I’m just sitting here thinking about WHY we say “Happy” Easter…didn’t take but a moment to answer that one:
Because we’re just “happy” we didn’t have to do the dying on the old rugged cross that terrifying day! Well, that may be one of the reasons—Can I get a Amen?
John the Baptist had been sent to prepare the way for the Saviour. He had preached in the wilderness saying: “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.” —Mark 1:15
God had made known to John the Baptist that some day the Messiah would come to him and ask him to be baptized. He had also promised that a sign should be given so that he might know who it was. So when Jesus came, John saw in His face such signs of His holy life, that he forbade Him saying: “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me.” And Jesus answering, said unto him, “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” —Matthew 3:14-15
And as he said this, there was seen upon His face, the same heavenly light that Simon had beheld. So John led the Saviour down into the waters of the beautiful Jordan, and there he baptized Him in the sight of all the people.
Jesus was not baptized to show repentance for His sins, for He had never sinned. He did this to set an example for us. When He came out of the water, He kneeled on the riverbank and prayed. Then the heavens were opened, beams of glory streamed forth, “and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him.” —Matthew 3:16
His face and form were all aglow with the light of the glory of God. And from heaven, the voice of God was heard saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” —Matthew 3:16-17
The glory that rested upon Christ was a pledge of the love of God for us. The Saviour came as our example; and just as surely as God heard His prayer, He will hear ours.
The most needy, the most sinful, the most despised, may find access to the Father. When we come to Him in Jesus’ name, the voice which spoke to Jesus speaks to us, saying: “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”
After His baptism, Christ was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil. In going into the wilderness, Christ was led by the Spirit of God. He did not invite temptation. He wanted to be alone that He might contemplate His mission and work. By the prayer and fasting, He was to brace Himself for the blood-stained path He must travel. But Satan knew where the Saviour had gone, so he went there to tempt Him.
As Christ left the Jordan, His face was lighted with the glory of God, but after He entered the wilderness, this glory disappeared. The sins of the world were upon Him and His face showed such sorrow and anguish as man had never felt. He was suffering for sinners.
Adam and Eve in Eden, had disobeyed God by eating of the forbidden fruit. Their disobedience had brought sin and sorrow and death into the world. Christ came to give an example of obedience. In the wilderness, after fasting for forty days, He would not, even to obtain food, depart from the will of His Father. Christ was tempted by Satan three times in the wilderness: the love of the world, the lust for power, and the pride of life–everything that draws man away from the worship of God was embraced in the great temptation of Christ.
In obeying the counsel of Satan, for riches, honors and happiness, we are worshiping Satan instead of God, and it will bring only misery and ruin. To Satan’s demand for Christ’ worship, Christ answered: “Get thee hence Satan, for it is written, Thou shall worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.“—Matthew 4:3-10
When Christ refused Satan, the tempter could not resist the command, “Get thee hence, Satan” and he was compelled to go.
So that we also may resist temptation, and overcome Satan, the Lord says to us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” —James 4:7-8
From the wilderness, Christ returned to Jordan, where John the Baptist continued to preach and prepare the way, by telling the people of the coming of Jesus, the heavenly King, and calling on them to repent of their sins, and the people were greatly moved. The Messiah was among them! With awe and wonder, the hearers looked upon Jesus, and questioned themselves…Is this the Christ? They saw that Jesus bore no tokens of worldly wealth or greatness; His clothing was plain and simple such as poor people wore. But in his pale, worn face, was something that moved their hearts.
However, the messengers of Jerusalem were not drawn to the Saviour. John the Baptist had not said that which they desired to hear. They expected the Messiah to come as a great conqueror.
John the Baptist continued to prepare the way and Christ continued His ministry. In doing so, Jesus twice visited His old home at Nazareth. On the first visit, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and read from Isaiah’s prophecy about the work of the Messiah—how He was to preach good tidings to the poor, to comfort the sorrowing, to give sight to the blind, and to heal those that were bruised.
