Billy Hallowell: As coronavirus closes churches on Easter, listen to words of Jesus

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Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is in a truly precarious place as Christians around the globe celebrate and remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Against the backdrop of typically jovial Easter traditions, many are suffering. Families remain separated, children remain out of school and church pews continue to be empty.

On the holiest Christian holiday of the year, the world is in a total upheaval, battling an invisible enemy that has spun entire economies and nations into confusion. And yet there is still hope amid our oppressive uncertainty and weariness.

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Jesus’ own words on the cross are some of the most profound proclamations we can look to for inspiration amid the chaos. It was in the moments of Christ’s most intense suffering that He delivered timeless statements that can bring us peace and calm amidst the storm.

So, with Easter upon us, let’s explore what Jesus said from the cross and how His words can transform us in our greatest time of need:

“You will be with me in paradise”

One of the most incredible and memorable moments during Christ’s crucifixion unfolded when He interacted with two criminals who faced the same punishment.

In Luke 23:39-43 (NIV), we read that one of the men jeered and mocked Jesus, imploring Him to save Himself (and them) if He truly was the Messiah.

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But the other criminal took a very different approach, telling his peer, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” This criminal then turned to Jesus and asked Christ to “remember” him.

Jesus, showcasing that it’s never too late to receive true forgiveness, proclaimed: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This is a stunning reminder for us all that it is never too late to turn back from our errors and hit the reboot button, and that we can always turn to God, no matter the mistakes we’ve made.

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 “Father, forgive them”

We’re living in some truly divided and contentious times, and yet three simple words spoken by Jesus on the cross hold the power to change our entire perspective: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34, NIV).

Christ uttered these words as He was placed on a cross beside criminals. Chaos raged around Him. Undeserving of His punishment and knowing full well what was about to happen, Christ had nothing but compassion and love for His “enemies” – so much so that He asked God to forgive them, adding: “For they do not know what they are doing.”

How many of us can say we do the same when faced with persecution or a mere dispute? When we find ourselves angry, frustrated or hurt, these words offer us an inspirational example worthy of embracing in our own lives.

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 “It is finished”

The core of the Christian faith can be summarized in three additional words that Jesus spoke from the cross. In John 19:25 (NIV), we see that Christ is thirsty; after he was given wine, he proclaimed: “It is finished” and then gave up his spirit.

At first glance, these words might seem unremarkable or basic, as they summarize that death was upon him. But when you consider the fact that Jesus had known well before being beaten and crucified what was coming and yet willingly continued on His path to die for the sins of humanity, these words hold greater weight.

1 Peter 3:18 (NIV) proclaims: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

For the Christian, these verses are profound and speak to a moment that not only defined history, but also revolutionized the human experience.

For any human, though, Jesus’ message of “loving God” and, at the least, “loving others,” leaves us with a call. Even in our greatest moments of pain, we must still love others. But beyond that, putting others first is one of the greatest manifestations of love.

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At a time when so many of us cannot be together – when so many are experiencing loneliness and isolation – these three statements: “You will be with me in paradise,” “Father, forgive them” and “It is finished” call us to faith, hope and love.

Let’s pause to consider each of these proclamations this Easter and ponder how they pertain to our lives. And let’s each look for ways to live out these calls as we continue to journey through uncertainty.

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