Many people will be looking forward to the long bank holiday weekend as a welcome break from work, a time to see family and friends and perhaps treat one another to chocolates and Easter eggs – not really understanding what Easter is all about or why it could be significant to them.
In order to really understand Easter, we need to take a ‘deep breath’, open our Bibles and contemplate the first few chapters of the book of Genesis. Now many people will immediately dismiss the Bible as religious ‘mumbo-jumbo’, saying hasn’t science dismissed all this as rubbish – and don’t we now accept human-beings came into being through a process of evolution? To which I would want to say, well you can ask those sort of questions if you would like, but that’s not really what the Bible is about! Many scientists are quite happy Christians because they accept that the Bible doesn’t really speak in terms of science at all but in terms of theology. It’s more concerned with ‘why’ the world is as it is, rather than ‘how’ it came to be. Theologically speaking, the opening chapters of Genesis explain how God initially created a perfect world, but it was spoilt by the foolish, self-centred decisions of human beings (namely Adam and Eve) who thought that they knew better and wanted ‘to be like God’. This wilful disobedience (which the Bible calls sin) led to the world becoming less than perfect, knocked off balance and ‘out of kilter’ by arrogance, wickedness and greed – qualities which spoil not only our human relationships but our relationship with God himself. In other words, the world is not as God originally intended. It is as Christians describe it – fallen – and if you doubt it, then all one has to do is look at the news on our television screens. Genesis therefore speaks to our humanity, and most people having read it, if they are honest with themselves, can identify with it saying – ‘that’s me!’
The rest of the Bible is really a ‘love story’, describing how God goes to great pains to rescue us from this world of sin and put things right, and its hero is Jesus. For in the Old Testament, we see how God is constantly trying (initially through the people of Israel) to call people back to himself and to a ‘righteous’ way of living, but time and time again the people fail because the strangle hold of sin is simply too strong. Although we often learn from our mistakes, we can’t put things right by ourselves. The Bible may tell us that ‘if our hand causes us to sin, we should cut it off, or if our eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out’ (Mark 9.42f) but as Jesus makes clear, the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart – and we can’t cut out our heart! So, Jesus steps in, showing us not only how to live a better life, but how we can positively change our hearts when we put our faith and trust in him, demonstrating just how extraordinary God’s love for each and every one of us is by his own death upon the cross. He takes upon himself the punishment that our sin deserves – sparing us from it, for as the old hymn makes clear ‘there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; only he could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in’. All we need to do, to be forgiven, is to trust that Jesus died for my personal sin – and say thank you.
But that’s not the end of the story, because three days later Jesus rose from the grave – a tremendous and astounding event witnessed by so many of his friends and disciples, demonstrating once and for all that he was indeed the ‘Son of God’ who died to save the world – and that’s the message of Easter. Now, of course it doesn’t take a moment for us to appreciate that the world is still sinful and still needs to change, which is precisely why the Gospel message is still so needed and so relevant for our modern world today, still speaking of a future hope when all will be ultimately put right when Christ returns – but in the meantime, the world as we know it changes ‘one heart at a time’. Please let one of them be yours!
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” Philippians 3.10