Easter is almost here. It’s the most thought-provoking holiday. And I always get emotional thinking about Christ lugging that cross through the dirt, with blood streaming down his head from the thorns that punctured his skin when they were so fiercely applied, a crown of thorns he had to wear to mock him as King of the Jews. There is no species on earth so cruel as a human being inflicting pain and degradation upon another.
On the day of the crucifixion, I imagine that Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, was undeniably relieved that Pontius Pilate let the crowd choose to free him instead of Jesus. Ancient sources do say that Barabbas, on the day that he was released, went to Golgotha and watched Jesus die on the cross. Barabbas lived until he engaged in another Roman revolt. It’s ironic that Christ died so Barabbas could have eternal life, as Barabbas witnessed first-hand what went down that day, and how could he not believe it?
Christ has all the believers, but it is the unbelievers that he really wants. I have enjoyed many a spirited conversation with atheists and agnostics regarding their disbelief in what happened to Christ when he died and rose again. And I have to ask them, “Do you believe that Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941?” They will always say yes. And I agree, as there were witnesses who watched it play out and they wrote about it – it has a very descriptive presence in all of our history books. So I then ask them, “But you weren’t there, so how can you believe it happened?” And they say, “Well, lots of people were there and they witnessed it.” Bingo. Lots of people witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus and they wrote about it. In fact, they wrote about it in the best-selling novel of all time, our Bible. Oh, ye, of little faith. When the atheists and agnostics are suffering on their death bed, they won’t be praying to the Japanese at Pearl Harbor to save their souls – they will pray to God to relieve their suffering. There is no atheist in a foxhole.
I know Christmas is a big deal. We trade presents because the three wise men brought presents to the baby Jesus. None of this story could take place without first the birth. But Easter? That’s the big one, the one I get all emotional about. Christ came into the world, born of his mother like every other mother has given birth to many over countless centuries. And without the birth of Jesus there would be no Passover, no Easter, no resurrection. But the history of what happened with Christ’s resurrection and eventual return to the skies was almost too much the fodder of science fiction for that day and time. Who could make that stuff up back then?
We are told that after Christ died and the stone was moved from his grave, he appeared to Mary Magdalene at his tomb and later to his other followers on a mountain in Galilee. Different books of the bible tell different stories about the times that Christ appeared after his crucifixion, but there were so many witnesses that it could hardy be refuted unless all these witnesses were all deemed to be stark-raving mad, which they were not. To some writers of the gospel, Christ appeared in a vision only, and to others He appeared as a physical being. But he did appear and he had some pretty strong words about what we were supposed to do – believe and be baptized and be saved.
I think everyone believes what they grew up with. If you grew up going to church and your parents were of the Catholic faith, odds are that you will also stay steadfast in the Catholic faith of your parents. If you grew up in an agnostic and/or atheist background, or where there was no mention of religion either way? Then you may carry that on in your life. You would probably not understand why we Christians make such a big deal about Easter. It is a very big deal, indeed, to we Christians. We weren’t there, but others were. They witnessed it. They saw that when Christ was nailed to a cross, and hung up to die, there were soldiers who finally slit his side with a sword, which was customary at the time to hasten the death process. Peter, to whom Jesus first appeared, was forceful in his revelation of the event.
I wasn’t there. I only read about it in a book. But I believe it happened. It’s a very big deal to me.