My dear viewers, listeners, and readers, “Peace be with you!”
Easter which is also known as the Feast of the Resurrection, marks one of the most solemn, significant and historic celebration in the life of the Church. It is the bedrock of the Gospel of Christ; a feast that manifest the peak of God’s love to the world. God created mankind in his own image. He blessed them and gave them dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28 NIV). However, the disobedience of Adam, brought sin and death to humanity; the world lost that serene intimacy with God, for the wages of sin is death. However, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood–to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25 NIV). For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1Corinthians 15:21-22 NIV)
Under the Old Testament dispensation, animal sacrifice was used as ransom for the forgiveness of sin, however, as Scripture reveals, “those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased” (Hebrews 10:3-6 NIV). God in his steadfast love gave his only Son to be a ransom for the world. Christ became the sacrificial lamb for the supreme sacrifice that brought reconciliation between God and all those who believe in the Gospel. It is this hope and assurance of Eternal life that we celebrate at Easter. For as St. Paul’s admonished the Corinthians, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1Corinthians 15:17-19 NIV)
The salvific assignment of Jesus Christ was foretold by the prophets, confirmed by Jesus himself and preached by the apostles who were eyewitnesses. The Prophet Isaiah foretold, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV)
In Galilee, Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:22-23 NIV).
Indeed, Jesus was crucified, he died and was buried and on the third day, he rose again. For proof, he showed himself to several witnesses.
While Mary Magdalene in great despair was crying and searching for the body of Christ outside the tomb, she saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot and later saw Jesus standing there. When she realize that it was Jesus, “She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus had an urgent assignment for Mary, therefore he commanded, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” In obedience, Mary communicated the breaking news to the disciples with the headline: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:11-18)
On that very Easter evening, he appeared to the disciples who were locked together, for fear of the Jewish leaders with the usual greetings, “Peace be with you!” he showed them his hands and side. They were overwhelmed with joy when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)
He therefore sent them out after breathing on them the Holy Spirit, and gave them authority to forgive sins (John 20:21-23).
Strangely, Thomas, one of the twelve disciples was absent when Jesus appeared. He interpreted the breaking news, “We have seen the Lord!”, as fake news. He asserted, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
After a week, while Thomas was with the other disciples in the house, Jesus appeared to them again, with the usual Peace greetings. He gave Thomas the opportunity to confirm his doubts, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas then affirmed, “My Lord and my God!” However, Jesus replied, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)
Many doubters like Thomas in our world today have rejected the Gospel of Christ.
Friends, I want to assure you that Christ died, he was buried and he rose from the grave.
This hope and assurance of eternal life is not limited to a few, but it is extended to the whole wide world, on the condition that the beneficiary must believe in the Gospel of Christ.
A third time, Jesus appeared again to Peter and some other disciples by the Sea of Galilee while they were fishing. After their toil, they had no fish. Therefore, he commanded them to throw their net on the right side of the boat. There catch was so enormous that they were unable to haul the net. When the disciples recognised it was Jesus, they, quickly towed the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore. Jesus had breakfast with them, yet none of them dared ask him, “Who he was?” (John 21:1-13)
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again, Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17).
Jesus may have been asking Peter whether he loved him more than the many fish, that will bring him food and income, and such love is expected to be demonstrated by being a good shepherd, taking care of the flock of Christ. Some of us who claim to be shepherds, today, milk our flock to enrich ourselves. As we reflect on Easter 2022, let us try to be good shepherds who will demonstrate the sacrificial love Christ demonstrated in the redemption of humankind.
As leaders of religious institutions, leaders of Government, non-governmental and private institutions we are expected to be good shepherds. Therefore, if we love God more than the wealth of this world that will not last, let us demonstrate our love by taking care of God’s flock. The commandment of God is simply love for God and love for our neighbour. For Jesus commands, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
My dear people, we have a reason to thank God this Eastertide. We have witnessed remarkable improvement in the fight against the COVID 19 pandemic that depleted the socio-economic and physical wellbeing of the world including our beloved nation. Nevertheless, as we continue to pray for a complete halt of the spread of the virus. We want to encourage all of you to continue following the health guidelines and ensure you are fully vaccinated.
Beloved people of God, After His resurrection, Jesus commanded His apostles to preach the good news. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Act 10:43 NIV)
May the Risen Lord strengthen us, as we continue to live by faith, and spread the breaking News of Mary Magdalene: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)
ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED. ALLELUIA!
On behalf of all Anglican Christians in The Gambia, Senegal and the Islands of Cape Verde, I wish the Head of state, the Government and people of our beloved nation, The Gambia; our ecumenical partners in mission, our brothers and sisters in the Muslim fraternity and other faiths, and all well-wishers, a very Happy Easter.
Your friend and Bishop
Rt. Rev’d James Allen Yaw Odico (Retired Bishop of Gambia)