Jesus died and rose again

This week Christians around the world will remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was rejected by his own people and executed by the Romans. Crucifixion was used by the Romans to inflict maximum pain and humiliation on those who had broken their laws. When Jesus died his disciples were devastated. They could not understand why someone who possessed such great power had seemingly been defeated. Jesus had brought great blessing to thousands of people yet now he had been rejected. So why is it that today millions of people from many nations believe in and follow Jesus? It is because through trusting in Jesus they have experienced forgiveness and found hope.

The death of Jesus secured the forgiveness we all need. Jesus did not deserve to die. He had lived a perfect life and had committed no sin. One of the criminals who was crucified on the same day said, “We are being punished justly, for we are getting what our sins deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Since that day countless people have made the same request to Jesus. Most have been ordinary people who have realised their need to find peace with God and have found Jesus to be the Saviour they need. The cross of Jesus shows the seriousness of our sins. They cannot be overlooked. His death was the supreme act of love when he died in our place and suffered the punishment our sins deserve so that we might be forgiven. A well known 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.”

The resurrection of Jesus enables us to face death with confidence and hope. When the apostles preached the good news about Jesus they experienced great opposition and some were executed. Because they knew that Jesus had been raised from the dead they were not afraid of dying. The last night Jesus was with his disciples he had given them a wonderful promise, “Because I live, you also will live.” So Easter is a time of great joy for all who know and love Jesus. He died in our place so that we might be forgiven and he rose again so that we might go to heaven.

Finding forgiveness

One evening in May 2003 a safety camera on the M11 recorded a speeding offence. Nearly 10 years later the man who was driving and his wife, who was not, are in prison for perverting the course of justice. The original offence would have attracted a £60 fine and possible disqualification for the driver. The attempt to get away with it has led to prison sentences for two people.

The case of Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce makes very sad reading. Vicky agreed to say that she was driving when the speeding offence took place so that Chris would avoid a driving ban and succeed in his attempt to become an MP. For seven years it seemed as if they had got away with it until, in summer 2010, Chris told Vicky that he was leaving her to live with another woman. Vicky, who was deeply hurt by Chris’s unfaithfulness, decided to get revenge by leaking the story to the press. She intended to wreck his political career but had not anticipated that she, too, would be implicated.

In the book of Genesis we are told about the first sin. God created Adam, and his wife, Eve. They lived in a beautiful garden. Adam worked in the garden and he and Eve were free to eat from all the trees except one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One day they disobeyed God’s command and this had devastating consequences for them and for us all. When God confronted them with their disobedience Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent who had deceived her. Their sin affected their happy relationship with God and with each other.

We are all tempted to try to get away with the wrong things we have done rather than to face them and seek forgiveness. Because we do not immediately face God’s judgement we assume that our sinful actions don’t matter, but one day we will all be called to account for what we have done. When God sent Adam and Eve from his presence he gave them a promise that one day a Saviour would come who would reverse the tragic events of Eden. Jesus Christ is that Saviour. On the Cross he took our place and suffered the punishment we deserve. God’s promise to each of us is that if we confess our sins to him and trust in his Son as our Saviour our open and our secret sins will all be forgiven.

The unique role of mothers

Mother’s Day is a special time for many families. It reminds us of the unique role of mothers. The intimate bond between a mother and her child begins in the womb. After the traumas of labour a mother rejoices when she sees her new born baby and holds them for the first time. The relationship develops and deepens as the mother feeds and cares for her baby. It is a wonderful thing to experience a mother’s love. The first person a child looks for is their mother. It is no wonder that Mother’s Day cards extol the virtues of mothers.

Amongst the many opportunities women in our society have today it is good to remember the vital role of mothers. It is not easy for working mothers, but is something they feel is really important. A friend of ours has recently returned to work after having her first baby. It has not been easy to be separated from her little boy during the day after they have spent many months together. Her husband is helping with his care. Time spent with our children is very precious and cannot be caught up later in life.

The Bible emphasises the importance of the relationship between parents and their children. One of the 10 Commandments commands children to honour their father and mother. The New Testament emphasises this and sets out the benefits which flow from it. “Children, obey your parents for this is the right thing to do. Honour your father and mother. This is the first commandment that ends with a promise – that you will live a long life, full of blessing.” When the relationship between parents and children is strong it is a great blessing, when it breaks down there is great pain.

God’s love for his people is compared to the love of a mother for her child. In a time of national crisis God’s people said he had forgotten them. God answer through the prophet Isaiah was, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” William Cowper picks up this theme beautifully in one of his hymns, “Can a woman’s tender care cease towards the child she bear? Yes, she may forgetful be, yet will I remember thee. Mine is an unchanging love, higher than the heights above, deeper than the depths beneath. Free and faithful, strong as death.”

God is faithful

When does Spring begin? The Met Office regards 1 March as the first day of Spring, although others insist that the correct date is 20-21 March, which is the Vernal Equinox. For most of us the fact that the days are getting longer and the daffodils are beginning to bloom means that winter is passing and springtime has arrived! It is an encouraging time for us all as we look forward to the longer, warmer days of summer.

The passing seasons remind us of the faithfulness of God. Following the devastating flood, which happened in the time of Noah, God gave a wonderful promise to all subsequent generations. God said, “As long as the earth remains, there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” He also gave the rainbow as a sign of his eternal covenant with Noah and his descendants and all living creatures. God told Noah, “I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is a sign of my permanent promise to you and to all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with everything that lives.”

The great reality of our life on earth is that God exists. He is eternal and he created each one of us. The heavens and the earth declare his glory and the changing seasons reveal his care. There is something deep in every one of us which responds to him. Some react against him and determine to live their lives as if he does not exist, but many are instinctively drawn to him.

Thomas Chisholm’s well known hymn affirms, “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not, as Thou hast been Thou for ever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand has provided – Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

As we move forward into the Spring, and then the Summer, it is good to know that we can do so trusting in the living God. We can rejoice in his presence with us each day to cheer us and guide us. He will also give us strength for each day, bright hope for the future, and every blessing we need along the way.