He is not here, he is risen

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He is not here, he is risen

In the Anglican liturgy which I presume is also present in the liturgy of other traditional Protestant churches is a phrase that spells the mystery of the Christian faith. Here is it: Great is the mystery of our faith;

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again

This is a powerful summary of the Christian faith, the hope of a Christian, the reason why I have chosen to be a Christian, because Christ who died in a public viewing rose again and was seen by many who touched him, ate with him for about forty days after his rising and he told the disciples that he will come again. I have all reasons to anticipate his coming again because his word is always true, he told of his death and it came to pass, he spoke of his resurrection, undoubtedly, he resurrected and so surely he will come again.

It was a moment of gloom when Jesus in whom his disciples and followers hoped a king who would deliver them from the Romans was himself condemned to death by crucifixion on the cross, a criminal’s death. Just a week before his death, he entered Jerusalem with jubilations and a very high hope in the people who spread their cloaks for him to ride on and joyfully they sung one of their old  Psalms which saw this day far hundreds years before: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” He, the Messiah (saviour) had come in the name of the Lord.

Unfortunately to their dismay, the Messiah handed himself over to be sentenced and they watched him being nailed and hanged on the tree.
The king who came in the name of the Lord became no more, he breathed his last on the cross when he said, Father, to you I commend my spirit. He was gone. Hope was lost. He even had nowhere to have his body laid to rest because he owned no piece of land, let alone a burial place. He was later laid in a tomb of one who offered it for him. This happened just as the Sabbath was to begin, they could not even do their burial rituals on him because that would make them ceremoniously unclean as the Sabbath approached. He was hurriedly laid in the tomb, only few of the women who followed him had hopes to come and do this ritual soon after the Sabbath was over. I cannot imagine enough how hopeless they really were in this day of silence. Desperately hopeless I believe.

Nevertheless, they treasured the moments he had with them and so some disciples, particularly the women sought to make his burial complete the following day, the first day of the week, just after the Sabbath. So, early in the morning of this day, the first day of the week; “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:2-4).

As the Marys wandered who would help them roll away the stone at the entrance of the tomb, it was already done, except they couldn’t find the corpse which they had come to show their last respect. The stone was rolled off, the tomb was open and empty, only the linen wrapped on him was left but his body wasn’t there. Where is his body, was it taken away by the gardener? No, they were looking for the living among the dead, Jesus wasn’t in the tomb, he had risen and so the tomb was empty. He later appeared to Mary who waited and kept weeping, later to the disciples in Galilee and to the five hundred. Luke records of him; “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3).

There is no more reason to question his resurrection, he is risen, he will come again, this time in glory. What is he coming to do? To judge the living and the dead and reign forever and ever. The resurrection of Christ is a central message of Easter and a message for which we can surely follow Christ and hope in him and one who can lift us from our hopelessness to a greater hope and joy. The disciples were hopeless but his resurrection flashed in a ray of hope, they rejoiced and later were able to carry on his mission even when it meant death. In Christ and in him alone, we can have life and life eternal.

He demonstrated that he is God, who holds the power of death in his hands, long before his death and resurrection; he had made many rise after their death. Lazarus who for four days was in his tomb, long forgotten that even when Christ was willing to raise him, his own sister told Jesus, it is now four days he has been in the tomb, he now smells, not wanting the tomb to be opened. But because Christ himself is the resurrection, he made him alive again. Paul has rightly seen this and writes of the victory we shall have over death through Christ: “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.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

We now have all the reasons to celebrate his resurrection, Easter is a celebration, the celebration of his resurrection and ours which comes soon. He is not risen today, not yesterday, not even a year ago; he is risen over two thousand years ago. As we continue celebrating his resurrection year after year till he returns, our celebrations should be able to energize us to keep our faith alive in him, ready to receive him when he comes back. Indeed, great is the mystery of our faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. What then can hold us from singing;

Because he lives, I can face tomorrow
Because he lives, all fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth, a living, just
Because he lives

Christ was and is not in the tomb because he is alive, he is risen from the dead. Alleluia. Focus on Christ and Christ alone. Happy Easter.

Julius Izza Tabi

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