Today, the Christian community all over the world over celebrates Easter. Easter marks the commemoration of the suffering, crucifixion, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The scripture in Romans 8:34 says, ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.’
That scripture encapsulates the whole essence of the coming of Jesus Christ and his agony on the cross of Calvary to bring salvation to mankind, and break man completely free from the strong grips of sin and its consequences.
Easter is the culmination of man’s salvation history. Prior to Easter, Christians observe 40 days of Lent which entail prayer, fasting, abstinence and repentance to purge the inner man of sin and bring him closer to his creator.
On the third day after Jesus died and was buried, he rose from the dead. According to the Gospel of John, early in the morning of the third day, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus was buried and found it empty. There, she found an angel who told her that Jesus had risen.
Following his resurrection, Jesus met his disciples in an upper room. He showed them the wounds in his hands and his side and blessed them with the peace of God. With his death and resurrection, the plan of salvation was completed.
As Nigerian Christians join the rest of the Christian world to celebrate this year’s Easter, ‘The Worshippers’ went to town to get the opinion of a cross section of Lagos pastors on the significance of Easter and how they would want Christians to celebrate it. Excerpts:
Reverend Femi Popoola, pastor, Divine Mercy Baptist Church, Ikosi, Ketu, Lagos
First of all, it must be stated that Easter is not a biblical ordinance. It was introduced into Christianity in later years. There is no biblical reference to the festival. However, it has become part of the Church for many centuries and it has come to stay.
Having said this, Easter is connected to the events of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ some 2000 years ago. This is the core of the Christian faith; that is, Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate, died to atone for the sins of mankind and was raised by God’s Spirit from the dead on the third day.
This was a historic event with biblical proofs upon which the Christian faith rests. In essence, Easter can be said to be a spiritual occasion to commemorate the reality of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
How to celebrate
For true Christians, Easter should be an occasion to reexamine one’s conviction about one’s salvation in Christ. It should be an occasion for serious spiritual retreat to learn more about the truths of the Bible. It should be an occasion to witness to others who are yet to come to salvation in Christ. And serious Christians should avoid taking the occasion as time for leisure and picnic.
Venerable Ariire Ayo Kolawole, vicar, Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Egbe, Lagos
In any general festival like this, people form their opinions. As it is at the moment, it is not all Nigerian churches that participate in Lent. Some will tell you that it is not mandatory – Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t follow; I know of Seventh Day Adventist, and some of the new generation churches referred to as Pentecostal churches don’t do it. In that area, some have found a way of doing it. Some denominations like Mountain of Fire and Miracles declared 50 days of fasting; Redeemed declared 70 days of fasting, and others like that. But apart from these, for the mainland churches like Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, African churches, Cherubim and Seraphim, Christ Apostolic Church and others that actually do Lent, it really entails a lot of sacrifice.
Significance of Easter
Easter is a commemoration of the death and the resurrection of Christ. The death is quite significant because it is the highest in Christendom. Apostle Paul said, if Christ did not resurrect, our faith would have been in vain. The birth of Christ came to show us the way and put us right; he died and rose, and that is why Christianity is different from any other religion and, of course, takes priority over any other religion. In other religions, their leaders don’t have these grace and opportunities that we have and it is through this resurrection that we all have our redemption. The resurrection is giving us that assurance that after death here on earth we have hope of his second coming and in the life to come. We all believe even in other fields of studies, both in the religious and secular world, that there is life after life; that every human being has a short time to spend here on earth and after that we will all die and go.
So, it is only Christianity that gives us that hope through Christ. In Islam, there was no place where Prophet Mohammed ever promised that hope. It was only Christ, and he did not only promise it; he demonstrated it by dying and resurrecting, and he is also telling us that even after we must have died here on earth, we still have a place with him in heaven.
Reverend Charles Shedrack, pastor, Church of God Mission International (CGMI), Maza-Maza, Agboju Zone, Lagos
This week is a very significant week in Christendom; one week that drives the very essence of Christianity. The reason why we have Christianity is because there was a week like this that Jesus shed his blood, died and rose again, and because we believe in him we are saved, and that is what gives us salvation. Our salvation is premised on the fact that he shed his blood and died, and his blood is for the remission of our sins; that is the essence of this week. Without this week there would have been no salvation, without salvation there would have been no Christianity.
How to celebrate Easter
The most important thing is that Christianity doesn’t come with so many rules of do’s and don’ts but rather it shows us the way of life and that way of life is the way of Christ. This is a week when Christians should reflect on the lives they live – does the life you live glorify Christ who died for you, for which and in whose name you are called Christian? In a week like this, as Christians, in spite of all our celebration, we should reflect on our lives and see how we can trust him more, to be more like him.
Reverend Dr. John Olakunle Ojo, minister of education, Good News Baptist Church, Surulere, and overseer of the children and youth ministry
Easter reminds us of the arrest, humiliation, suffering, pain, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why did he have to suffer and die for us? Because we have all sinned. The righteousness and justice of God demand that sin must be punished. So, he came and willingly offered himself to die on the cross for our sin. He took our rightful place on the cross. He paid the penalty for our sin, thereby fulfilling the demand of God’s righteousness and justice. We must not forget that he offered himself not because he must do it or was compelled to do it, but willingly and voluntarily. He did this because of his love for us. What a wonderful and sacrificial love he demonstrated to us. No wonder John 15:13 says, ‘No love is greater than this that a man should lay down his life for his friend’. Interestingly, he laid down his life when we were not his friends.
What then should be our response to all this? First, we need to appreciate and give thanks to him every day of our lives for loving us enough to lay down his life for us. We need to resolve to love him in return, he who first loved us. Our love will show in our total obedience to him and his rules as well and living to please him every day of our life. We need to appreciate the salvation we have through his blood shed on the cross and share with others how they can also be beneficiaries of this saving grace found in Jesus alone. We must therefore share the gospel with others because it is the power of God unto salvation of humankind. We need to share his love to others since we are also beneficiaries of his love. We can do this by forgiving all those who have offended us and showing care for others. Our love for others should be deep, sincere and redemptive like that of Jesus. Happy Easter.
SEYI JOHN SALAU