Recalling the Resurrection gives us New Hope in these difficult times

The world is in such a state today. A lot of uncertainty and alarm in West Asia. A chemical weapons attack that killed scores of people in Syria, dead

Apr 13, 2017

By Anil Netto
The world is in such a state today. A lot of uncertainty and alarm in West Asia. A chemical weapons attack that killed scores of people in Syria, deadly bomb blasts at churches in Egypt… Religious hatred.

At home, many are filled with trepidation over the 355 amendment bill that could pave the way for the strict religious laws. Indeed, many Malaysians were unnerved when a private member’s bill was allowed to move up the order paper and be presented in Parliament. Inexplicably, the speaker disallowed opposition parliamentarians from responding, instead deferring a debate on the bill until the next sitting of Parliament in July, thus prolonging the uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the list of missing people in the country is slowly but surely creeping upwards, leaving many Malaysians disconcerted.

The latest missing person is activist Peter Chong, who used to attend protests and vigils including the Bersih 4 rally and more recently, a prayer service for abducted pastor Raymond Koh.

Days before he went missing, Peter wrote in his Facebook that he was puzzled when a stranger tried to warn him to be careful as “they” knew where those who attended protests and vigils lived.

In the backdrop, the economy has slowed down, federal government debt and the cost of living have soared over the years, the corruption is rampant, and youth unemployment has touched 10 per cent.

Then there are the environment problems — flash floods, siltation, land reclamation, clearing of forests, the degrading of water catchment areas and the cutting of hills. Not to mention the Sword of Domocles hanging over all of us: climate change and rising sea levels.

If we think all this is daunting, think of the setting in Israel and Palestine in that first holy week, two millennia ago.

The oppressive Roman Empire held sway, with local tyrants collaborating with religious leaders to oppress and burden the local people. Dissidents against the empire were arrested, tortured and executed in the most horrific manner imaginable.

Jesus himself was ‘abducted’ in a lonely garden in the middle of the night after supper and taken for swift interrogation. Facing a kangaroo trial, false witnesses came forward with “fake facts” put forward to religious leaders acting as judges.

All the while, the powers that be didn’t want to know, passing Jesus from one “judge” to another. In the end, they washed their hands and Jesus was brutally tortured and executed when his followers – apart from the small band of women and John – fled and hid themselves out of sheer fright.

But the story doesn’t end there. The triumph of the first Easter morning gave new hope to Jesus’ followers who had been cowering in fear and despair.

In Rome, while these tumultuous events were taking place at around 30AD at a distant outpost of the empire, little changed in the court of Caesar. Tiberius Caesar would continue to rule until 37AD, but he was succeeded by Caligula, who increased the personal power of the emperor even more, embarking on lavish mega projects.

For sure, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the coming of his Spirit, did not bring about immediate change at the top that would filter down throughout the world at the ordinary level. The Roman Empire would power on for another four to five centuries in the West and another 15 centuries in the East before crumbling.

What the Resurrection and the coming of the Spirit did achieve was to imbue in Jesus’ small band of followers a new sense of mission and hope and courage to persevere and build a new kingdom based on justice, love, compassion, inclusion and concern for the marginalised. They worked from the bottom up, from hamlets to villages to cities until their message reached the very seat of empire in Rome.

Along the way, the early Christians were seen as a threat to the established Roman order that was based on peace through military victory and the deification and exaltation of earthly leaders. Even proclaiming the message that Jesus is Lord was risky enough to send many Christians to a premature and cruel death.

But, in the end, the forces of darkness could not hold back the waves of change that were crashing against the walls of the empire. Jesus’ ministry in building a new kingdom based on alternative values was gloriously vindicated by his Resurrection and his message spread like wildfire. This should not be lost on us.

It is what gives us hope during these times of trial and tribulation – the knowledge that the first followers of Jesus faced equally challenging if not more difficult odds in bringing the Good News to the world – but the power of the Resurrection and the Spirit filled them with such zeal that no power on earth could stop the blossoming and growth of the new kingdom in our world today.

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