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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Easter 2017 Message by the most Reverend Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim, Presiding Bishop of The Gambia, the Methodist Church The Gambia

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! This Easter greeting reminds us of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

There are many people who saw Jesus Christ after his resurrection, but one of the most intriguing stories of the resurrection is the encounter on the Road to Emmaus, a small town seven miles North-West from Jerusalem. The Gospel of Luke Chapter 24, verses 13-35 tells us how it happened.

First, we are told that at early dawn that day, the first day of the week, several women among Jesus’ disciples had come to the tomb, taking spices in order to embalm Jesus’ body and complete his burial. When they got to the tomb, they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were standing there, utterly amazed and very frightened, two men in dazzling clothes suddenly stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them,
‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’

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Then Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the other Mary the mother of James, Salome, and the other women remembered Jesus’ words, and they rushed back, full of joy and fear, to tell all this to the eleven disciples and to all the rest of Jesus’ followers.

But their report seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

Later that same day, two of the disciples were going from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. While they were talking about all the dramatic events of the past week, and especially about the strange report of the women earlier on, a stranger came near and joined them on the road. They actually should have known this stranger, but their eyes were kept from recognising him. And the stranger said to them, ‘What strange things are you talking about?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ The stranger asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group told us the strangest thing.

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They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us even went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him…’
Then the stranger said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, the stranger interpreted to them the things about the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the World, in all the scriptures.

But when they arrived in Emmaus, the stranger continued walking, pretending that he was going further on the road. But they urged the stranger strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us for the night, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So the stranger went in to stay with them. But when they sat down together to eat at the table, the stranger turned into the host, and he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. – It was only then that their eyes were opened, and they recognised who he really was! This stranger is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Saviour of the World, – And at that very moment, he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ – That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. When they arrived in the middle of the night, they found the eleven disciples and their companions all gathered together, and before they could tell their story about the stranger, the group were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ – And then Cleopas and his friend told the others what had happened to them on the road, and how the stranger had been made known to them in the very moment when he broke the bread. And while they were all still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

This is the message of Easter. This is why, almost two thousand years after these amazing events when Jesus first appeared to some of his disciples after his death on the cross and his resurrection on the third day, millions of Christians all over the world, rejoice on Easter Day and celebrate joyfully, full of faith, hope, and love.

The resurrection means much for us in our lives today. Jesus comes alongside the many in the world who are journeying through persecution for his name, and who suffer injustice and violence. Jesus comes alongside the betrayed, the vulnerable, the imprisoned, the rejected, the lonely, the sick, the suffering, the victims of abuse and violence and the victims of conflict and war. Easter always reminds us that the risen Jesus Christ is able to bring light and life where it appears there is darkness, despair and death.

Do we need to find love, hope and peace? We pray that Jesus Christ, will bring his peace and hope to all of our lives. We thank the Lord God Almighty and continue to pray that he will continue to bless and bring his peace to the world and especially among the various cultures and peoples who live and work here, in the Gambia. We pray that the present and future of the Gambia, will be strengthened by the commitment of everyone to work for the common good and to build a nation of love, respect, honour and unity for all people. We pray for his peace for our children and young people, that the risen Christ may inspire their lives so that they live in love, peace and hope.
We pray that in all we engage in, we may find Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection and enjoy the benefits of his blessings.

This Easter, as we celebrate God’s gifts of love, freedom, justice and peace. May we continue to show kindness, generosity, forgiveness and reconciliation towards one another. May God Almighty grant you and your families and this Nation of the Gambia, the peace of the risen Jesus Christ and may you all receive God’s many blessings. I wish you all a Blessed, happy Easter 2017.

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