The Bishop’s Easter Message
18 April 2019
I was very moved by a radio interview I heard last week. The woman being interviewed was the Pentecostal pastor who ministered to the two young Australian men, leaders of the “Bali Nine” who were executed in Indonesia nearly four years ago. She spoke of the last hours of their lives and the power of faith in their lives.
Both young men knew that they had violated the law and they were aware of the possible consequences. There was no suggestion that their drug smuggling was unimportant. But the overwhelming picture drawn by their pastor was of lives renewed with a real sense of repentance and of God’s forgiveness.
Even as they were being tied to the execution posts they spoke words of forgiveness to the Indonesian soldiers who were preparing them. And then as the pastor stepped away they began singing a favourite hymn until, at the start of the second verse, the rifle shots rang out and they were dead.
This was a story of broken lives, damaged people damaging others, and then realisation, forgiveness and undeserved grace breaking into the darkness of a series of terrible events.
As the pastor spoke, the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus came into sharper focus. Young men from Australia, whose lives turned into a mess, were filled with the Spirit of God that comforted them even as they stared into the inevitable face of their own death.
This is a situation that Jesus has already experienced.
The turmoil of the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus feels deeply alone and uncertain, was similar turmoil that Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan felt the night before their execution. Like Jesus, they were caught up in an inexorable movement that could only lead to one end. And like Jesus, in the last moments, they found words of forgiveness for their executioners.
Where does such courage come from? For Jesus the answer is connected to his deep trust that this was the will of the Father. For those being executed, confidence came from knowing that Jesus has already gone on this journey, and that this is ground familiar to the heart of God. The killing ground is not the end of the Jesus story, or of the story of those two young men.
Every year as we rehearse those last days of Jesus’ life on earth, we are rehearsing the great story that is the hope for our own lives – that in spite of our lack of integrity, our faithlessness, our sin and our pride, there is yet more good to come. Our last small word of bitterness or self-pity is never God’s last word. In spite of ourselves we dare trust that the Son of God has already destroyed the power of sin and death and invites us to new beginnings, new life, new promises – to resurrection.
May you know and experience that call to resurrection this Easter and always.
+ Garry Weatherill
Bishop of Ballarat
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