7 April 2023

The TC’s Easter message: The defining weekend of all history

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill

An Easter message from Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill.

Every Holy Week I’m taken back to a memorable incident when Gill and I were corps officers at Hemel Hempstead. Every year on Good Friday, in the front windows of the hall – which face a busy street – a presentation depicted the garden tomb of Jesus. A stone made of polystyrene was put in place across the tomb with a sign indicating his burial place. Many people would look into the hall and see the sight on Friday and Saturday.

One year it was my task to go to the hall at midnight, roll the stone away, change the sign to ‘he is not here, he is risen’, and rearrange two shop dummies dressed as angels, which were stood by the tomb.

And so, in the dark, I did the deed. I rolled the stone away, changed the sign and stood with my back against the window to admire my work and have a little moment to myself.

Then I decided to move one of the angels.

As I slowly moved my hand, there was a shriek from behind me on the pavement: ‘My God, there’s something moving in there!’ Then all I heard was the clatter of shoes running down the road… Just thinking about it makes me laugh!

But I thank God that, in the dark borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on the morning of that first Easter Day, there was something moving – in fact, there was someone moving!

It is a critical moment of eternal and human history. The unblemished Lamb of God – the perfect sacrifice – took upon himself the sin of the world and found himself the victim of a brutal Roman crucifixion, which literally squeezed the breath out of him as he was impaled on that cross on Calvary. Our sweet Jesus – the Son of God, the Light of the world, the Bread of Heaven, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the one who but spoke the word and people were healed, released and made whole – this one known as Emmanuel, God with us, bowed his head and died and so effectively paid the price of our salvation. It is the defining weekend of all history.

We sometimes sing ‘from a hill I know, healing waters flow’ – and you and I are invited to the cross and invited to become a part of that freedom movement. By a confession of our sins and an acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, he saves us. We rejoice in our salvation, our sins forgiven.

You will never find a greater example of love than that which you see at Calvary. But we know Good Friday is only part one of the Easter story. There was more to come. Something was moving in that tomb on Sunday morning that would change the world for ever.

Satan is vanquished – defeated. Christ is victorious.

Forgiveness comes to us through Good Friday, but the shattering and breaking of the power of Satan over us comes as a result of what was happening in the tomb. The power of God released in Christ, raising him from the dead, conquering death.

The amazing thing is that you and I can have some of that power now, today. Did you know that? While we come to the cross – an empty cross that symbolises the fact that Christ is risen victorious – we need to understand and receive the second part of the Easter story.

AW Tozer wrote: ‘I cannot give in to the Devil’s principal, deceitful tactic which makes so many Christians satisfied with an “Easter celebration”, instead of experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection. It is the Devil’s business to keep Christians mourning and weeping with pity beside the cross instead of demonstrating that Jesus Christ is risen, indeed.’

We are an Easter people – a Resurrection people – who know that Christ lives powerfully within us.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 and 11: ‘I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.’

The song ‘In Christ Alone’ (SASB 861) says:

There in the ground his body lay,

Light of the World by darkness slain:

Then bursting forth in glorious day,

Up from the grave he rose again!

And as he stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,

For I am his and he is mine –

Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Christ gave his life – but he stands in victory. And as God did that in Christ, he can do it in us – we can be free! Free to become who God always designed us to be. A people transformed by resurrection power – which comes as we die to self and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.

So, as we mark the awful but wonderful events of the climax of Holy Week, may you know for yourself his forgiveness and his love, and also a burst of his power. As we reflect, as we mourn, but then as we joyfully celebrate – as we thank you, O our God, for moving in the way that you continue to do. May God move this Eastertide in my life and in your life afresh.

Have a wonderfully blessed and inspiring Easter celebration!

Written by

Anthony Cotterill

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill

Territorial Commander

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