KIBWANA: What is the significance of Easter today?

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The Christian Easter drama as told through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is the story of Christ’s penultimate suffering, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Absent this narrative, Christianity would hardly be differentiated from Judaism, or even Islam.

The Sanhedrin, which was the supreme theocratic court of the Jews, could not theologically accept the deity of Jesus Christ. His truth contradicted their Old Testament centred doctrine.

Jesus’ truth is cast in simple terms as described by him during the Last Supper when he says “my blood (will) be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin”.

Then he dies on the tree so that his blood and himself are a sacrifice to admit into salvation those who accept him, repent their sins and live by his Word.

In our country many of us succumb to relativism. Usually we don’t subscribe to a body of immutable truth as a life compass whatever the consequences. We are a flag in wind.

Our country’s politicians are adept at changing their “truth” to realise their ends. But Michael Leunig, sharing about the Easter story, tells us: “There is a (necessary) cost and (reward) for those brave enough to say aloud what they believe is true…”

The Jewish coterie of clergy, elders, and teachers of the law, soldiers, and the rented crowd demean Christ without his retributive response. He forgives them. Most of us are quick to repay evil with evil.

Christ’s tormentors did so because they could not embrace his mission of fulfilling the Mosaic law through replacing grace and the unconditional love of God, self and neighbour with rigid, mechanical law.

To the Jews then, Christ could not save people from their sins. In the 21st Century many equate belief in Jesus Christ with superstition.

We today have become the self-sufficient man or woman. Material comfort and instant gratification are new gods.

People believe they can’t relate to a God they can’t see or experience through science. But despite material largesse, as human beings, we live empty lives devoid of meaning, values, ethical and spiritual well-being.

Before his trial, Christ is betrayed by those closest to him. Judas Iscariot “sells” him for 30 silver coins and a cold kiss.

In his quest for self-preservation, Simon Peter repeatedly disowns Christ. Betrayal by those closest to us is extremely traumatic and disorienting.

In our country, betrayal is common place. We abuse women and children. We don’t provide for families. We promote self-interest instead of communal good.

Our relationships are of the use and dump stock. Politics and betrayal are synonymous. When a politician keeps his or her promises, we are dumb-founded.

At the house of Simon the Leper, Mary Magdalene, who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, exhibited unconditional love for the Son of God and, generally in her transformed life, for others. It is therefore humanly possible to obey the greatest commandment of love.

Jesus Christ is sorrowful and uneasy with his approaching death. He paradoxically wishes the bitter cup would bypass him, but also God’s glory should be manifest through his atoning death. He even feels forsaken by his Father.

For us too, although physical death is certain, we fear it; its sting or potential pain. We worry whether death is a final destination.

The Easter story demonstrates death is the gateway to an eternal life for believers.

During the Last Supper a debate raged among the disciples about who was greater among them. Jesus exposed to them the principle of servant leadership.

The steward who serves and humbles themselves in any sector is the greatest. Everybody can be and should be such a leader in their sphere of influence.

Although many political leaders in the African continent describe themselves as servant leaders, they are unfortunately wolves of dictators clothed as shepherds. The continent deserves a new generation of servant leaders.

The trial of Jesus is a classic Kangaroo court trial. The Sanhedrin – the supreme theocratic Jewish court – has already found him guilty before the trial.

The charges are always shifting from blasphemy, treason against the Roman state, Christ’s claim of destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days, et cetera.

For the Jewish elite, the major charges are thus Christ’s assertion he is the Son of God and his pro-poor and the righteousness revolutionary message which threatens to disrupt the religious and material status quo of the Jewish establishment.

Many false witnesses are assembled. Even after Roman authorities return a no guilty verdict, the Jewish elite mobilises a lynch mob to demand crucifixion for Jesus and release of Barabbas, the murderer and insurrectionist.

Africa is replete with legal and judicial systems which dispense prejudicial justice, especially for the disadvantaged whereas the rich can buy law and justice.

Mobs in Kenya do kill alleged “witches and wizards” simply to inherit their land. Crowds and security forces often execute suspects.

Women are at the centre of the Easter story. They stand next to the cross. Mary Magdalene and others are the first to visit the tomb.

She is charged with the duty to inform the disciples of the Lord’s resurrection. The risen Christ appears to the female gender first. This shows Jesus did not hold women as inferior.

In Kenya, we are denying women equitable representation in our national parliament and other strategic sectors.

Cultural subjugation of women, violence against them and denial of constitutionally sanctioned property rights are endemic.

The Easter season gives us an opportunity to be crucified together with Christ.

In the process, we can re-examine our lives and commit ourselves to the redemptive suffering that Christ experienced. We can come back to Christ again and again from our waywardness.

We can be broken as he was at the hands of evil human agency – even our own – so that we emerge steadfast and mature in our faith.

In the spirit of inter-faith dialogue and co-existence, Christians should extend Easter solidarity and peace to members of all other faiths.

The writer is governor of Makueni

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