THE WORD IS
THE RANSOM HAS BEEN PAID
The great festival of Christ's suffering, death and victorious resurrection is once again at hand. First, we pause at the foot of the Cross to behold how the ransom price of our redemption, the holy innocent blood of God's Son, flows to the ground and speaks to us - speaks better than the blood of Abel (Hebr. 12:24). When God takes us to task for our sins and confronts us with His Law, we experience terror and pangs of conscience. We want to be free of them, and he who has experienced this knows of no greater anguish. But what is it like to bear the sins of the whole world, to suffer the wrath of God because of them and to be forsaken by God? We cannot even begin to imagine what this is like. Only Jesus knows. He, who had no sin, was made sin for us. He was punished so that we would not be punished. His suffering was not only suffering of the body, not only suffering of the soul, but the full cup of suffering drained to the last drop. It was the suffering deserved by all people, borne by one Man.
At that time the sun was darkened, the rocks split and the earth shook from grief. If nature was thus affected by His suffering, should we not be much more affected? We are guilty of causing His death. For if He died for our sins, then we are guilty of causing the death of God's Son. We have reason to go to the foot of Jesus' Cross in sincere repentance to behold the wounds and the blood that colored the tree of the Cross.
The thief on the Cross had to watch this terrible scene. He himself was suffering for his own sins, but Jesus had done nothing wrong. He heard Jesus' intercessary prayer: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). His hardened heart changed to a repentant and believing heart. He recognized Jesus as his Redeemer, and so he, who was dying, spoke to Another who was dying: "Jesus, remember me, when you come into Your Kingdom" (Luke 23:42). Only one who believes that life continues after death and that Jesus will be victorious can pray like this. Even though our sins may threaten to obscure heaven from us, let us behold our suffering Savior. Then we will be able to see the gates of heaven opened wide, so wide that you too can pass through them through faith in Jesus.
The example of the repentant thief testifies that salvation is by grace. And it is comforting to us sinners.
THE VICTORY HAS BEEN WON
Soon after Good Friday, Easter morning dawns. In the pale light of the full moon, Jesus steps forth from the rock tomb, the glorified Victor, no power able to stop Him. The wages of sin has been suffered. Death has been conquered. Christ has risen as the Firstborn and is the guarantee that everyone, who believes in Him, will live forever. Temporal death will not take a believer into the realms of death, but will rather take him to be with Jesus. And on the Last Day, as the last trumpet sounds, Jesus will come in glory with His holy angels and gather all the dead before Him. We believe in the resurrection of the body. Woe unto those, who here in time rejected Him. They will not be able to find a place to which they can flee. But O, the blessedness of those who have placed their trust in Him. They will be free of sin and its consequences, free of the last accusation of their conscience. Remaining will be only everlasting bliss and the pleasure of being with God.
Jesus wants everyone to share in this everlasting bliss. After His resurrection, to His frightened disciples He said: "Peace be to you" (John 20:19). He didn't condemn them or accuse them, or turn them away, but gave them peace of conscience by assuring them that they were forgiven. He grants the same peace today. This is why He sent His disciples into the world to proclaim the Gospel. There was an urgent need for the Gospel message to be proclaimed throughout the world. Everything had been accomplished for our salvation, but only a few knew it, and only a few dared to believe it for themselves. Now too there is an urgent need for the Gospel everywhere in the world.
Perhaps now too there are those who think that they are not fit for heaven. None of us are, when we consider our works. But Christ "was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Rom. 4:25). On the basis of this we can approach God's throne of grace, confess our sins, and believe that they have been forgiven. Jesus' resurrection is the world's absolution. God's Word guarantees this.
When we believe the message of Easter, we too have peace with God. We are already blessed and can sing:
"Jesus lives! The vict'ry's won
Death no longer can appal me;
Jesus lives' Death's reign is done!
From the grave Christ will recall me.
Brighter scenes will then commence;
This shall be my confidence."