Towards the Feast of Feasts - Fr.Dr. Bijesh Philip

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pascha-01Resurrection of the crucified Jesus Christ is the heart of Christian faith. Sunday became the most important day of worship from the time of  first century because of His  resurrection  on a Sunday. The orthodox Church gives due importance to this unique event in its life and practice. Easter is the greatest feast in the orthodox tradition and the whole great lent is a pilgrimage to  this feast of feasts. For fifty days from  Easter,   Orthodox Christians all over the world greet each other with the words ‘Christ is risen’ of which the response is ‘Indeed He is risen.’ They do not use crucifixion,  the cross with an image of the crucified Jesus on it, because  they would like even their cross to communicate the importance of the  Risen Christ. He is no more on the cross or in a cave but trampling down death by death he is living unto the ages of ages.

 

The  Lost Tomb of Jesus, the documentary film directed by James Cameron, which became a ‘sensational news’ during the great Lent of 2007,  draws  attention to a burial box found near Jerusalem in 1980 which the movie with its experts claim to be containing the bones  of Jesus and his family. Even if there is an inscription of Jesus’ name on an ancient burial box, why do the director and other experts deliberately hide the fact that Jesus was a common name in Palestine in  the first century. Unfortunately human creativity is misused for the business purpose or for some other hidden agendas or it is enslaved by the western rationalism repeatedly. Committed Christians have no difficulty to believe that the resurrection of  Jesus Christ was really a fact which has far reaching consequences. According to the teaching of Christ  we  are the blessed ones because we believe with out seeing  Him with our naked eyes. However our faith is based on those who saw him which  means the apostolic witness is the foundation of the faith of the church.

 

Even if faith does not need any  evidence, we can see a couple of supporting factors to prove that the apostolic preaching about the resurrection of Jesus Christ  as recorded in  gospels  is true:  1.) Number of the witnesses:  More than five hundred people saw the risen Christ.(I Corinthians15:3-7)  Since Hallucination  and dream are individual experience, the experience of risen Lord by a large number of people   can not be understood as a result of a dream or hallucination.  2.) Women as the first witnesses: Mary Magdalene and other women saw the risen Jesus Christ first time and they were entrusted by Him to pass on this message to the apostles.  If the Gospel account of the resurrection of Jesus was only a fabricated story by the apostles they would not have presented women as the first witnesses because in those days evidence of women had no value. 3.) Self criticism:  According to the gospel accounts the apostles did not believe the words of the women  about the resurrection of Christ and when Jesus met them he criticized  them for not believing. (Mathew 28:17;Mark16:14) St. Mark who was a close associate of St. Peter  writes as  he heard from the apostles especially from St. Peter: “He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive.”(Mk 16:14). Even in a true account normally selfish minds will not write this kind of self depreciating words. Then if it was a false account they would  never have used this  criticism which is humiliating. This self criticism point to  the fact that the apostles were confessing in humility what really had  happened. 4.) Empty  tomb: Even if Jesus could have come out with out moving the stone which covered the tomb, it was removed so that the world could see the empty tomb as an evidence of His resurrection. When the guards  reported it to the high priests they were bribed to tell the lie that Jesus’ body was stolen by the  disciples while the guards were sleeping.(Mt.28:12-15) Why the guards were not punished for failing  to be vigilant? Instead of that they received  money for spreading a lie. If it was done by the disciples why did not the Jewish religious  authorities who took initiative to kill him with the help of the Roman authorities try to recover the dead body by arresting the weak disciples of Jesus Christ and foil the Jesus movement fully.? There is no reasonable answer to these questions except the truth that Jesus was really risen from the dead which was not graspable  easily to human minds. 5.) Enthusiasm and fervor of the apostles: The frustrated and disappointed disciples of Jesus Christ who were able to take up the ministry entrusted to them with added vigor and increased enthusiasm   mainly  because of  the vision of the risen Lord. They started spreading the good news and the Jesus movement became powerful enough to challenge even the mighty Roman Empire and turn the world upside down.

 

 

If the resurrection of Jesus was a real fact, what does it mean for us  today?  It gives  liberation from fear: a).the fear of death.  b). the fear of cross and c)the  fear of loneliness.  Jesus’ resurrection shows that through death he was not entering into emptiness but to eternity and through that opened window we can have a glimpse of eternity which is the foundation of our hope. Resurrection of Christ is a God given certificate to the success of the way of cross which encourages to commit to the discipleship of Him. The  Lord Jesus is no more imprisoned in a tomb  but is with us till the end, strengthening us  to  finish our race successfully.

Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church,Diocese of South-West America, 3101 Hopkins Rd Beasley, TX 77417 Ph: 281.403.0670 · Fax: 281-459-0814

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