Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The innocent Son of God suffered a brutal crucifixion that was the climax of a short but remarkable life of commitment to love, truth, justice, humility, mercy, compassion, purity, peace and non-violence. In the course of passionately preaching and living out the truth as he knew it, condemning the injustices of the day and promoting a religion that emphasizes the spirit rather than the letter of the law, Jesus came in regular conflict with the status quo and those who benefited from it.
Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples. He was denied by his closest associate. He was handed over to the Roman authorities by the chief priests of his religion. And he was condemned to death by Pilate the Governor. Death by crucifixion was the greatest symbol of the rejection of Jesus and everything he stood for by the religious and political authorities of the day. And to highlight this point even more, the crucifixion took place outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem.
There is, however, a dramatic twist to the story of Jesus. Three days after the gruesome event of Calvary, the disciples reported that He had risen from the dead as He said He would, and some witnesses confessed that they had indeed seen Him alive. This unprecedented event and the devotion that followed it marked the beginning of Christianity as we know it.
The resurrection of Jesus is for believers a powerful testimony to the ultimate victory of good over evil, the eventual triumph of light over darkness, and the much hoped-for conquest of wickedness, aggression, violence and death by the forces of love, peace, nonviolence and life. The Easter season is, therefore, time to rekindle hope in suffering people everywhere, that evil will not continue to prevail; that truth cannot be silenced for ever; that all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, ultimate victory belongs to the good, the just and the bearer of truth.
The life and teaching, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ put together, are a lesson on the efficacy of humility, service, self-sacrifice and true love, by which one is prepared to die not only for one’s friends but also for the higher values of truth and justice. Indeed Easter teaches that there are values worth defending to the point of death; that human life can be readily and voluntarily sacrificed for the sake of love and in defense of truth and justice.
Nigerians can learn a whole lot from the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the glorious outcome of this sacrifice. Jesus taught His followers that those who seek to be first must make themselves last and servant of all. He stooped down to wash the feet of His disciples. Though He had the chance to be rich beyond measure, He chose to be in solidarity with the poor, the weak, the sick, the widow, the orphan and all the marginalized people. And finally, He accepted a humiliating death on the Cross in order that His people may enjoy abundant life.
These are powerful lessons, which Nigerian men and women of all creeds and ideological persuasions need to imbibe. The death and resurrection of Jesus challenges incumbent and aspiring leaders in Nigeria to abandon the path of selfishness and greed, and the inordinate ambition for power at whatever cost, which have been the bane of our socio-political history. With Jesus’ commitment to a life of love, humility, service and sacrifice eventually vindicated by the event of the Resurrection, and celebrated yearly at this time by believers through the course of history, Easter challenges Christians and non-Christians alike to embrace those higher values exemplified in Jesus that guarantee ultimate fulfillment for individuals and lasting peace for societies.
In the midst of widespread criminality and corruption that thrive side by side with a vibrant display of religiosity in our land, Easter challenges Nigerians to take a close look at our social morality that is clearly at variance with our robust religious enterprise. The contradiction is a major source of embarrassment to our nation, and thoughtful Nigerians must spare some moments during this season to reflect upon it.
The core of religion as taught by Jesus Christ whose resurrection we celebrate at this time, is not the outward display of empty ritualism where Nigerian worshippers seem to excel beyond all else. Beyond the popular crusades, prayer vigils, dry fast and miracle explosions, Jesus calls His disciples to the practice of authentic religion that is to be found in a passionate commitment to love, truth, justice, honesty, mercy, forgiveness and self-sacrifice. On this Easter Sunday The Guardian challenges all Nigerians to strive to cultivate those higher values for which Jesus died and rose from the dead. And on this note, we wish all our readers, particularly Christians who celebrate at this time, a very happy Easter.