christianity as being irrational, superstitious and absurd. Resurrection is the central issue. Theologians/historians think they have evidences of the Resurrection. Firstly, the ‘miracle of the miracle’ was witnessed by a large number of men and women who were alive at the time of the resurrection including to those who were hostile like Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of Christians who later became Paul the Apostle. Archaeological discoveries point to the reliability and accuracy of the New Testament’s account of the Resurrection. Secondly, the compelling evidence was the empty tomb. The large stone of about two tonne that covered the tomb was moved. The tomb was guarded by highly discipline Roman soldiers, thus ruling out any foul play, say defenders of the Resurrection. Thirdly, the most telling testimony is the transformation of the disciples after the Resurrection. The timid disciples were totally transformed into courageous and bold proclaimers of their faith that they were even willing to give up their lives for the risen Christ. What made them to go everywhere declaring the message of the risen Christ even at the cost of severe persecution and martyrdom?
The message of Easter
The Resurrection is very relevant today. Its message that stands out is transcendence. Through his resurrection Jesus transcended time, space and race.
At the present time when the narrative is not exactly one of unity, harmony and brotherhood the Resurrection can teach us to go beyond ourselves. When the discourse is to pitch one religion against another, one linguistic group against another, one caste against another, one race against another, one ideology against another, one region against another Jesus can inspire us to transcend physical barriers.
It simply means appreciating others who are different from us. It means a broad outlook not to limited by dissimilarities. It is an attitude that sees everyone as human beings and not from the prism of outward differences. It is the spirit of ‘Unity in Diversity’. Happy Easter to everyone!
(The author is a renowned columnist)