BY DARREN DEGRAAF
Easter is the most significant season in the Christian calendar. On this weekend, we remember the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Recently I was reading the account of the crucifixion of Jesus as told by Luke. The interaction between Jesus and the two criminals crucified near him struck me. One criminal hurled insults at Jesus and mocked him. At one point in the story, the other criminal, who had also started with insults, changed his perspective. Maybe through a painful accounting of what got him there, he came to his senses. He confesses his guilt and defends the innocence of Jesus: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he demonstrates a glimmer of faith as he says, “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Following these nine words, we witness one of the most extraordinary acts of mercy recorded in the Bible as Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.”
I love the rawness of biblical stories. The Bible is full of real people, and it speaks of their failures, foibles and brokenness. The Bible also tells of a real God and His deep love for humanity.
What separates humanity from God is our sinfulness. The one criminal on the cross demonstrated this in his pride through disdain, mockery and insults. He went to his grave only moments later in resolute bitterness and rebellion. The second criminal recognized Jesus for who He was and, in his final moments, humbly surrendered himself. In faith, he acknowledged who Jesus was, and placed himself under Christ’s authority. Jesus responded with amazing grace. That criminal experienced resurrection that day into eternal life.
Easter is that time of year that reminds us that Jesus’ death and resurrection is an act of amazing grace that has the power to reconcile us with God and give us eternal life. In the Easter tradition, baptism often exemplifies our new life in Christ. Baptism is a metaphor for the act of surrender and rebirth. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
Among the many transformational outcomes of our mission through partnership are the bold professions of faith in Jesus and baptisms year after year. In the past five years, our local leaders baptized nearly 20,000 people—many in contexts hostile to Christians.
Our local partners working in the most challenging places on the planet perform public baptisms for new believers who want to surrender before their entire community to identify with Jesus. There isn’t a more courageous act than to demonstrate surrender to Christ through baptism, despite the real threat of persecution. The result of such a bold declaration of faith is true freedom, new life and eternity—a gift that Jesus bought with His life.
Tujuka (pictured) is from rural Nigeria. She made a life-changing decision. Tujuka brought her idol to church to be destroyed. She received prayer and later accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. This is a picture of her public baptism earlier this year.
I hope you will be encouraged by the transformational kingdom outcomes you help accomplish by partnering with us. This Easter, our prayer for you is that you experience an even greater revelation of His amazing grace and joy in remembering and celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.