From garden to tomb
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
— John 3:17
I was recently reminded of this piece of scripture earlier this month. It’s funny, because John 3:16, the verse that precedes this, is one of the most frequently quoted verses in almost any church or congregation in my experience. Similarly, it’s easy to overlook the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of Easter, when remembering the day of Easter.
It goes without saying that our current circumstances have left us with a trial that seems insurmountable, in the sense of our economic, social and political challenges. For those in the Christian faith, we also believe in another trial or obstacle that we know none of us can overcome, even as a collective.
Adam and the Fall
Regardless of religion, I’m pretty sure the story of Adam and Eve from the Old Testament is a very clear-cut one. Because of the two’s transgression, which was an act of disobedience, those of the Christian faith believe that as a result, the two became ‘fallen’ beings, who cannot return to the presence of God. The same applies for us all, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.
Now, one would think that such a punishment would be unfair. Should the sins of the father really be burdened on the child? Here is where the finer details of Christianity become muddled, differing from one sect to another.
Of course, it is not the transgressions of Adam and Eve alone that distance us from the presence of the divine. Our own personal sins and transgressions also hinder us from the path back to the presence of God.
The need for a saviour
A person in debt cannot pay for the debt of another. Similarly, it takes a man without sin to be able to pay the price on behalf of us, indebted through sin. As the Apostle Peter shared, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
Which brings us back to the teachings of John, which tell of a saviour, the Son of God who came to sacrifice himself, an offering to pay the penalties under each of our names.
From Gethsemane to resurrection
If asked, many would probably reply that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins on the cross, which is a half-truth at best. Crucifixion was a method of execution used by the Roman Empire, even Peter was crucified (although upside down on his request). Instead, the atonement of Jesus Christ in fact is said to have begun at the garden of Gethsemane, ending with His resurrection.
A season of hope
During the season of Easter, Christians throughout the world, honour the atonement of Jesus Christ and have joy in the chance that death is not the end. All shall rise as He did, one day. Also, that we are no longer bound by the sins of our past. But does that mean we all receive a free ‘get out of jail’ ticket as a result? The answer is no.
The apostles of Christ taught, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:18), meaning all must repent in order to be eligible for the sacrifice He has made for us all.
This means nothing to the person who remains in sin, but for the person who honestly regrets past mistakes, and seeks to right the wrongs of their past, it means there is a chance to have hope, to not despair and be bound by their mistakes. A reason to be joyful, and to have hope.
Easter is a season that celebrates liberation. Liberation from death and a hell of our own making. A celebration of resurrection, that death brings new life, and the chance of eternal, everlasting life and growth.
In that sense, it is also oddly poetic that Sri Lanka is also seemingly undergoing a period of rebirth in this season where we celebrate ends and beginnings.
It is my suggestion that we all celebrate the spirit of Easter in our hearts this Sunday, seeking forgiveness for our mistakes, forgiving others and also, forgiving ourselves, and giving thanks to He, who drank the bitter cup, not to condemn us, but that through Him, we might be saved.