God used a five-year-old to remind me of the significance of the resurrection of Jesus.
It was Sunday morning, the fifth session of our church’s five-day revival. Throughout the revival, the children’s program had discussed the final week of Jesus’ life. The final session planned to cover the resurrection of Jesus. That morning, Johnnie, the son of one of the teachers, met me at the top of the stairs leading to the children’s department.
“The body is gone. The tomb is empty.” He grabbed my hand. “Come look.”
His nose wrinkled and he waved his free hand, instant indicators that this was serious. Johnnie had a problem to solve. What had happened to Jesus?
Each evening, I had led the music for the children’s program, then left to sit in the adult sessions. I had little idea of what activities the children did each night and what had led up to this moment. Yet, intuition told me to not spoil the story and instead, feed into Johnnie’s concern.
We knelt before the makeshift tomb. “Look, Johnnie,” I said. “The blanket the disciples wrapped around Jesus’ body is in one big heap.”
“I know,” he said, emphasizing each word. “The body is gone, and I don’t know where it is. It’s just gone!””
Later, teachers told me the rest of the story. The night before, they talked about Jesus’s death and why He chose to die. With adult help, the children wrote kid-sized sins on pieces of paper and tacked them to the cross. They took a paper Mache puppet that represented Jesus, wrapped it in the blanket and placed it in the tomb. Before the children arrived Sunday morning, teachers removed the puppet. Johnnie discovered the removal shortly afterward.
While I led the children in singing in one classroom, a teacher slipped into the other room and removed the pieces of paper from the cross. She came back to begin the story and escorted the assembled class to the entrance of the tomb. Yes, Jesus was gone, they discovered.
Before a teacher holding the risen “Jesus,” caught their attention, Johnnie glanced upward toward the cross. “Look!” he shouted with renewed vigor. “The sins on the cross are gone too!”
Johnnie got it. Jesus’ body was gone and so are our sins. When Jesus died, he took our sins with him.
Romans 8:1,2 says,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Chris Tomlin added beautiful words to the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace.
Where are those sins? Will they flit around like demons, taunting me that their stain will once again attach itself to me, daring God to renege His once-and-for-all offer of forgiveness?
Corrie ten Boom spoke words that have breathed life into my fading soul many times:
“God takes our sins – the past, present, and future – and dumps them in the sea, and puts up a sign that says, ‘No fishing allowed.’”
They are gone. Their incrimination is gone. The stain of guilt is gone. In God’s mind, because of His power over sin and death, those sins no longer exist. They are buried in the deepest sea. They are as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and you can’t get any further.
That’s what Easter is about.
Easter celebrates far more than a man coming back to life to prove He was more than man. The resurrection of Jesus unloosed the chains of sin and set us free from the power and punishment of sin. Death is the ultimate punishment for sin. Jesus’ victory over death sets us free from the fear of death because He has taken away our sin.
What have you done in your life that has caused you lingering shame? Have you done things that still hang around your neck with the weight of a bowling ball? Deeds you can’t bring yourself to admit to anyone?
Get a piece of blank paper. Write down those things you know are wrong. Whisper each one to God and tell Him you are sorry. Then wad up that paper and bury it in the bottom of your trash bin. Better yet, burn it.
You are set free from the bondage of those misdeeds. In God’s mind, you are forever forgiven.
Let them go. Let Jesus take them away. Allow His forgiveness to claim you and remake you into the kind of person He’s designed you to be.
Did you pick up on all the Easter celebrations on Facebook?
There were plenty of greetings and memes declaring the reality of the Resurrection. I loved reading my friends’ proclamations of their faith in Jesus. But that’s not what I’m talking about. On Facebook, I saw three true celebrations of Easter: ones that went beyond candy and eggs and Easter bunnies. Celebrations that reached past the words and the worship experience. Celebrations that mirrored what Jesus did that historic day over two thousand years ago.
Here’s how I saw people celebrating the best holiday of the year:
Roseville Illinois: The local minister’s alliance sponsored an egg hunt. Okay, lots of places have egg hunts. There are several significant parts to this story. First, a minister’s alliance, a loosely knit group of four area churches, worked together to stage this first egg hunt in Roseville history—or at least the first in many years. Over two hundred parents, grandparents, children, and local onlookers crowded the small town park on a chilly day to revel in “The Hunt.” All week, the weather forecast predicted rain, then clouds. At 10:45, when the youth minister of the Christian Church shouted, “Go!” the sky was sunny with just a hint of breeze.
