Every Saturday evening between 7:00PM – 8:00PM, we would meet in the living room of one of the families in our apartment for devotion and prayer. It is now almost two years since we started this fellowship. But last night was a very special time. We did not meet for a prayer meeting but to revel the completion of our 2016-2017 academic year and remember the Christian message and meaning of Easter.
The preparation for the evening meal must have taken almost the whole day. In the morning some went to the nearby markets and shops to buy different food that they wanted to cook. Right after lunch, most of the families were busy with activities in preparation for the evening celebration. They cooked different dishes, baked cakes, made fruit and vegetable salads and prepared ice tea and orange juice. Passing by each apartment one could hear the clanging and rattling music coming from the sound of kitchen utensils as they are being used. The air was filled with the pleasant aroma of the delicious cooking. It felt as if air fresheners were not needed in the living room at that moment. While the mothers were busy at the kitchen, the men raked leaves, plastics and papers, dusted the cobwebs and lastly swept and washed the dust on the concrete floor. After a few minutes the warm dry summer air lazily squeezing through the spaces between the NCEE and VMC buildings swept across the wet concrete floor, and in a few minutes swallowed up the water making the place dry and clean.
At 6:00PM tables and chairs were set and each family member proudly brought what they have prepared. You could see the humble gorgeous smiles on their faces and immediately sense the feeling of delight as husb
ands, wives and children began to gather together. The children sat toge
ther and chatted noisily playing cards as a cauldron of shrilling tropical fruit bats flapping their big leathery wings while trying to balance themselves upside down as they prepare to enjoy their evening meal of ripe breadfruits.
The adults sat on their chairs conversing cordially with each other as they watched the children playing.
On the tables the food came in different colored containers –small, medium and big. At that moment, there is no feeling that can substitute the sentiments of a hungry group of people sitting around a long table colored with beautiful scrumptious food. The food was special because there was an arty touch of Indian, African, Filipino, Papua New Guinean, Chinese, Korean and American charms on them. It felt like a little United Nations dinner time.
At around 6:45PM, we joyfully sang in different languages of the world the familiar chorus, “God is so good.” Our resident attendant then asked two of our three professors who were invited to share a short reflection on the message of Easter. One of them took four children and used them as an illustration of Jesus, the two thieves and Barabbas. The second speaker reminded us of the Easter story with a simple, yet profound question – “What would Jesus do” or “What do we expect Jesus to do?” Though the gospel stories are familiar to many of us (seminary students), the reflection of the messages caused some of us to contemplate seriously on them. Below is a summary of what I gleaned from the messages.
Barabbas was a notorious criminal. According to some biblical scholars, the name Barabbas means “son of the father.” They assumed that he could have been the son of one of the scribes, the high priests or a member of the Sanhedrin. Jesus also called himself “the Son” of “the Father.” Jesus replaced Barabbas so he (Barabbas) could be free.
As we reflect on this story, we all can be identified as sons/daughters of the father. The law has been our father. We were condemned for willfully breaking the law (Rom 3:23). We were all religious prisoners.
This Easter we commemorate the significant moment in the history of humanity that Jesus the Son of God took upon himself our punishments so that we can be set free. He not only set us free but changed our identity from being the sons/daughters of the “father” to become the adopted children of the “Father.”
As we reflect again on how we respond to the saving grace of God made possible through Jesus, we turn to the question, “What would Jesus do?” The two thieves hanging on their crosses with Jesus asked the same question in a statement form. One said, “If you are the messiah, save yourself and save us from this painful and shameful suffering.” The other replied, “… Remember me when you come in your kingdom.”
Often we set expectations like the thief who expected Jesus to perform a miracle in the very darkest moment of his life. When we go through miseries and struggles, we already have a set of expectations of what we want Jesus to do for us. We try to dictate what Jesus would do now as an answer to our prayers.
Like the two thieves, we often battle with different thoughts caused by our own human struggles. Both statements are questions of faith. One deals with now and the other about the future. One seek answers to our current problems and the other looks to the future hope in Christ. One assumes that Christ should alleviate the conditions of poverty, stop violence and crime and maybe improve our current living conditions. The other assumes that some the sufferings we have are consequences of our fallen human conditions which we sometimes do not have control over them. But we can simply acknowledge his sovereignty and suffering and trust in his promises for us as we wait in eager anticipation of the culmination of his kingdom.
Golgotha (the skull) reminds us of the brain that is contained in the skull. The brain does a lot of thinking and decision making. Jerusalem is the heart (center of worship). Yet Jesus did not die in Jerusalem. Golgotha is no ordinary place. Christ has to die on Golgotha as a symbolic expression of his work in redeeming our minds (Rom 12:1-2). That is why the term “to repent” means, “to change one’s mind.” If our minds are renewed, our thoughts and actions will also change. Christ died on Golgotha and the curtain of the holy room in the temple in Jerusalem was torn apart so we can have access to the Father. If our minds are renewed, it is easy for our hearts to have access to God.
As we come to the closing moments of this Easter festive season, let us ask God for a transformed mind and a transformed heart as we meditate on this song, “The Power of your Love” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9_0jiO5ZRM
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb. 13:20-21)
– P.S. This article is written from my personal perspective and may not represent the opinions of everyone. I am writing this to remember the event on this special Saturday evening. Please feel free to comment if you want to.