“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
Nothing more aptly frames the heart of Father God’s love for people than the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son. And while God’s love for the world is inclusive of every human being, it is also very specifically directed at each one of us. This heavenly truth was brought to my earthly understanding several years ago, a few weeks before Easter.
I’d just finished a meeting at a local restaurant and was walking across the parking lot to my car when I looked down and noticed a penny on the asphalt. Frankly, I thought, “It’s more work to stoop over and pick up that thing than it’s worth.”
But as I was about to get into my car, there came a whisper in my soul from the heart of God: “It’s still ONE.” And I knew the Lord was talking about His heart for people. My mind flashed ahead to Easter, and I recognized God wanting to sensitize me to His great love for people and the preciousness of every one. So I bent down and picked up the penny. I wasn’t looking for them, but in the three weeks that followed, more than a dozen times, I found a penny. They “just appeared.”
Walking through a mall, I spotted a penny in a shadowed area under a ledge. The only reason I saw it was because of the Lord’s prompting. Though I felt self-conscious about getting down on one knee to reach over and get that penny, no one paid any attention to me. But the Lord knew the penny was there.
One afternoon I was walking across a busy street, and I saw a penny laying in the middle of traffic. Cars were whizzing by—I wasn’t even in a crosswalk—so I went and waited at the curb until there was a break. I knew I needed to be mindful to go back and get that penny. When I retrieved it, the penny looked like a steam roller had gone over it. It was misshaped and pocked with bits of gravel that had been ground into it. It was in really bad shape.
A couple of days later I was passing through the utility room in our house, and there was a penny lying on top of the washer. I asked my wife, Anna, “Honey, what’s this penny here?” She said it had been left in someone’s pocket. I took that penny and added it to the rest.
Finally, I was returning home on a flight that took me through the Atlanta airport, where I had a brief layover. It was very late at night. I went into the men’s room, and on the floor by the urinal was a penny. It was filthy. Doubtless, the place had not been cleaned for hours. But I could not refuse to pick up that penny. I knew I was being taught something about the heart of God.
Because of the hour, there was no one else around. I grabbed a handful of paper towels, blotted things up, threw them away, then came back with a fresh bunch. Finally, I picked up the penny with a paper towel, put it the sink, and used all the soap there was to wash it. I took the penny home, keenly aware I was being prepared for Easter with God’s heart: That Jesus came not only so all people might be forgiven and receive eternal life, but also to overthrow everything that withers our present experience in this present moment: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
The Great Truth on which you and I stand today—and forever—is that Jesus is alive! The Resurrection is the most massive reality in human history. And its celebration at Easter (or any time) offers us a victory, confronts an enemy, and honors the Savior.
The Victory Easter Offers
The victory of Easter is victory over Satan. The adversary of our soul is real. Even people who claim no faith in the Word of God will acknowledge a sinister force that transcends human energy, a force basic to the depravity that happens in the world. The culture recognizes this force but doesn’t know how to define it apart from the revelation of Scripture.
As we cyclically celebrate the Resurrection, so also comes a cycle of claims from the realm of human unbelief challenging the Word of God. But the constancy of Easter, lined up against the inconsistency of deception, proves the failure of Satan’s lies. Century after century, the resurrected Jesus stands towering above the rubble of human confusion, able to break the claims and chains of satanic bondage because Jesus is alive.
The Enemy Easter Confronts
The enemy Easter confronts is death. Scripture says that when the last trumpet sounds, there will be a final Easter, the resurrection of all humanity (1 Cor. 15:20-58). Suddenly there will be a transformation from whatever has rotted in the grave, been blown apart in a war, or even vaporized in a firestorm, where no bodies can be found. The miracle of that resurrection will be a restoration of eternal bodies to all who know the Lord. Our proof is the One Whose body died and was put in the tomb. Jesus, Who rose from the dead, tells His disciples: “Because I live, you shall live also!” (John 14:19).
Easter confronts the enemy of death with living hope. Resurrections that Jesus performed during His ministry have profound implications for you and me today. When a bereft widow’s son died, she was economically disenfranchised. Out of His compassion for the futility of her future, Jesus resurrects the boy, evidencing His concern for any one of us who feel we don’t have a future either. Jesus resurrects Lazarus, even after his dead body was stinking and decayed. To Jesus, it doesn’t matter how bad the situation smells; He is able to bring forth the sweet aroma of new life. And Jesus comes to the house where Jairus’ twelve-year old daughter has died. It’s any home where death would invade—of a marriage, of relationship. No matter how beaten down, stinking, or dead anything looks, the living presence of our Savior can resurrect hope because Jesus is alive!
The Savior Easter Honors
The Savior Easter honors is the One depicted so clearly by His love for the preciousness of every person, so vividly illustrated to me in this “parable of the pennies.”
How precious is the one who may be right there in the open, like that penny in the parking lot. There are people who are wide open to the love of God. Others, living in the shadows of loneliness or shame, are uncertain about it. People are passing by, but nobody notices them, and they feel uncared for. The tenderness of God’s heart caused my eye to fall on that penny in the shadows. I had to bend down and reach behind the ledge to get it. It would have been easy for me to think, “I’m not going to do this because people will think it looks dumb.” A loving God is willing to stoop with complete indifference to what anyone else thinks because of how precious you are to Him.
The penny in the street was flattened and scarred. There are people who look good on the outside, but their soul has been pulverized. The story behind that damage would be a tender one to hear, but God already knows it. Though that penny wouldn’t be worth anything to anybody else, it was still one. The busy traffic kept me from picking it up, so I waited. Dear one, the Lord is waiting for you; He wants to reach you.
That last penny, the one I found in the airport bathroom, wasn’t really lying on the floor beside the urinal; it was in the urinal. I hope you will understand my reason for telling you this: God was making clear to me that there isn’t anywhere He won’t reach; there isn’t any one He won’t reach to. It can be the person who is wide open, like the penny on the sidewalk. Or the person who is hiding in the shadows. Or like the penny that had been through the washer, one who’s been through a storm of circumstances.
The parable of the pennies is the story of Easter and the love of God for people. Its lesson is that each one of us is precious to the heart of God. That He wants to touch each one with the compassion, tenderness, hope, and victory of the Savior. And that out of His love, He is willing to reach into the most problematic, darkened, washed-up, or fouled circumstance. Indeed, Jesus is alive, and no power of darkness or death can conquer Him—or those who come to Him.
Copyright © 2011 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries
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