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Easter: growing hope from heartache

Easter is significant on the calendar for all Australians. And for people who follow the Christian faith – including members of The Salvation Army church – Easter is particularly meaningful. In its simplest form, the Easter message is one of new life and hope.

When Jesus died, which we remember on Good Friday, hope seemed lost for his followers. Jesus was promised to be “the hope of all the world” (Matthew 12:21, NLT). But he was hung on a cross and buried in a grave.

Yet, three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, overcoming death itself.

In a similar way, God wants to meet us in our challenging and hopeless places and help us rise up in hope.

Why is Good Friday “good” if Jesus died that day?

Christians believe Jesus secured the salvation and freedom of humanity through his death. This salvation isn’t something we must earn. It’s a free gift offered to everyone who chooses to simply accept it.

Jesus was crucified on the cross between two criminals. His encounter with one of them powerfully depicts how freely he offers the gift of salvation.

The man turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42–43, NIV).

The request of the criminal shows his belief in who Jesus was as a King who could rescue him. He reaches out to Jesus in simple faith. The man had no time to make amends for his mistakes. Jesus responds graciously with the promise of an eternity in paradise.

The same offer is there for us all – at Easter and always.

The reason Jesus was then, and is now, able to offer salvation – wholeness, the promise of eternal life, and forgiveness from sin – to all people is because of his death in our place. He gave his life in place of ours. On the cross, he took the brokenness and sin of all humanity upon himself, and in exchange offers us his “righteousness” – that is, right standing with God and the fulfilment that comes with being able to live in personal relationship with our living God.

So that’s why we call Good Friday ‘good’.

The Easter Sunday promise of new life

And there’s more good news! The Easter story doesn’t end on Friday with Jesus’ crucifixion and death. That heartache for his followers gave way to hope when Jesus rose back to life on the Sunday.

As we’ve seen in recent times, the Australian landscape is an amazing picture of God’s Easter promise. Out of devastation – burnt stumps and dry ground – new life springs forth in the bush and in the paddock.

This reminds us of the resilience God has built into the human spirit. Even out of our heartache, there is hope for renewal and growth. Our landscape represents the promise we hold to that – even in our most difficult or devastating times – God assures us he is able to work out a good plan.

Jesus died and was placed in a tomb. To the outside world, it seemed pretty hopeless. Jesus’ family, friends and followers watched him die and “went home in deep sorrow” (Luke 23:48, NLT).

But God was at work. The resurrection of Jesus on the third day (Easter Sunday) is evidence of that. Jesus came back to life and offers us a new life with him. Even when we can’t see what is going on beneath the surface of hard times and heartache, we can have hope that good things are still to come.

God’s promises are for anyone and everyone. He promises to work out a good plan. He offers wholeness, salvation and hope. No one is outside God’s love and the new life we can have through Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25, NLT).

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