At first, the people believed that Jesus was the promised Saviour, but then they remembered how Jesus had lived among them as a carpenter, though in His whole life there had been only deeds of love and mercy, they still would not believe that He was the Messiah, so Jesus left Nazareth. The next time He came to Nazareth, the people were no more ready to receive Him. He went away again, never to return to Nazareth.
Jesus Christ worked for those who wanted His help and all through the country the people flocked about him. As He healed and taught them, there was great rejoicing. Heaven seemed to come down to earth and they feasted upon the grace of a merciful Saviour.
Among the Jews, religion had come to be little more than a round of ceremonies. As they had departed from the true worship of God, and lost the spiritual power of His word, they had tried to supply the lack by adding ceremonies and traditions of their own. But their hopes were fixed on worldly greatness. They longed for riches and power, and these, they expected as their reward for their pretended piety. They looked for the Messiah to set up His kingdom on this earth, and to rule as a mighty prince among them. Every worldly blessing they hoped to receive at His coming.
Jesus knew that their hopes were to be disappointed. He had come to teach of something far better than they had sought. He had come to restore the true worship of God, and to bring in a pure heart religion that would manifest itself in a pure life and holy character. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” — Matthew 5:8
God cares more for what we really are than for what we say we are. He does not care how beautiful we are or may look; He wants our hearts pure, then all our words and actions will be right.
Jesus was soon going away from the world to His heavenly home. His disciples were to teach the people of His love. They were to be lights among men. “Ye are the lights of the world.” —Matthew 5:14. This is what Jesus said to his disciples. This is what all the followers of Jesus Christ are to do. He calls them throughout the world. He knows us all by name. He knows the very house in which we live, and the name of each inmate. He cares for each one as if there were not another in the whole world.
The Saviour guards His flock of disciples. He has gone before us. He has lived on earth, as we live. He was a child, a youth, a man. He overcame Satan and all his temptations, so that we may overcome. He died on the cross to save us. Though now, He is in Heaven, He does not forget us for one minute. He will safely keep every sheep. Not one that follows Him can be taken by the great enemy. The care of the Saviour-Shepherd is not for those only who are in the field. He says, “The Son of Man is come to save that which is lost.”—Matthew 18-11
We have sinned and have wandered away from God. Christ says we are like the sheep that has wandered away from the field and He came to help us live without sin. This, He calls bringing us back to the fold. When we return with the shepherd and cease to sin, Christ says to the angels in Heaven: “Rejoice with Me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” —Luke 15-6
To doubt the possibility of your salvation is to doubt the saving power of Him who purchased you at an infinite cost to Him. Let faith take the place of unbelief. Look at the hands and feet that were pierced for you and rejoice in the power to save.
Remember that God and Christ are interested in you, and that all the hosts of Heaven are engaged in the work of the salvation of sinners. While Christ was on earth, He showed by His miracles that He had the power to save the uttermost. By curing the disease of the body, He showed that He was able to take away sin from the heart.
For three years and a half, Jesus “went about doing good.” Then it came time for His ministry on earth to be finished. With His disciples, He must go up to Jerusalem to be betrayed, condemned, and crucified. Thus were to be fulfilled, His own words, “The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”—John 10-11
In yielding up His precious Life, Christ was not upheld by triumphant joy. His heart was rent with anguish and oppressed with gloom. But it was not the fear of the pain of death that caused His suffering; it was the crushing weight of the sin of the world, a sense of separation from His Fathers’s love. This was what broke the Saviour’s heart, and brought His death so soon.
Christ felt the woe that sinners will feel when they awake to realize the burden of their guilt, to know that they have forever separated themselves from the joy and peace of Heaven. Angels beheld with amazement the agony of despair borne by the Son of God. His anguish of mind was so intense that the pain of the cross was hardly felt.
