Friday, 6 May 2011

Easter: Death Defeated, Sins Forgiven, New Life & New Hope

This is Jonah.  As you can see from the picture, he is a cheeky twenty month old boy, full of life.
But exactly five weeks ago, on Sunday March 20th, Jonah suffered a tragic accident.  In his back garden there is an old pond that had been drained, but overnight the pond had become filled with rain water, and Jonah fell into the pond – he was found floating face down in the water.  It is every parents’ worst nightmare.
It just happened that that day, Jonah’s mum Paula had invited a friend for lunch who was a paediatric nurse, she was the one who battled to safe Jonah’s life, and eventually after an agonising few minutes managed to resuscitate him.  Jonah was then rushed into hospital where doctors battled for 7 hours to stabilise him before he was transferred onto the Intensive Care Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital.  
Jonah was in a coma for 50 hours, and his parents were told he was brain damaged.  
For Jonah’s parents, who are Christians, those 50 hours he was in a coma felt like a lifetime.  However, despite all the odds, Jonah eventually came out of the coma.  His parents were told that his expected stay on the neurology ward would be anything from 3 months to a year depending on the severity of his brain injury.
But incredibly 9 days later he was back home.  His parents write “Today we rejoice that Jonah is 100% the cheeky and mischievous little lad that he was when he woke up on that Sunday morning. His restoration to health has baffled medics and for this we give all the glory to God.”
It’s an amazing and deeply moving story, and there are some obvious parallels with the story of Easter, which we celebrate today. 
Because on Easter Sunday, an even greater miracle happened, because Jesus who had suffered a long and agonising death on the cross, and who had been in the tomb for three days, rose from the grave.
It is clear reading the accounts of the resurrection, that although Jesus had talked about being raised from the dead, no one had expected it.  Because the response of those that found the empty grave was one of amazement and shock, and their initial response was that someone must have stolen Jesus’ body, but in fact he had risen from the dead!
Of all the events in history ever to have happened, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the greatest event of them all, it was a day that changed the world for ever. 
So what does Jesus’ resurrection mean for us today?
Jesus’ resurrection proves that once and for all death has been defeated.  Whilst we know one day we will die, we know also that there is life beyond death.  And this gives us a living hope for the future.  This is why Paul in 1 Corinthians writes “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57)  

For those who place their faith in Jesus, death should no longer holder the fear it once did.  This is why the Apostle Peter writes “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

The living hope that Peter talks about is a real, certain hope, based on the victory Jesus has won for us on the cross. 
Because of Jesus’ resurrection there is the promise of sins forgiven. 
On the cross Jesus paid in full the penalty of our sin, which is why Peter writes   "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18)
Through his death and resurrection Jesus has dealt with the sins that mar our relationship with God and with one another. 
Not long before she died in 1988, Marghanita Laski, a well known secular humanist and novelist, said, "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me." 
Because of Jesus’ resurrection we can have the promise of forgiveness, and fresh start with God.  This promise of a new beginning is so important, because which one of us hasn’t made mistakes in the past.  Which one of us has not thought at some point in our lives ‘I wish I could start over again’.  And with God, that new beginning is possible, what the resurrection proves is that no one is beyond the reach of God’s love, and this brings with it new life and new hope. 
Jesus offers all those who come to him new life, life as only God can give – life with meaning and purpose, because Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” 
This is why Paul writes, ‘The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing… None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love.’ (Romans 8:35-37) 
Jesus has done all this for us, and what he wants from us, is to let him live at the centre of our lives so that we can experience purpose and meaning, hope and healing, peace, and joy that only he can give. He wants to be the risen Lord of your life! 
As Christians we are called to be Easter people.  To follow the example of Jesus, and to proclaim the resurrection.
The trouble is that sometimes I have to recognise that I often deny the resurrection.  Every time I do not serve my neighbour, every time I do not serve the poor, every time I participate in an unjust system, every time I am dishonest, every time I lie, every time I am greedy, I deny the resurrection.
And I affirm the resurrection – when I stand up for those who are on their knees, when I weep for those who have no more tears to shed, when I extend the hand of friendship to someone in need, when I show compassion and mercy, when I reach out to someone in the love of God, I affirm the resurrection.
This is what it means to be an Easter people, this is what it means to follow the example of Jesus, and to proclaim the resurrection. This is why the resurrection matters – because through it God changes lives, starting with us. 
Have you allowed Him to change your life?  

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