he Calvary is a hill near Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. Before Easter 2013, I saw myself standing at that hill with my fellow pilgrims from Anambra State. I sweated while climbing the hill. Imagine the Lord Jesus climbing the hill with a large cross over his shoulder. I was watchful to avoid the Jews crucifying me. When I came down from the hill, I ate three plates of food and drank three gallons of water to replenish lost energy ascending and descending the hill.
As Jesus was on his way to Calvary, he fell down three times under the weight of the Cross. What would have happened if he fell down and did not get up again? I also imagine our fate if he had abandoned the Cross on the way and ran away. But this Jesus was courageous enough to carry that shameful gibbet up to Calvary. There he was stripped naked and crucified between two thieves. All went sorrowfully away. Later, after much agony on the Cross, he bowed down his head and died. He died to save you and me from our sins. But have we stopped sinning?
Why did God decide to save sinful mankind by going to Calvary? Since God is Almighty, why didn't he just speak from heaven that all mankind are now saved? For the Greeks, it is foolishness for the Son of God to die on the Cross. For the Gentiles it is a mere folly. Jesus Christ himself makes the Cross a sign of his discipleship. Without mincing words he says, "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me" (Lk. 9:23).
Unfortunately, many Christians want to follow Jesus without going to Calvary. They want Christianity made easy. During my secondary school days, we students normally rush to the bookshops to purchase the books made easy on various subjects: Biology Made Easy, Chemistry Made Easy, English Made Easy, Economics Made Easy, Igbo Made Easy, Literature Made Easy, Mathematics Made Easy, Sleeping Made Easy, Eating Made Easy, Life Made Easy, etc. Likewise, today many Christians go for Christianity Made Easy. We can have also Heaven Made Easy and Hell Made Easy. Many students today do not read detailed books and Novels. Due to the discovery of the Computer students nowadays download whatever they want from the Internet without contributing anything. In their thesis and Examinations, they also download everything word to word. It is left for the teacher to pick and choose. During my own school days, we read many books and filled our brains with sufficient natural knowledge. These days, the brains of students are filled with artificial knowledge, noodles, fast foods and iniquities. No wonder we now die so fast.
Today, Christianity Made Easy is achieved outside Calvary. Many pastors preach Christianity without the Cross. I overheard a pastor preaching that God did not create anyone to suffer. If no one is born to suffer, why does a baby cry at the cradle? If babies are born and they no more cry, then suffering may be a thing of the past. When I was born on 1st April 1963, I cried like a professional because I saw the crosses I would carry in my life. In addition, being born on April Fool-day, I also cried for my foolishness as a sinner. The doctors and nurses in the maternity in Jos where I was born did everything to console me, but all to no avail. I became consoled when I started drinking from my mother's sweet breasts. I saw sweetness in the midst of suffering.
The pastor in question vehemently asserted that suffering is a curse. Such pastors and their adherents invoke the "Not My Portion" prayer whenever the cross is in view. If the cross persists, the "Back to Sender" spirit is invoked. If the cross becomes stubborn, a distress call is made to the "Holy Ghost Fire" Brigade. What would have happened, when Pontus Pilate presented the Cross to Jesus to carry and Jesus exclaimed, "Not my portion; back to sender!" Heaven would have remained closed till today because we would have been drowned in sin without the Saviour coming to our rescue.
Many Christians today are ready to compromise their faith to elude suffering. Hence they consult idols, soothsayers, sorcerers, occult prophets, mammy water and visit hopeless prayer houses. Some make charms and charlatans to cover themselves from suffering. The African Home videos do not help matters. In those videos the way powers emanate from idols to counteract human problems keeps one in doubt as to the Omnipotence of God. Some ask, "Where is God when some sad events happen?" Can someone also answer me this question: "Where was God when His only Son was crucified on the Cross?" The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. When Christ resurrected from the dead, Calvary was conquered. It became a glorious victory of Life over Death.
During the season of Lent we enter with Jesus Christ into the desert to pray, to fast and to give alms. We must be ready to encounter the devil in this desert experience. Personally, I have already encountered many devils. It is not an easy encounter. I wrestled with one of the devils. He carried me shoulder-high to smash my head on a rock but I escaped with wounds all over my body. After crying over the bruises, I went to see my spiritual doctor. He diagnosed my sickness and cured me by divine grace. My wounds have healed but the scars remain.
The Holy Week is the climax of the Lenten season. It begins on Palm Sunday marking Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. But it was unfortunate that those who sang Hosanna on that Sunday shouted, "Crucify Him!" on Good Friday. When things are going well with you, people will hail you. But when the going is rough, they will make mockery of you. In the Book called "Julius Caesar", the King Caesar while in the Capitol ran to his friend Brutus when he (the King) was being stabbed, regrettably, it was Brutus who gave him a big deep thrust with the dagger. Collapsing, Caesar exclaimed, "And you also Brutus?" Enemies can disguise as friends to harm you.
On Good Friday the Lord Jesus was crucified on the Cross at Calvary. Death became a blessing. How do we understand death today? People rarely believe that death can come naturally. When people die, especially young and influential persons, the cause is attributed to someone. Even if it was an accident, it must have been sent from someone. If a person dies suddenly, it must be an attack sent through the air, no matter the distance. There was even the case of an old man who died at the age of 80. The relations forced his wife to drink the water used to wash his corpse to prove that it was not she who killed him. Last week in the church during Prayer of the Faithful, an old man of 90 years came up to pray God to grant him long life and prosperity. I nearly snatched the microphone from him. An old woman who cries during child delivery is frightening the young girls.
My people, without Good Friday there can be no Easter. Without the Cross there can be no victory. The Bible says, "If you do not work, do not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). If you do not burn the midnight lamp, how can you pass your exams? Thieves got their names from taking what belong to others. If you enrich yourself through kidnapping or armed robbery, your life and bounty are at a risk. If you win election through fraud, your victory will not last. You must go into Heaven through the gate. If you jump over the wall or go through the back door, the Angels are vigilant. All genuine victories and successes must be achieved by going through the Calvary. Summary: No Cross, no Victory; no Good Friday, no Easter; no sweat, no sweet; no Job, no Joy.