Yesterday morning, I sat down to read the newspaper while I had my breakfast. As I read, I felt my heart slowly sinking into despair. I went from stories of senseless shootings and mass murders to stories about how our President wants to make changes which will require all health care workers to perform abortions, even against their consciences. Later that day, I read the headline story on MSN.com (which was the cover story in Newsweek magazine) about the “decline and fall of Christian America”. Every day we are flooded with such stories, telling us how evil abounds and how our country turns farther and farther away from our godly foundation. More and more often, my husband and I discuss the state of things in our world, and worry for the future of our children and grandchildren. As I read these depressing stories, one of my children suddenly piped up, “Mom, it’s Easter week!” And in the midst of the darkness, I glimpsed a great light.
Over 2000 years ago, something newsworthy happened. A baby was born, one who fulfilled all the prophecies of long ago. He came in a humble manner, not in a kingly fashion, as was expected by the Jewish people who awaited his arrival. He grew up, traveled around ministering to people and meeting their needs in a quiet, humble way. And then, one day, he entered the city of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and was greeted by the people. They waved palm branches and yelled their praises, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” In the midst of their suffering and struggle against the Roman oppression, their Saviour had come and hope was born.
Things were no different then. They had problems, and violence and suffering. People were sick, they made poor choices, and they had hatred and discord, just like us. They, too, needed hope, just as we do today. They were under Roman oppression and needed someone to save them. We are under the oppression of sin, and need someone to save us. In the Jewish religion, it was required to make a blood sacrifice in order to obtain forgiveness for their sins. (Hebrews 9:22 says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”) We, too, are in desperate need of forgiveness. I see, more and more, the darkness overtaking our society. Immorality is rampant, the very definition of marriage is crumbling, 40% of new births in America are born to unmarried mothers, alcohol and drugs are being consumed in vast amounts and by younger and younger children, and the pursuit of pleasure has become the sole purpose of our existence. We are desperate for someone to save us.
A mere seven days later, that Saviour was arrested. After a sham of a trial, he was brutally nailed to a rough, wooden cross, where he suffered unimaginable pain and grief, separated from his Heavenly Father, and bearing the weight of all the world’s sin…past, present and future. He was mocked by those he came to save, tortured and reviled by those he had treated only with the purest of loves. And yet, he looked on them with grace, and pleaded with his Father to forgive his tormenters. After crying out to his beloved Father, he breathed his last. Hope was dead.
His disciples holed up in their houses, defeated by their grief. Their king had apparently failed them. There was no battle, no mighty warrior who freed them from the hated Roman rule. They were cast into despair, not understanding that the story was not over.
Three days later, the sun rose on their grief. Early in the morning, Jesus’ mother and some other women went to the tomb to anoint his body. Upon reaching the tomb, they were surprised and frightened to see that the stone (which sealed the entrance) had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a man, dressed in white, and were alarmed. After reassuring the women, the man gave them some astonishing news. “He is not dead…He is risen!” Their Saviour had not failed them…hope was alive again. Jesus had risen, just as He promised.
And in this resurrection, Jesus offers us true freedom. He paid the blood offering for our sins, once and for all, and offered us the chance for a true resurrection…to a new life and a promise of eternal life with Him in heaven. Hope is not dead, no matter what you read in the newspaper. Hope is alive and well, in the person of Jesus Christ. If you know Him, and follow Him, your hope can illuminate the darkest night, no matter what you are experiencing right now. And that is what we celebrate this coming Sunday…that we have a Saviour, and that He most definitely lives.
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