Rev Les Isaac, OBE reminds Keep The Faith readers of the central message of Easter, which is the life, death and ultimate resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does Easter mean to Christians? Love, hope, suffering, death, life, resurrection?
These are some of the words that may readily come to mind, and they are more than just a random string of words. They are all, in fact, at the very heart of the Easter story, which is by far the most important festival in the Christian calendar.
For the Christian Church, Easter is a time of deep reflection on God’s capacity to love us; on the hope that Jesus brought into this world, and on the suffering that He had to go through, as He embraced that painful and humiliating death on the cross for our sins. But it ends with resurrection and life for everyone who trusts in Him and calls upon His Name. Easter reminds us that the Gospel is the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and that we should proclaim this news.
Easter provides the perfect opportunity to come to terms with the great love God has for us and for all of His creation. It is a time when we can reflect on the fact that, in spite of all our wickedness and destructiveness towards one another and towards His creation, He still loves us. The Bible tells us: “God demonstrated His love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It was His entry into this world that brought to mankind life, forgiveness of sin and redemption from the corruption of the flesh.
In the early part of January, I was giving an interview to a media station, at a scene where a young boy had been stabbed to death the previous evening. As I arrived at the scene, a great sense of sadness overwhelmed me, and I noticed a similar sadness on the face of the young police officer, who was directing people at the scene. Likewise, one of the shopkeepers, close to whose premises the incident occurred, still looked sad and somewhat shaken.
I felt very emotional as I reflected on the fact that that boy was somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s best friend. I knew that there was a lot of pain – pain caused by grief – and I asked myself: How many more will end up experiencing the heart-wrenching grief created as a result of bereavement? It’s in such moments that I begin to understand the reasons Jesus had to come into this world to bring us hope.
Easter speaks of Jesus paying the ultimate price on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the whole world. The Bible tells us: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked-but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:3-10 NKJV)
For the Christian, the ultimate price was paid on the cross for his or her sins when Jesus cried out, “It is finished”. The redemptive work of salvation was accomplished on Good Friday. For the Church, Easter Sunday is about celebrating the life, the eternal life that Jesus has brought into this world, and is offering to each individual who will receive it.
As we celebrate this Easter, let us not allow the message to become ordinary; let us remember that we are celebrating with millions of Christians all over the world, who are meeting in cathedrals, school halls, houses, caves or theatres… They are all celebrating the risen Lord and Saviour.
REV LES ISAAC, OBE is CEO of the Ascension Trust and a co-founder of Street Pastors. For more details visit www.streetpastors.co.uk