This was the Easter message delivered yesterday by the Rev. Canon A. Too Williams of St. Stephen Episcopal Church, 10th Street, Sinkor. He challenged his parishioners, who included many visiting foreigners, to follow the great example of Jesus who, though tempted, did not sin.
Fr. Williams, quoting one scholar, described sin as “Satan’s international nonsense,” since sin knows no boundaries and afflicts all human beings.
Canon Williams treated his listeners to another historical fact unknown to most Liberians: that the great Indian-South African liberator and thinker, Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, could have become a Christian—and just think of the thousands his conversion could have won to the church, but for one problem: the church he visited to learn a little more of Christianity since he was impressed with Jesus’ ministry, yes, that church, most probably in despicable (dreadful, wicked) South Africa at the time, was racist. They told Gandhi he was not welcome in their all-white church and that he should rather go hang out with his fellow Hindus, mostly from India.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, as prophesied by the great prophet Isaiah some 800 years before Christ’s birth, is the primary reason Christians still believe in him, over 2000 years later.
The three main reasons for this are first, Jesus did not sin, though he was tempted, and consistently went about doing good, using ALL his power for good, not for evil, as so many people with power have done and are still doing—using it for themselves and their families and cronies, NOT in the interest of the people they originally pledged serve.
Second, Jesus was brutally humiliated, suffered and died on the cross, yet asked His Father, God, to forgive his persecutors.
Thirdly, the ultimate, distinctly divine accomplishment, Christ became the ONLY person in history to have been killed, yet rose from the dead.
That was indeed the reward of righteousness—His Heavenly Father was so impressed with Jesus’ faithful ministry that He (God the Father) gave Him (the Son) the unique privilege no other being has yet received—rising from the dead.
See how the racist South Africans, having wielded all that power—at one time they even had atomic power—against the black majority and other races—Indian and Coloreds—see how through the power of God these seemingly all powerful and unconquerable white people were brought to their knees by one black man and the determination of millions of his people—Nelson Mandela and the black South African majority!
Yes, they—the South African whites—who, like the Jewish establishment and so many other regimes who deemed themselves unconquerable, soon found out that there is a God who raises up certain people, Jesus and Mandela, for example, to free the oppressed and suffering from bondage.
It is not our intention to compare Mandela with Jesus, for Mandela was human and Jesus is divine, and Christ is immortal and Mandela was mortal—so the two cannot be compared. Nor did Mandela ever claim divinity or perfection.
However, there are three attributes that bring Mandela close to Christ: first, Mandela, like the Messiah, was consistent to the end in his struggle for the liberation of his people; second, Mandela was totally selfless and once he accomplished his mission he, in stark contrast to Robert Mugabe and many other liberation and political leaders, stepped aside, passing the torch to the younger generation; and thirdly—and most importantly—Mandela, like Christ, FORGAVE his and his people’s persecutors.
So the primary message of Easter—joy, hope, peace and victory—is the message that every Christian, indeed all the world, should claim at this time. As Pope Francis said in his Easter Message at the Basilica in Rome yesterday, Easter, yes, brings hope; yet we cannot ignore the two major crises the world faces at this time—the indiscriminate terrorist attacks against innocent people in many parts of the world; and the refugee crisis in the Middle East.
Yet they are not strong enough to diminish the peace, joy, hope and victory that Easter brings. For Jesus’ victory over death empowers us to realize the power of God and gives us the capacity and the hope to overcome every problem on earth, including terrorism, tyranny and any other kind of trouble.