This year’s Easter service saw many giving their hearts to Jesus in the midst of City Harvest Church’s most difficult season.
This past weekend (Apr 14-16), as City Harvest Church celebrated Easter, the atmosphere at the church’s Suntec auditorium was a mix of excitement and uncertainty. It had been a week since CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee and five others received the verdict of their appeal: their conviction remained but their sentences were reduced. While this was not the dream scenario most had hoped for—an overturning of the conviction—City Harvesters were deeply grateful for the shorter sentences, and their presence at church over Easter bore testament.
Scanning the hall at the first service on Good Friday, one would have seen every row filled to the brim minutes before the service started, with people continued streaming in after praise and worship.
The highly anticipated Easter drama did not disappoint, with its many clever references to characters in the Bible such as the demon-possessed girl that Jesus healed and Barabbas. Titled Unforgotten, it is the story of a mother and her two children, Seth and Hannah. Seth, the firstborn is separated from his mother and sister when the boat they are on leaves without him.
In a tragic series of events, Seth is sold as a slave to Pontius Pilate and leads a miserable life of constant abuse under the hands of the other servants and the cruel father of Pilate. Although he eventually becomes the favorite servant of his mistress, Pilate’s wife, his life’s experiences have made him a bitter and angry person.
Seth’s mother meanwhile lives an equally fraught existence. A bout of high fever has left Hannah mentally ill, and forces her mother to spend all her money looking for cures. Although she thinks of her son daily, she never gets the opportunity to return to her hometown and find Seth. Hannah and her mother meet Jesus one day, and Hannah is healed by Jesus.
Jesus also meets Seth when Pilate’s wife invites him to dine at her home. When Jesus reached out to him, Seth rebuts him and announces his lack of belief in God, saying, “Hurts don’t heal, they only leave scars.”
In a fit of anger one day Seth kills the cruel old father of Pilate, is caught and thrown in jail. There, he meets Jesus who has been captured and imprisoned by the Roman soldiers after the last supper. Seth finds himself set free—because the crowds have demanded his freedom in exchange for the death of Jesus. That someone who barely knows him would take his place leaves Seth grateful but confused.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, Seth returns to the jetty where he was separated from his mom. There, he meets his mother and sister and they are reconciled.
Hannah, Seth and their mother all had personal encounters with Jesus and they experienced Jesus’ love and healing for themselves. Their gratefulness to Him mirrors the gratefulness a Christian has for the amazing grace of God.
Addressing the congregation on Friday night, CHC’s executive pastor Bobby Chaw shared the message of Easter: Jesus whom they crucified has now risen.
Chaw told the congregation that death was something complex and something that everyone has to face. He described the experiences of the believers after Jesus died. Though it was a new day, a new week, the first thing these women had to face was the tomb, the symbol of death.
“Who will roll away the stone for us?” asked Chaw, imagining what the disciples must have felt and thought. “Who will help us in our lives as we experience the limitation of death? Who will roll the stone from places that trap the death and decay? When the possibilities of life seems complex, who will help us?”
But Jesus defeated death at the Cross, Chaw declared. When the disciples came they found that the stone at the tomb had been rolled away. Chaw went on to preach that Jesus is here to roll away the many stones in people’s lives: the stone of sin and death, the stone of sickness and disease and the stone of defeat, poverty, and debt.
Sharing different testimonies of church members, Chaw shared how Jesus had overcome death and His believers can do the same.
“The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus was resurrected from the dead to roll away the stone that is trapping our life,” Chaw said. “Be it the stone of sin and death, the stone of sickness and disease, the stone of poverty and debt, Jesus is here, and whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
CHC’s advisory pastor Phil Pringle shared the Easter message on Saturday and Sunday.
“The power of hope is closely related to Resurrection Sunday!” Pringle exclaimed, declaring the joy of Easter Sunday.
“When people lose hope, they enter into a place of mental unease,” he continued. “A lot of mental illnesses happen because people don’t have positive thinking. The resurrection is proof positive that Jesus can do the impossible even when we are in the worst of circumstances. Because of Jesus, we can still have hope. As far as death is concerned, we can still have hope.”
He referred to Acts 2:25-28 and told the congregation that Jesus was not second-guessing the promises of God. “When He was facing His worst circumstances, He put His mind in God, and His soul rested in hope.”
Pringle mentioned sites made famous by the dead. For one, the pyramids of Egypt were famous for their mummified bodies, as is Westminster Abbey for being the final resting place of former British ministers.
“The tomb of Jesus Christ is different! There are no remains, it’s completely empty. That’s because He’s risen from the dead,” Pringle said.
Pringle encouraged the congregation to have hope in Jesus Christ. Quoting statistics on suicide, Pringle commented that there was at least one suicide case every 40 seconds. Sharing about how depression stems from hopelessness, brokenness, an absence of hope for the future as well as anxiety and disappointment, Pringle said that people typically feed themselves with hopelessness.
“However, with Jesus in our hearts, we have the best future we can imagine,” he said.
In closing, Pringle said, “Christ in you is the hope of health when you’re sick. He’s the hope of justice, the hope of financial well-being. He is the hope of honor, the hope of progress and the hope of friends when you’ve been betrayed. He is the hope of fullness when you’ve been empty, the hope of employment when you’ve been unemployed. He is the hope of a house when you’re homeless, the hope of a child when you’re bound, the hope of peace when you’re angry. He is a hope for the future when you think you have none.”
Over the three services, 359 people gave their hearts to Jesus, making Resurrection Sunday truly a time of restoration and coming to Christ.