This weekend is Easter weekend; probably one of the most long awaited weekends of the year in the UK – for some it means a whole four days away from work. Yet a 2014 Travelodge survey revealed that 48% of British children are unaware of the real meaning of Easter; many linking it with the Easter Bunny or the origin of Easter eggs. But of course Easter is actually the time when we remember how Jesus not only died upon a Roman cross and was buried, but came alive again to the great shock, joy, amazement and consternation of many eye-witnesses, nearly 2,000 years ago.
So if Jesus was so powerful, as is claimed, why did He allow this to happen and what was the story behind it?
Part of the answer was tragically illustrated for us last week by the heroic actions of the French police officer, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame of the Gendarmerie Nationale. During a terrorist attack on a supermarket in Trèbes in southern France last Friday, Arnaud Beltrame offered himself to the gunman in exchange for a female hostage. Once inside he was shot and stabbed. His selfless action not only preserved the woman’s life, but also helped bring the siege to an end. Speaking to a French radio station, his brother Cedric said, “He gave his life for strangers. He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance. If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what would.”
A national memorial service in his honour was held today in Paris. During the ceremony Lt. Col. Beltrame was posthumously awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur. “To be willing to die so that innocent people continue to live, this is the heart of a soldier’s promise,” said President Emmanuel Macron.
And that is exactly what Jesus did; He was willing to die so that we could continue to live. Having lived a perfect life Himself, Jesus suffered for the things that are on my conscience or yours. He took our place and died for our hurtful words and selfish actions, so that when we face eternity, we can meet our Creator, not bearing the record of a spoiled life and character, but knowing forgiveness, freedom and peace; not facing eternal separation, but knowing a new quality of life, above and beyond anything we can experience here on Earth. As followers of Him, His resurrection guarantees ours. So as Moses once said:
“Choose life, so that you … may live.”
Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIVUK)
And that is what Easter is all about.