Johann Christoph Arnold passed away on Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017. This is his 2016 Easter message. —The Editors
The Easter story is the most important story in the history of the world. And it does not belong only to Christians; it is for everyone.
Easter celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead three days after he was executed. What was his crime? He healed the sick, raised the dead, and preached the coming of God’s kingdom of justice, peace, and forgiveness.
After Jesus was crucified his body was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb, which was then sealed with a huge stone so that no one could steal the body. But on Easter morning an angel came and rolled the stone away. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to his disciples.
Like the disciples, many people today are afraid. Like the disciples, we also long for peace without knowing where to find it.
The disciples were afraid. They did not want to be associated with Jesus, because he had just been condemned and executed. They had experienced this personally, and were terrified. So even though they knew that Jesus had risen, they met secretly behind locked doors. But Jesus suddenly appeared among them, saying, “Peace be with you.”
Like the disciples, many people today are afraid. Even though, in most countries, we now have the freedom to believe in Jesus, we hide our faith behind closed doors. Like the disciples, we also long for peace without knowing where to find it. Jesus offers this peace to us, a peace that will take away all our burdens and sins.
May this peace excite us and fill us with hope and love. This peace is the answer to all our political and social problems. We live in a fractured society, where everybody is divided from everybody else, and simple joy in life is often squeezed out of us. This particularly affects children. When we take God away from them, and don’t let them come to Jesus, they are afraid.
The battle between good and evil has been raging since the beginning of time, but today it is impossible to ignore. Warfare is everywhere. In the impoverished nations of Africa there is war over water and other resources. Millions of people are dying because they do not have access to the basic necessities of life. Every day we hear of more atrocities occurring all over the world.
Jesus was victorious over death and over fear. We can claim this same victory and receive his gift of life and peace.
Jesus came to end all suffering and human need. He loved us so much that he was willing to die for us. As the apostle John writes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” This is the gift that Jesus offers us. When we celebrate Easter this year, let’s remember that Jesus was victorious over death and over fear. We can claim this same victory and receive his gift of life and peace.
Shortly before Easter 2015, my daughter Margrit died of cancer. Many times during her last days and hours my wife and I, together with her own family, gathered around her bed and thought of the Easter story. The following words of scripture, which my son Heinrich later put to music, became a trumpet call of victory for us:
Now we see through a glass dimly, but then face to face, now I know in part, just as I am also known, but then I shall be known, as I am known. Blessed be the God, father of our Jesus Christ who comforts us in trials. He will still deliver us!
For I know that my Redeemer lives, And he shall stand at the end upon the earth. And though the worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God!
Martha called Jesus to Lazarus, but yet did he die; when she heard he came, then she said unto her Lord, “If thou had’st been here my brother had not died.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die!”
Behold, I tell to you a mystery: We shall all be changed. At the last trumpet the dead shall all be raised, and we shall be changed, shall all be changed. Thanks be to God, death has been swallowed up, he gives the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Yes, Jesus lives, and we can all live with him.
Lyrics based on 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 1:3–4; Job 19:25–26; John 11:21, 25–26; 1 Cor. 15:51–52, 57.