By Brother Oseghale Emmanuel Aighalua
THERE is no disputing the fact that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the cardinal events that give Christianity its essence. If Christ had not died he would not have paid back the life man lost in the Garden of Eden and if he had not risen there would have been no hope of life for all those who had served God faithfully all through the ages. (I Corinthians 15:12ff)
Any commemoration of these events must, however, be done in harmony with the will of God if such are to attract the blessing or favour of God. In other words there must be no taint of sin associated with such commemoration. The Bible says we must abstain from all appearances of evil. (I Thessalonians 5:22).
It is against this background that we must look at the teachings and practices on Lent, which culminates in the Easter celebrationâ€”the remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The period starts with the 40_day fast, from Ash Wednesday, when worshippers disfigure their faces with ash to show that they are in a mourning mood. But the practice of marking the foreheads with ash runs contrary to the injunction of Jesus Christ that those who are fasting should not make a show of it or make any public proclamation to let any one know they are afflicting themselves in their quest for divine favour.
The guidelines Jesus Christ gave also show that fasting should be a private or individual matter. All these are clearly recorded in Matthew 6:16_18. But the way the churches go about directing their congregations on fasting are the direct opposites of the principles set out by Jesus Christ. There is so much noise-making about it, there is so much public show about the fasting to attract public attention and sympathy; they even disfigure their faces! No wonder Christ wondered why some disciples should be calling him Master and Lord when they are not interested in doing the things he had commanded. (Luke 6:46).
The day in which Christ was killed should not be called â€œGood Fridayâ€.Â The Bible shows that the day was â€œgoodâ€ to the wicked Jews but not to the disciples of Christ. Jesus Christ even said the disciples will â€œweep and lamentâ€ but that the world would rejoice. (John 16:20_22) The usual argument for attaching the appellation â€œgoodâ€ to the day Christ was killed is that but for his death, salvation would not have come to the world. But the fact is that the Jews who conspired and killed him never had such end in view. His resurrection came about in spite of them, not because of them. The day someone loses a close relation is a bad or black day for him. It cannot be called good on the ground that if the person had not died then he would not have entered the kingdom of God! But was Christ actually killed on a Friday?
Let us look at this issue critically and not just wish it away. Jesus Christ said he would be in the grave for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:38-40) How does a Friday entombment and a Sunday resurrection give three days and three nights? At best it gives us a period of two nights and a day!Â Christ said (the order of things) in heaven and earth would pass away but that his words would not pass away. (Matthew 24:36) God is a God of exactness; everything He does happens at the exact time He has purposed. (Genesis 15:13-15; Exodus 12:40,41; John 7:6,8; Galatians 4:4).
A close study of the gospel account shows that Christ was killed on Wednesday and that he rose on Saturday at sunset. When the women went to the sepulchre after the weekly Sabbath (that is, after 6.00 p.m. on Saturday) it was already night time and his body was no longer there: he had risen. (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; John 20:1) If you count backwards from Saturday, you will arrive at Wednesday. The fact is that having being killed and buried on Wednesday, he rose at sunset on Saturday, which was the weekly Sabbath. Also, the prophecy of Daniel shows that Christ would be killed in the midst of the week which is Wednesday. See Daniel 9:27.
The Bible says no lie is of the truth.Â (1 John 2:21) It is therefore wrong for the Church to change the actual date of Christâ€™s death from Wednesday to Friday and even to compound issues by calling it â€œGoodâ€, thereby justifying the action of those who killed him. (Proverbs 17:15; Matthew 27:3-10).
That is not all. On the so-called Good Friday, the churches enjoin their adherents not to eat meat, ostensibly to reflect the sober mood which the death of Christ should engender in the believer.Â Apart from the fact that it is illogical to be marking the death of one who is alive (Revelation 1:18) Christ has said that after his resurrection, the joy of the disciples would be full and that that joy no man would take it away from them. (John 16:20-22)
What then is the point denying oneself of meat when the Saviour is not dead but alive? Moreover by asking people to abstain from meat, the churches are unknowingly fulfilling St. Paulâ€™s prophecy about some of the doctrines that would identify groups that are not established by God in this age. The account states: â€œNow the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.â€ (I Timothy 4:1-3).
