The Army Celebrates a Risen Lord
…or was the cross enough?
An Easter Message by General Paul A. Rader –
In the last painful moments of his torment on the cross, Jesus cried out, “Tetelestai!” (It is finished!). The earth shuddered. The darkened skies wept. Graves sprang open. The thick veil that curtained off the most holy chamber of the temple shrine at Jerusalem was suddenly split from top to bottom. The deed was done. In the moment of his dying, Jesus had offered a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. In that moment, He tasted death “for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9) and opened “a new and living way” by which we may draw near to God. (Hebrews 10:20) Now, in Christ Jesus, the Apostle reminds us, “you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:13)
What Jesus endured that Friday afternoon, in obedient submission to the will of his Father, was full and final and totally sufficient. It is why the cross stands at the heart of our faith–a gruesome reminder of the cruelest of deaths–but now the cherished symbol of our acceptance by God, our forgiveness and welcome into his family and favor. Yet it was not enough.
What more could be required for our deliverance and sure salvation? Nothing, except this: that the Crucified One should stand forever in the middle of the Throne of God in Heaven, like a slain sacrificial Lamb–an eternal reminder of the ultimate price paid for our redemption and renewal in the Spirit. The price was blood–the very blood of God! Unendurable pain and unimaginable desolation: “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34 The Message) The shocking words echoed against the lowering sky. There, once and forever, God proved his love for us, in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Still, as the risen Son of God, Jesus needed to carry his wounds into the presence of the Father, so that he could speak on our behalf. “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John:1-2) Trusting in that sacrifice, we can have the assurance that our sins and failures are forever forgiven and can no longer stand between us and an open and comfortable fellowship with our Heavenly Father. That is the good news of the gospel. But there is more.
Jesus is alive! “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24) What he did at the cross was accepted by the Father and eternally validated as he strode out of the tomb where the hopes and dreams of all who had known him lay buried with him, those three dark days.
Alive once more, now and forever, he ascended to the right hand of his Father to pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon his people, until miracles of his grace and saving power began to explode into our weary and despairing world–and have ever since. It is all because he died, but is now alive. By his death he gained us forgiveness for our sins. By his risen life he offers us daily freedom from their thrall.
That is why Paul, the great Apostle of the Resurrection, declared: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) Not because we could not be forgiven by putting our simple faith in what the sinless son of God did for us on the Cross, because, forgiven or not, apart from his risen life, released in us by his Holy Spirit, we could never shake ourselves free from the grip of sin upon our minds and consciences, our emotions and will. We would still be left in our sins–driven and dragged this way and that by sin within us, the world about us, and Satan who oppresses us. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
The truth we celebrate each Easter morn is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He lives, as he died, for you and for me. “Therefore he is able to save completely (and forever!) those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Easter matters! Without it our faith would be an exercise in futility. But now its undeniable reality has opened earth’s door on a brilliant and eternal Easter morning of limitless possibility.
Joao Carlos lost his father and was abandoned by his mother when he was just two. At 13 he was on his own, working the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, like so many other children. After a brief and unhappy marriage, he lost track of his family for 19 years. Life fell apart. He was desperate and deeply depressed. He decided to take his life. Walking along Rua Dieita in the heart of Sao Paulo he came upon a group of Salvationists holding an open-air meeting. He wanted to walk on, but something, Someone, held him there.
The speaker announced that at that moment a person was passing determined to commit suicide, but that he would be saved in the name of Jesus. Joao Carlos stood still as a statue. Just then one of the bandsmen put down his instrument and came to invite him to the meeting at the Army. There he heard the gospel preached by the Captain and gave his heart to the risen Lord Jesus. He was made new by the power of Christ. Eventually he became a soldier of The Salvation Army and is now working in the Street Children’s project operated by the Army in Sao Paulo for children much like he himself had been.
Jesus is alive–with grace enough and power enough and patience enough to change your life, too!
(Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.)