By Jonathan Rico
A Blessed Resurrection Sunday Everyone!
Resurrection Sunday or more popularly known as Easter Sunday is widely celebrated by Christians all over the world every year. But why do we call it Easter? The term “Easter” came from the name of a pagan goddess of fertility “Eostre” which feast happened to be celebrated in the same month of the Passover feast and Resurrection Sunday. So that by tradition, people refer to the Christian celebration as Easter. For me, it’s still okay to call it Easter as long as we are celebrating the real meaning of the event and not worshipping the pagan god. In the same way that we use the months (e.g. January, March) of the year which were named after the pagan gods Janus and Mars.
Why do we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection and why is this such a big deal to Christianity? Christianity is founded in the truth that Jesus lived, died and rose again on the third day. The whole Christianity crumbles if Jesus did not rise from the dead. As Paul said to the church in Corinth, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. ”1
After David killed Goliath, the Philistine army fled as fast as they can when they saw that their champion was dead. That is the same situation that the disciples felt after Jesus died. They went back to their old lives with lost hope. Three days after, they witnessed Jesus in the glorified body risen from the dead and their hope was restored. Since then, the disciples were ready to be tortured for the truth and for the gospel of Christ. Christ’s resurrection is our hope and assurance that God’s promises are true.
But how is Jesus’ resurrection different from the other resurrections?
Here are some of the biblical accounts of resurrections:
• Prophet Elijah raised a widow’s son to life in Zarephath.
• Prophet Elisha raised a widow’s son to life in Shunem.
• A man was raised to life by God when his body touched the bones of Elisha.
• Jesus raised a widow’s son to life in Nain.
• Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue ruler, to life.
• Jesus raised Lazarus in Bethany to life.
• Peter raised a disciple named Tabitha to life in Joppa.
• Paul raised Eutychus (the young man who fell asleep and fell from the 3rd floor) to life.
• Several bodies of holy people who died were raised to life by God after Jesus’ crucifixion.
Notice that all were resurrected by someone else’s power. On the other hand, Jesus defeated death itself. ”it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him”.2 Also, Christ’s resurrection is the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem mankind so that anyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. When Lazarus died, Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”3
Historical writings, eyewitnesses, and the empty tomb confirm the historical resurrection of Jesus. Several believers and non-believers wrote about Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Tacitus, a Roman governor-historian and a non-believer, wrote about Jesus’ death under Pontius Pilate. Josephus, a Jewish military leader-historian, wrote about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Also, Jesus showed himself to several eyewitnesses with his glorified body. Lastly, Christ’s dead body is nowhere to be found. From these evidences, it is highly unlikely that the entire Roman empire and Jewish synagogue were fooled by a group of fishermen.
The prophecies and foreshadowing of Christ’s resurrection can also be found in the Old Testament. In Genesis, God prophesied that the serpent will strike the heel of the coming offspring of the woman, but he will crush the serpent’s head. This passage is best understood in the context of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The coming offspring refers to Jesus Christ who will be born as a human, and will experience death but will eventually rise again. The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 the most detailed prophecies on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus prophesied his resurrection and referred to the sign of Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”4 Jesus’ life, death and resurrection fulfilled most of the prophecies and promises of God. We are therefore assured to witness the few remaining promises of God get fulfilled in the future.
Here in the Philippines, we have superstitions about Good Friday and Black Saturday. Some believe that Jesus is dead between 3 PM of Good Friday and before the resurrection Sunday so that the Devil is at its strongest. Some also believe that your wound will not heal during this time because God is dead. But these are not biblical because Jesus did not remain dead. He is alive and He remains fully God and fully Man with a glorified body. He gave the assurance that people who will believe in Him will also be resurrected and will have glorified bodies. He is now seated at the right hand of God mediating for His people.
I am aware that some of us may have lost a loved one during this season of COVID19 pandemic. It may seem that this disease triumphed on destroying our families, our dreams, and our celebrations. But I think it is timely that we are experiencing such turmoil during this Holy Week so that we can be reminded about the real power of Christ’s resurrection. He demonstrated that death is not the end. Therefore, do not fear. For death has been defeated. God’s not Dead. He is alive!