The most important weekend of the Christian calendar has arrived as millions celebrate Easter.
Supermarket shelves are always awash with chocolate eggs and other sweet treats, but the religious story behind Easter, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, is far more harrowing.
The first day of the Easter weekend is Good Friday.
Good Friday marks the day Jesus died on the cross.
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Of course, two days later, Easter Sunday, represents the day Jesus rose from the dead and went to Heaven.
So why is the Friday, the day Jesus died, called Good?
If you look at it on face value, there’s not much that’s good about a man being nailed to a cross, made to wear a crown of thorns and left to die.
It’s the day Lent has been leading up to as Christians remember how Jesus was flogged before having to carry his own cross to a hillside. Once there he was crucified alongside two criminals, despite doing nothing wrong.
The original definition for the word “good” was that it "designates a day on (or sometimes a season in) which religious observance is held".
The Oxford England Dictionary says "good" refers to a day or season observed as holy by the church.
So, in this case, good means holy.
It’s also why people say “good tide” at Christmas and on Shrove Tuesday.
Another suggestion is that the name Good Friday comes from “God’s Friday” being corrupted over time. The earliest use is “guode friday” from 1290.
But locally, Nairobi-based Religious Catholic Brother Kennedy Oronjo says, Good Friday is called Good Friday because it marks mankind’s salvation which came through Jesus Christ’s crucifixion at Golgotha in Jerusalem.
“Through his crucifixion, he saved mankind, despite the painful ordeal Jesus went through, he was able to bring salvation to us hence the name Good Friday,” said Br Oronjo.
Speaking to Standard Digital on phone, Br Oronjo urged Kenyans and Christians not to lose faith in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, adding that if Jesus managed to conquer death, he will conquer the virus too.
“Let Kenyans reflect on their actions and not to lose faith because we were set free by death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, he will conquer the coronavirus pandemic and we shall overcome,” he said.
Br Oronjo cautioned people against mocking God during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the word of God cannot be stopped by the virus.
He told Christians to remember that God reveals himself through others, therefore even the medics and researchers who are working up and down in the fight against the virus are voices of God.
“God helps those who help themselves and he as well reveals himself through others, therefore the voice of our leaders and doctors too are voices of God.”
He said Christians should continue praying wherever they are, adding that the church is not only buildings but also the faithful themselves.
“Those people saying churches are closed have forgotten that churches are not just the buildings, but the followers too.”
The cleric urged various organisations to donate what they have for the needy at this time of the outbreak in the spirit of love and sharing.
Br Oronjo, however, feels church service should have been listed among essential services, but with strict rules just like supermarkets, saying spiritual nourishment is equally vital at this point.
He said the government should have allowed the churches to operate the way supermarkets and matatus do, adding that most churches can provide masks, sanitisers, washing hand spots and keeping the social distance during services.
"If supermarkets, shops, buses and matatus can be allowed to operate with masks and a sanitisers, even the church could have been allowed to operate because most of them can enforce the directives,” he said.
Easter is seen as the most important Christian festival - yes, more important than Christmas - because it reaffirms their faith.
The season begins on Ash Wednesday - the first day of Lent. Lent lasts for 40 days, leaving out the six Sundays before Easter, and is a time when Christians give up a favourite food or vice. This is to remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days despite temptation.
He arrived in Jerusalem on what is known as Palm Sunday - the Sunday before Easter.
A few days later he had the Last Supper with his 12 disciples on what is now known as Maundy Thursday.
2,000 years ago it was the time of Passover, a Jewish celebration. Because of that Jesus and his disciples were eating together in what turned out to be Jesus’ last meal.
His actions there have also led to what is now known as Communion, where he offered bread and wine saying they were his body and blood. He also commanded his disciples to think of him whenever they had bread and wine together after he had died.
The Bible says that after his death on Good Friday, Jesus’ body was taken to a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy Jew and follower of Jesus.
On the third day (marked by Easter Sunday), he was found alive. God raised his son Jesus from the dead in an act that symbolises the defeat of death and the opening of Heaven and eternal life to everyone.