Sunday, 27 March 2016

The true meaning of Easter

Easter is upon us, a time of chocolate overload, excited children hunting for eggs and shoppers bargain-hunting  at the sales.  But is this really what Easter is about? 

Essentially Easter is when Christians remember that Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross, and came alive again three days later so that we can be forgiven for our sins and restored to friendship with God.  The bible says “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  

This astonishing Christian belief is a claim that everyone needs to consider and decide if they believe it.   As a Christian I believe it to be true based on faith and my own experiences of God’s work in my life, but also on facts.  So I would like to share with you some of the evidence supporting Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and the truth of the Resurrection.

For starters the events we now call Easter are recorded in the Bible, which is a collection of texts written by over 39 authors over a period of 1,500 years, and in other historical works.  More than a history book, the Bible reveals the God who created us, loves us and who gave us the choice to know and love Him.  God didn’t want robots or slaves – He wanted friends and family.   The Bible explains that God, being holy, cannot be in the presence of sin – all those things we do wrong – and therefore sin needs to be paid for.   “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ” Romans 6:23.   Initially people sacrificed animals for their sins, while priests prayed on their behalf, but God promised to send a Messiah, a saviour, to reconcile us with Him.

The Bible contains over 300 prophecies predicting the Messiah, prophecies which state that He would be the Son of God, and which contain details of his birth, ministry and death.  According to Peter Stoner in “Science Speaks” for one person to fulfil just eight of the major prophecies would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000, and yet Jesus fulfilled all of them.  This fact alone is convincing evidence that Jesus was who He claimed to be.   The bible, backed up by other historical documents, also records numerous miracles including Jesus walking on water, raising the dead, and healing people which show him to have the power of God.    So why did He die?

Jesus’ death was orchestrated by the religious leaders who were angered by his controversial teachings and by his claims that He was the Son of God.   Based on the evidence of his power He could easily have escaped from the cross.    But He didn’t save himself because He wanted to save us.   So whipped and beaten, Jesus died a slow agonising death with nails driven through his hands and feet into a wooden cross.   Jesus died “so that … He might free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”  Hebrews 2:15.

Jesus’ body was then placed in a cave which was sealed with a huge stone and guarded by Roman soldiers to ensure that his body was not stolen.  And yet three days later the body was gone!   Jesus then appeared alive to over 500 followers over a period of 40 days before ascending to heaven.   The behaviour of these followers is one of the most convincing arguments for the resurrection.   For Jesus’ followers, his death was a tragedy and disappointment.  They had believed him to be the Messiah and yet He had died.  The Bible records that the disciples hid in fear following his death and yet in the following years they boldly told the world of his teachings, death and resurrection, often suffering torture and death for doing so.  Only the resurrection of Jesus could have sparked such determination and courage within people who had previously run in fear.

So based on this evidence we can believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that the resurrection did happen.  And we can therefore believe that Jesus is the fulfilment of promises that out of love God would send His Son, and that in spite of his power to save himself He would die, then rise again.   “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  Consider the evidence, investigate for yourself, seek the truth.  God promises that when we seek him He will be found (Matthew 7:7).

Believing that through great sacrifice Jesus has given us full access to a loving God has the power to change our lives.  

This is what Easter is really about.

Larisa Hockey  - Mangapapa Church
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Published in the Gisborne Herald 26 March, Easter 2016

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