My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 2:1-2 (NIV)
In the recent past indulgent, self centered age, it might have been hard finding examples of sacrifice. These days, when workers choose to take a pay cut rather than see their fellow employees laid off, things are different. Recently, a young couple we know who have been waiting eight years for a baby were given one by another young couple who recognized that their circumstances were not steady enough to provide a good life for their newborn. Putting their baby first, they sought out an adoption agency and placed their son into the arms of an eager and grateful new mom and dad. We are all celebrating with them while amazed at the maturity and selflessness of the birth parents. Hope is emerging from the darkness around us. In keeping with my theme of hope, in Sunday School this morning, I handed out newspapers and asked each table to choose one story about a person who needed hope. Then, without using programs or money, they were to develop a message of hope for that person that related to God’s power and care, using Bible verses or their own personal testimony. The stories chosen were a mix of local, national and world problems and difficulties, and how they were affecting individuals. Our dear friend, Bill’s table, chose the capture of the American merchant ship by Somali pirates. Bill is a tough burly guy on the outside, but a deeply tenderhearted man. His past life compared to his current one is a picture of how God can work in the life of someone surrendered and obedient to Him. Because he knows how far God has brought him, Bill often finds the hand of God in everyday life. He eloquently spoke for his table as he outlined what they might say to a sailor on the ship. Bill talked about how their captain, Richard Phillips, was an example of Jesus Christ. When he made the split second decision to suggest that the pirates take him hostage and release his crew, he was willing to sacrifice his own life for that of his men. Indeed until this afternoon, it appeared that he might die in their place. Thankfully, today, Easter Sunday, he has been rescued, and not only is his crew rejoicing, but all of us who were praying for him and his family. I think it amazing that all the news networks have pointed out that his rescue came on Easter Sunday and was the answer to many prayers. How very true! Easter is all about Jesus who took our place. As sinners, we have no right to access the Holy God and in fact were doomed to death. God loved us so much, He gave His only Son, and Jesus stepped into our place dying on a cross so that we might be cleansed of our sins and have eternal life. But, the good news of Easter is that He still lives and is changing lives on miracle at a time.