The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary wishes you a blessed Easter. May the following reflections by members of our community enrich you this season.
Kees van der Knijff, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
One of the Biblical stories that has always intrigued me is Luke 24, the Road to Emmaus account. As a child, I was fascinated by the fact that Jesus kept himself hidden from his disciples while walking with them on the road. Later on, when I started studying the Bible with friends, I often prayed for ‘burning hearts’ when we studied Scripture.
These years, I am drawn again and again to all the ‘openings’ that take place in this chapter. Early in the morning, the women find the tomb open. Later on, when two disciples walk to Emmaus, Jesus opens the Scriptures for them (32), yet they only recognize him when he breaks bread and their eyes are opened (31). Finally, when the disciples are all back together Jesus appears to them and opens their mind (45).
The resurrection breaks everything open!
I find in this a source of tremendous hope. God’s life, God’s new creation, and God’s coming Kingdom have broken into our closed and fallen reality. Yet, when we look around we do not easily perceive that anything like this is happening. If we are honest, the plight of the world often makes it feel like Easter never happened.
But there is hope: the resurrection has the potential to break everything open again and again.
We need open Scriptures, open eyes, and open minds to perceive the world we live in through the lens of the open tomb. Perhaps, I need to be more precise: we need opened Scriptures, opened eyes, and opened minds. Easter itself is already opened up to Pentecost, as Jesus testifies: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised” (49). Only the Spirit can give us the transformed eyes, minds, and hearts we need to understand the open tomb.
Grace Al-Zoughbi, Lecturer in Theological Education
“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:18)
I find it fascinating that even in the resurrection narrative, Jesus affirms women. In the account that we read in John 21: 11-18, Mary Magdalene- who later came to be known as the Apostle to the Apostles– was the first to encounter the risen Lord, and what a truly transformative encounter it was!
Scripture provides a stark contrast between Mary before her encounter with Jesus and after. By the tomb she had been crying, bewildered and uncertain, but upon experiencing the risen Lord she became confident and reassured of Christ’s promises to her.
As always, Jesus’ questions were poignant. Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? He then calls her by her name, ‘Mary’. He knew her inwardly and outwardly. One can just imagine the spark he lit in her heart as she responded, ‘Rabboni.’ It was Him; her Teacher, her Master, her Leader, her Shepherd. Without hesitation she unashamedly reported to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
I hear a similar cry today in the lives of many women who mourn many losses, perhaps the loss of a homeland or a home, the loss of their beloveds or senses of belonging, and the loss of physical freedom, status, and dignity. Yet, the risen Lord wants to affirm women’s calling as parts of His redemptive plan to a broken humanity. He knows every woman by name and lovingly and assuredly reaches out to them.
I have visited that empty tomb in Jerusalem and stood where Mary presumably stood. I identify with her pain of loss at that moment, yet I hear the voice of my Shepherd assuring me that I too have a responsibility to share the Good News. Not only has He risen (Hallelujah!) but He has unfinished work in the lives of His many followers from every race, and tribe. To me, Easter is a timely reminder that I am truly a part of this indispensable work. May we all this Easter season, in the same spirit of the risen Lord, take some time to affirm God’s valuable work in the lives of women and validate their ministries as they respond to God’s calling in their lives with faith and hope like Mary Magdalene.
Michael Arteen, ABTS Chaplain
“And to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24)
As Easter approached, the sounds of bells ringing became more frequent within the Mediterranean ecclesial landscape. I cannot help but reflect on the holy city of Jerusalem which to me is a constant reminder of God’s perfect love. In Jerusalem, ‘the lamb of God’ (John 1:29) was sacrificed at Golgotha on behalf of sinners (John 19:17), quite simply for you and me. If chiming bells remind us that God is calling us to Himself, then how much more powerfully does the blood of Christ speak to us?
I believe the season of celebrating Easter calls each of us to start a new beginning. Everyone is welcomed to a living relationship with God despite their pasts. All are accepted based on God’s grace and mercy. Human deeds can never accomplish our salvation (Ephesian 2:8-9). Jesus uttered on the cross, “It is finished.”
In our day-to-day realities, bloodshed has become the norm. The whole Middle Eastern region and beyond lacks peace. (I have Jerusalem particularly in mind.) Before his death and resurrection, Jesus foretold the destruction that was going to take place in Jerusalem. He said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes (Luke 19: 42).
Today, the wounded Jesus still weeps over our precious regions. Yet His blood speaks a message stronger than anything else and anyone else. It is precisely through His blood that we gain redemption, restoration, peace with God and others. I pray that we approach Easter with this spirit of reconciliation with our living Savior and one another.
I stand amazed at the beauty of God’s work on the cross. The power of Jesus’s death and resurrection should essentially empower humanity to overcome hatred, conflicts, and struggles. In reality, and whilst the world is deteriorating, the blood that Jesus shed calls us to be peacemakers now among those who shed blood.
Nabil Habibi, Lecturer in New Testament Studies
“And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8)
A Jewish rabbi and miracle worker from the villages of Galilee makes the Passover pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem with his bedraggled group of followers – probably a mix of uneducated teenagers, rough fishermen, and repentant prostitutes and tax collectors. He goes straight to the Temple. After causing a miniature riot where crowds chant for him to be crowned a messianic king, he retreats to the narrow alleys of the city.
Jesus sits in the semi-darkness of an upper room in the alleys of Jerusalem. He does not pass around weapons to his eager followers. He passes a piece of bread and a cup of wine. He declares a new covenant in his very body. The body of a Jewish rabbi and miracle worker from the villages of Galilee holds the reign of the living God.
The body of Jesus hangs broken on a Roman cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Like a stale piece of bread, he is thrown outside. His followers scattered. The crowds jeering or crying. Except for the shamed criminal crucified beside him, no one looks to this messiah for salvation. He looks to the sky and shouts in agony (or is it victory?) and then is silent. The miracle worker could not save himself.
The silent tomb is empty. The seal is broken. The women run away from the place of death with stricken faces. The dead rabbi from Galilee, the miracle worker who made whole the sick and possessed of Israel, has been raised by the God of Israel – he has been made whole again. They know it will take a miracle for the mourning men to believe a group of women announcing such reality-shattering news. But if death has been killed, then all things are possible.
The Jewish rabbi and miracle worker from Galilee – the risen Lord of the universe, is on the move!