Other activities included a Bounce House, a $3 hot dog lunch, and raffled Easter baskets. All proceeds, after expenses, went to the Minister’s Alliance who will use the money for benevolence needs and to support the local food pantry. No, it wasn’t just an egg hunt. The event launched a whole lot of good things that passed forward the blessings of God’s grace.
St Lucie County, Florida: A sheriff’s department bomb squad in Florida held a different kind of Easter egg hunt, this time for a niche group of children. Have you ever stopped to think of how blind and visually impaired children participate in Easter egg hunts? I have—all too painfully, I’m afraid. Like not at all, or with much frustration and shame because of teasing from bigger kids who don’t get it that the child can’t see. My friend, Carmalee, posted a video on her Facebook page that told about this bomb squad who provided “beeping” plastic eggs so children could find the eggs by honing in on the auditory signal. With a bit of research, I discovered that various groups, including police, Boy Scouts, the Pioneers, and Lion’s Clubs throughout the country hold “beeping” egg hunts. The video showed children blindfolded so both fully sighted and partially sighted children can participate together.
If you know a visually impaired child, you don’t have to look for a sponsored group to do this. One mother commented on the Facebook site, “My daughter is blind. We bought key finder key rings and put them inside plastic eggs. She walks around clapping her hands. If she is close enough to one of the eggs, it starts to beep. She is able to find them and join in with the hunt alongside her sighted brothers. A much cheaper alternative to beeping eggs.” That’s gare—making an event possible for those who couldn’t participate otherwise.
Coldwater, Kansas: Tragedies, crises, and emergencies hold no respect for olidays. In the midst of Holy Week, a grass fire exploded out of control in northern Oklahoma and quickly spread through two Kansas counties, claiming over 400,000 acres of farmland and several homes. We used to live in Coldwater. It was wrenching to hear reports from friends who told how they were waiting for evacuation orders, their weary husbands had just returned home from fighting the fire only to be called out again to fight a fresh outbreak, and the report that the fire, “is at the end of my driveway.”
Facebook got flooded with assurances of prayer. The word kept coming back. “We need rain.” But no rain was in the forecast. Then one of my friends said on Facebook, “We’re getting sprinkles at our house.” I looked at the weather radar. A green clump seemingly coming out of nowhere, lay on top of Comanche and Barber Counties. The next night, the evening before Easter, the area got one to three inches of snow! Yes, there was much jubilation at the grace of God.
“Heroes, I hear that word a lot lately. When I hear hero I think of; the fire fighters, the land owners, the ranchers, the volunteers, the dispatchers. Heroes, the folks making and/or delivering meals, the folks who have donated; food, drinks, eye drops, wet wipes, snacks, throat drops, phone chargers, to many other personal items. Heroes, the folks who have baby sat (so volunteers can help) or opened their homes and churches to people who need a place to rest. Heroes, all the mighty prayer warriors who pray consistently. I love this state I reside, this county I call home, this community I call mine and these folks who help with a true heart…. We come together in times of joy and sadness, and take care of each other ~ without asking for anything in return! Thank you to every HERO that has helped these past few days. God bless you all. I thank God for each of you.”
Heroes: people who put aside their personal concerns and risk their lives and fortunes so others might be moved out of harm’s way. That’s what a lot of people did in Comanche County and Barber County. That sounds a lot like what Jesus did when He went to the cross.
What better way to celebrate Easter!
Easter—it’s the best holiday of the year. This week, we remember the most important event of human history. I hope you can carve out time to spend a few minutes over the next few days celebrating God’s grace toward you whether it be through special services, family gatherings, or a creative expression. Jesus is Lord!
THE SONG OF EASTER
Sin stained my soul.
Guilt laden clouds shrouded my understanding of the Almighty,
Dousing any desire for the Divine.
Burdened with my past, stumbling over my shame,
I took barnacled steps toward Heaven,
Life in a relentless march toward Death outran Hope.
Dreams shattered on jagged rocks of my own imperfection.
Broken. Abandoned. Unworthy of love.
Drifting in a sea of senselessness.
I met Jesus
Like the Prince and the Pauper,
He exchanged my sin stained garments for robes of righteousness
Made snow white by the red of His blood.
The executioner’s sword awaited; His life for mine.
A shout sounded from the grave;
A laugh at Death’s defeat.
Wrapped in the warmth and acceptance of His Love,
I straighten to new heights,
Reaching clean hands toward an adoring Daddy.
His unmerited grace charts a new course.
Sin’s tyranny stands down.
Hope swells and fear releases its grip.
Unshackled, I sprint for Heaven and the dance of eternity.
The song of Easter has set me free.
Karen Wingate, (c) 2016