Let us turn to Easter celebration itself. Though Easter is regarded as the greatest Christian festival, yet many have unfortunately not bothered to find out what the name stands for. Many would be surprised to know that it has nothing to do with Christianity. Easter was a pagan festival originally celebrated by the Anglo-Saxons in the spring equinox in honour of a Teutonic goddess known as Astarte or Eostre. In the Authorised Version it occurs once in Acts 12: 4, but this is a mistranslation. The word in the original text is pasch, the ordinary Greek word for Passover. The Revised Version and other modern versions properly employ the word Passover.â€
The well known ecclesiastical historian, Alexander Hislop, in his book, The Two Babylons, stated that Easter â€œis not a Christian nameâ€. He went on, â€œIt bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heavenâ€¦. That name as found by Layard on the Assyrian monuments, is Ishtarâ€¦. The festival, of which we read in Church history under the name Easter, in the third or fourth centuries, was quite a different festival from that now observed in the Romish Church, and at that time was not known by any such name as Easter. It was called the Pasch, or the Passover â€œ (Pages 103-104).
How did the celebration of Easter come into the Christian calendar? Easter came into the picture about 300 years after Jesus Christ and the apostles had lived and died and it came about because of the zeal by the Church leaders then to win the heathen to Christianity by giving their festivals a gloss of respectability within the Christian fold. To achieve this they simply adopted their festivals and gave them a Christian veneer or covering. In the words of a Bible scholar, the Church leaders simply took these heathen festivals and â€œbaptizedâ€ them! But that does not in any way detract from the fact that the celebrations remain essentially pagan! â€œYou may colour a millstone as much as you like, but you cannot improve it into a cheese.â€ Easter should not be connected with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Bible says we should not copy heathen customs for they are vain, (Jeremiah 10:2-3) and that light has nothing to do with darkness. (II Corinthians 6:14-18) Christians should remember or reflect on the resurrection of Jesus Christ in an edifying manner rather than in a way that gives honour to a pagan goddess. St. Paul stated: â€œFinally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.â€ (Philippians 4:8).
What was instituted by Jesus Christ was the â€œMemorial Supperâ€ and NOT Good Friday or Easter celebration. (Matthew 26: 26-29). Not al1 believers in Christ ought to take the bread and wine; it is only those who belong to the group of Christians St. Paul called â€œthe church of the firstbornâ€ (meaning Christâ€™s apostles) that should take the bread and wine emblem.
To serve the bread only and leave out the wine is incomplete and wrong; to mix the bread with wine as some churches are doing is a deviation from the Lordâ€™s instructions, and is a sin; and to serve the supper on all disciples indiscriminatelyâ€”men, women and childrenâ€”instead of the spiritually matured faithful like the apostles, is a greater sin. And how many people know that to take the bread and wine unworthily is a curse? And that, like his birth, it ought to be celebrated only once a year, being a memorial of his death? (I Corinthians 11:20-30).
The text in I Corinthians 11:23-26 states specifically that the Lordâ€™s Supper can only be observed up to a time that is, â€œuntil he comesâ€. In other words, by the time Christ fulfils his promise to come again, there will be no need any more for the celebration of the Lordâ€™s Evening Meal. Christ has come the second time in spirit and is now reigning in heaven, as the signs now show, particularly the First World War of 1914-1918. (John 14:19,22; Matthew 24:7,8, 23-26; etc) There is no need therefore to celebrate the Lordâ€™s Supper anymore!
The truth about Good Friday and Easter have been made bare in this sermon. I believe those who read this piece with open and sincere minds would appreciate the points raised and follow it for their own blessing and salvation in the end by the grace of God. The Bible says only the truth shall set us free. (John 8:31-32).
*Brother Aighalua is the president of Godâ€™s Kingdom Society, GKS