Tue, 13 Feb 2018 08:48:34 +0000
By Andrew B.C. Njobu
IN a few weeks from now, the whole Christian world will be commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
However the Catholics start this important Christian event with “Ash Wednesday,” which is very important to the Catholic faith.
This year, our “Ash Wednesday” will be observed on 14th February 2018 and thereafter we start our usual “ way of the cross” every Friday up until Good Friday.
What is “Ash Wednesday” and why is it significant to the CATHOLIC FATIH? It is a Wednesday which immediately follows the start of Easter calendar.
On this Wednesday, the Church holds special prayer services during which Christians have ashes placed on their foreheads and this simply reminds the Christians that “you are dust and to the dust you shall return.”
So Ash Wednesday is quite significant to the Catholic alendar as it kicks off the Lenten season or commonly known as the Easter season, a period during which we commemorate the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection which gives us hope, because through that resurrection Jesus defeated the devil and death.
The Lent or Easter season is a time for reflection not only on the agony Jesus went through, but also a reflection on one’s individual life and how one can reconcile with his/her Creator.
Regrettably, the world has commercialised the Easter period and taken advantage of the event to advertise our businesses and make profit.
This is regrettable. Prior to the first Easter some 2, 000 years ago when Jesus was entering Jerusalem, we are told that he found people selling and trading in the Temple and He took a whip and chased everybody who was trading and told them that “ it is written that my house shall be the house of prayer but you have turned it into a den of thieves,” Matthew 21; v 13
“The Challenge before us Christians is to de- commercialise Easter and truly make it a Christian festival befitting its name.
If the Lenten season is a time for reflection/repentance the we need to reflect on Jonah 3: 1-10 where the Prophet is urging the people of Nineveh to turn away from their wickedness and that if they truly turned away from their sins, the God of mercy would relent from the disaster that he said He would bring upon them.
Prophet Ezekiel 18: 21-28 also seem to be telling the people the same message, where he is informing the people that God does not take pleasure in seeing the wicked die.
On the contrary, God wants all mankind to be saved and this is what Easter is all about. In Romans 10; 8 -13 St Paul reminds us that Salvation is open to all and encourages us to continue calling upon the Name of Lord.
“For whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” However in this article, I want to focus on Prophet Isaiah Chapter 53 who comes out very vividly on the mission of Jesus Christ.
In Geography, we learn that Mount Everest in the Himalayas has an altitude of about 29, 000 feet. It is said to be the highest peak on Earth. (Please don’t ask me about Mount Ararat where the Ark of Noah came to rest). Using Mount Everest as the highest peak, I would in the same manner equal Prophets Isaiah Chapter 53 as the highest prophetic revelation on the agony and suffering of Jesus Christ – “the suffering Messiah.”
There is no other Bible passage which presents in a clearer and vivid way 6 Christ vicarious nature And His agony and Death. Isaiah 53 is the anticipated story of Christ suffering. Its inspiration and its power to move hearts are unmeasured.
THE SIN BEARING MESSIAH – FORETOLD. ISAIAH 53; 1-3
A plant has roots that sustain it. When a tree is uprooted, a tender plant grows and flourishes from the apparently lifeless root. Revelation 22 v 16 says that Jesus is the root and the offspring.
The root tells us of His divinity, the offspring tells us of His humanity. The offspring tells of Bethlehem’s baby. The word became flesh. It took part in our nature. The Prophet then talks of “dry ground.”
There was neither life nor joy, nonetheless the root was there. Yes, any farmer knows that it is not possible for a sprout to appear in dry land, because the laws of nature demand moisture is required to be in the ground for any germination to take place.
JESUS IS THE SUBSTITUTE – ISAIAH 53: 4-6
The vicarious nature of Christ’s suffering is emphasised 11 times.
He has borne our grief
Carried our sorrows
Smitten by God and afflicted
He was wounded for our transgressions
He was bruised for our iniquities
The chastisement of our peace was upon Him
By His stripes we are healed
The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all
He was cut off from the land of the living
He was stricken for our transgressions
Sinners are justi fied through Him
and He will carry their iniquities upon Himself “
His suffering was vicarious and voluntary but in obedience to His Father for our benefit and for mediation. Jesus took upon Himself our grief and blame and their consequences.
Through Jesus death therefore, both mercy and justice would be kept. He suffered in our place once and for all.
Nobody therefore should boast of their own suffering, but the Church reminds us to always appreciate the suffering Jesus went through for our sake.
JESAUS FULFILLED THE SCRIPTURE – ISAIAH 53: 7 -9
Prophet Isaiah presents Jesus as being obedient unto death and a death on the Cross. And the PROPHET uses the term “as a lamb” and points out the victims’ submission. He did not protest or defend Himself. Silence was therefore, the evidence of total and unconditional submission. In both Philippians 2: 6-8 and 2 Cor 5 :21 we are told that He emptied His divinity to fulfill the prophecies about Himself.
He suffered for others Matt 26; 28. Silenced before abuse Matt 26; 63 and 27; 12-14. He was counted among the transgressors MK.15; 27 -28 He interceded for the transgressors Lk 23: 34 and shed His Soul until death Matt. 27; 50
JESUS AND THE FRUIT OF HIS WORK – ISAIAH 53 10- 12
The battle to free us from Satan’s captivity was terrible. While Satan tried all his best to exalt himself to be like God, Jesus on the contrary divested Himself from everything. He chose to humble Himself before His God and His Father. Consequently, JESUS triumphed despite his humiliation. Christ Himself saw His crucifixion as a fulfillment of Isaiah prophecy see Lk 22; 37. Therefore seeing that it pleased the Lord to save us through the agony, through the death of Jesus – let us reciprocate by being Christ’s obedient followers.
The author is a member of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace , Kasama archdiocese, St Annie Parish . email:” firstname.lastname@example.org cell 0964691749, 0961835055.