Love has Won!

The Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ rang out across the world again this year. The good news that “Christ is risen” offers hope to all people. It is especially relevant this year as we received news of many deaths and serious injuries in Libya and Syria and continued troubles around the world.

We all have to face the fact of our mortality. The life experiences of each of us may vary, but all of us will one day have to die. Rich and poor people alike must die. Modern medicine has meant that many people in the world live longer, but sooner or later we must all face what the Bible calls the “last enemy.”

The words of a modern hymn joyfully declare the wonderful significance of Jesus’ resurrection, “And we are raised with him, death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered; and we shall reign with Him, for He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!”
Because of the resurrection of Jesus “death is dead.” He entered into the realm of death and overcame it. By his death and resurrection Jesus “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” When we put our trust in him as our Saviour and Lord we know that even though we die, we shall live forever in God’s presence.

His resurrection also declares that “love has won!” His enemies were full of hatred as they plotted his betrayal, condemnation and crucifixion. They wanted to destroy him and it seemed as if they had won. The behaviour of Jesus was so different. His whole life was a demonstration of God’s love as he showed love and kindness to all kinds of people. His love appeared so weak in comparison with the hatred of his enemies. But his resurrection shows that his love has won!

So the Easter message is “Christ has conquered!” His death was not a defeat, but a wonderful and decisive victory. He overcame all his enemies and now lives in the power of an endless life. He has ascended to heaven and has all authority in heaven and on earth. How encouraging it is to know that his gospel will ultimately triumph in history. The great empires of the world come and go, but the Kingdom of Jesus Christ continues to grow and will one day fill the whole earth. Then all who love him will reign with him forever.

There was no other good enough

This week Christians all around the world will celebrate Easter. It is remarkable that events which happened so long ago in a small country in the Middle East have had such a profound effect on the lives of millions of people from every nation on earth. Jesus Christ was condemned by the religious leaders of his day as being worthy to die, even though his life and ministry had brought great blessing to countless people. His death on a cross fulfilled God’s purpose to reconcile the world to himself through Jesus.

The cross of Jesus reminds us that our sins are very serious. When we break God’s moral law we are guilty of sin. Every day of our lives we break God’s law. This law breaking has become so much a part of our lives that we lose sight of its seriousness. Indeed, many people today think that God’s law is no longer relevant. They see no reason why they should not worship and serve created things, use his name as a swear word, dishonour their parents, commit adultery, lie and steal. But the cross of Jesus tells us that sin is serious and has solemn consequences.

Some of those who were there when Jesus died recognised what kind of man he was. He was different from them and from us. One of the criminals who was crucified at the same time as Jesus said, “We are getting what our sins deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.” The Roman centurion who was supervising the execution said, “Truly this was a righteous man.” So why did he die? He did not die for his own sins, but took upon himself the punishment our sins deserve and died instead of us.

The cross of Jesus was a demonstration of the amazing love of God for sinful people. The Father gave his only Son to suffer and die. Jesus came willingly to suffer and die in our place. If we know him as our Saviour we will never have to face the eternal consequences of our sins. One Easter hymn says, “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, he only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in. O dearly, dearly, has he loved and we should love him too, and trust in his redeeming blood and try his works to do”

The God Who is There

On 12 April 1961, 50 years ago this week, Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut became the first man in space. He made a 108 minute orbital flight around the earth in his Vostok 1 spacecraft. Russia won the space race to be first to put a man into space. It was a great achievement. In the following years many people have travelled in space and some have landed on the moon. Gagarin became an international celebrity, and was made Hero of the Soviet Union. Vostok 1 was his only space flight. He died in 1968 when a training jet he was piloting crashed.

After his space flight, some people claimed that Gagarin had made the comment, “I don’t see any God up here.” It seems, however, that it was the Russian President, Nikita Krushchev, who said, in promoting anti-religious propaganda, “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.” Just 10 years later, in September 1981, Mr Krushchev died and stood before the living God.

The wonderful message of the Bible is that God has revealed himself to all people in his Son, Jesus Christ. In John’s Gospel we read, “No-one has ever seen God, but the One and only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. “ When Jesus was here on earth, and ever since, human pride has been the greatest barrier to recognising who he really is. That was the problem for Mr Krushchev and the Russian state, they were so proud of their achievements that they claimed they had disproved God’s existence. In the 1st century it was the Roman and Jewish leaders who rejected Jesus precisely because of his claim to be God’s Son. In the 21st century some prominent academics proudly proclaim their atheism.

While they were at Caesarea Philippi Peter, who was one of his disciples, confessed to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you Simon, son of John, this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” On another occasion Jesus prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to little children.” Only a few people have had the opportunity to go into space, but here on earth we can all humbly recognise and know the living God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ.

Heaven is Real!

In the past 10 days two good friends have died. One had been ill with cancer for more than a year, the other died suddenly at home after returning from an evening out with his family. One death was expected, the other was not. Both were over 70 years old and had enjoyed long and happy lives, but the news that they had died brought real sadness. Yet, at the same time, there was also real hope because both my friends were Christians who had put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Their family and friends are comforted by the knowledge that both are now with Jesus in heaven and one day they will see them again.

Sadly, some people who are convinced atheists have no hope. They live their lives without any thought of God or experience of his love. Christopher Hitchins, the journalist, is battling with the final stage of cancer of the oesophagus. He says he is more certain than ever of his atheism and does not believe in an afterlife. This, he concedes, makes the thought of death even more frightening. He compares dying with being at a party and being told you have to leave. The party will continue, but without you. “Even people who swear to remember you are not really going to do so.”

For Christopher, however, heaven sounds like an even worse prospect. He says, “anything eternal is probably intolerable.” He says the atheist’s position is bleak, but courageous. “We don’t want to be annihilated. We just think the overall likelihood is that we will rejoin the molecular cycle when we die. We don’t wish it to be true, but we face it.” I pray that Christopher will discover the wonderful reality of God’s love in Jesus before he dies.

By his death and resurrection Jesus gave us a living hope. He triumphed over death and his promise to all who believe in him is “because I live you will live also.” There is nothing intolerable about heaven. It is a wonderful place where there is no more sickness, or suffering or death. Jesus spoke of it as his Father’s house. The apostle Paul said that no one has ever seen or heard of the glorious things God has prepared for those who love him. God created us to glorify him and enjoy him forever. In his presence there is unending joy and Jesus is the way to this glorious realm.