Nature, itself, was in sympathy with the scene on Calvary. The sun shone clearly until midday, when suddenly it seemed to be blotted out. All about the cross was darkness as deep as the blackest midnight. This supernatural darkness lasted fully three hours. A nameless terror took possession of the multitude. The cursing and reviling ceased. Men, women and children fell upon the earth in abject terror. Lightnings occasionally flashed forth from the clouds and revealed the cross and the crucified Redeemer. All thought that their time of retribution had come. At the ninth hour, the darkness lifted from the people, but still wrapped the Saviour as with a mantel. The lightnings seemed to be hurled at Him as he hung upon the cross. It was then that he sent up the despairing cry: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?“
In the mean time, the darkness had settled over Jerusalem and the plains of Judea. As all eyes were turned in the direction of the fated city, they saw the fierce lightnings of God’s wrath directed toward it. Suddenly, the gloom was lifted from the cross, and in clear trumpet-like tones, that seemed to resound throughout creation, Jesus cried: “It is finished.” —John 19:30, “Father, into Thy Hands I commend my spirit.” — Lu—— 23:46
A light encircled the cross, and the face of the Saviour shone with glory like the sun. He bowed His head upon His chest and died.
When Christ died upon the cross of calvary, the new and living way was thrown open to Jew and Gentile alike. Angels rejoiced as the Saviour cried,”It is finished!”The great plan of redemption was to be carried out. Through the life of obedience, the sons of Adam might be exhalted finally to the presence of God. Satan was defeated and knew his kingdom was lost.
The Saviour was buried on Friday and “when the Sabbath was past, very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came into the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.” —Mark 16:1-2
The Saviour had risen from the dead and was not in the tomb of his burial.
All power in Heaven and on earth was given to the Prince of Life and He returned to His followers in a world of sin, that He might impart His power and glory, and once again He met with His disciples and showed in His hands and feet, the marks of the crucifixion and before his ascension to Heaven, He said unto them, “ye shall receive poser, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witness unto Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” —Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:20
The Saviour’s commission included all the believers to the end of time.
With hands outstretched in blessing, he slowly ascended away from them. As He passed upward, the awe-stricken disciples looked with straining eyes for the last glimpse of their ascending Lord. A cloud of glory received him from their sight. At the same time, there floated down to them the sweetest and most joyous music from the angel choir. While the disciples were still gazing upward, voices addressed them which sounded like richest music. They turned and saw two angels in the form of men, who spoke to them saying:
“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? The same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manners as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.” —Acts 1:11
These angels belonged to the company that had come to escort the Saviour to His heavenly home. In sympathy and for those left behind, they had stayed to assure them that this separation would not be forever.
The Son of God has triumphed over the prince of darkness and conquered death and sin. Heaven rings with voices in lofty strains proclaiming: “Blessings, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” Revelation 5:13; (Preparing for Eternity)
Our Saviour is coming again. Before parting with His disciples on the earth, He, Himself gave them the promise of His return:
“Let not your heart be troubled”, He said, “For in my Father’s house are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” —John 14:1-3
As I struggled through the four years of writing “That Melvin Bray”, it dawned on me that the real message in my story was forgiveness. So, as Easter was approaching this year, I remembered my story starts when I was five years old on Easter weekend, 1953.
I was compelled to do this 4-part series of The Life of Jesus, as Easter is the truest meaning of forgiveness and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loves me and the rest of the world so much that: “Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down His life for His friends.” —John 15:13
I weep when I think of what He had to endure on that cross, for not one, but for everyone, to be forgiven of their sins. Then I realize how unworthy I am, and that I was so pathetic, that it took me over fifty years to forgive one person who had wronged me…not trillions of people, just one person.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.
God is Good! God is Great!! Always!!!
I love you all, and sure hope you have a purer heart than I, and that you, too, agree that forgiveness truly is the answer for a happy Life!!
(Can’t sleep? Instead of counting sheep, try talking to the Shepherd).