This Easter, through a drama about Zaccheus’ redemption, City Harvest Church was powerfully reminded of Jesus’ work on the Cross.
City Harvest Church celebrated Good Friday and Easter with a touching Easter drama, two powerful messages on the resurrection and redemption of Jesus, and hundreds of people giving Jesus Christ their hearts.
Titled Under The Sycamore Tree, the Easter drama production this year centred on Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho. In this retelling, Zacchaeus is picked on mercilessly by older children when he was a diminutive young man, and grows up to become a bully himself.
He tries all he can to gain acceptance in society but instead, is greatly despised. Those from whom he collects tax hate him because he is a bully and those in high society look down upon his status as a tax collector. His life is a failure until he is reunited with his childhood friend Marianne, who moved to another town but has returned to listen to a man called Jesus.
Marianne leads Zaccheus to Jesus as He is preaching under the sycamore tree. To all His followers’ surprise, Jesus calls the tax collector by name and asks to go to his house for a meal. Impacted by Jesus’ teaching and acceptance, Zacchaeus decides to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore fourfold to those he had taken from.
In a twist of events, Marianne is arrested by the Sanhedrin for helping a wounded woman on the Sabbath. In order to set her free, Zaccheus agrees to sign a witness’ statement produced by the Pharisees that is used against Jesus, resulting in His arrest.
Zaccheus and Marianne decide to get married but things go terribly wrong when someone Zaccheus had extorted money from kills the bride. Zaccheus runs to get Jesus, only to realise that He has been crucified, thanks to Zaccheus’ betrayal.
Zacchaeus loses his mind and roams the streets looking for his dead wife, but the resurrected Jesus returns and heals him. The drama demonstrated the redemption power of Jesus—He is always ready to save.
WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO DIE ON THE CROSS?
Bobby Chaw, the executive pastor, preached a message of redemption on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
“Why did Jesus have to die a humiliating death on the Cross?” he asked.
The Romans did not just torture Jesus, they wanted to publicly humiliate and mutilate Him to the point of death. They spit on Him, stripped Him naked and made Him carry His Cross through the streets to the place of crucifixion. On the Cross, He was shamed and rejected.
“Jesus has come not just to heal our physical pain, but also to carry every emotional shame,” Chaw said. “Very often, it is the shame on the inside, and not physical pain, that causes long-term mental health issues.”
Something like failing college exams can cause anxiety and fear of failure in life. A person feels guilty because he did something wrong; but a person feel shame when he is something wrong.
Chaw urged the congregation to give their pain to Jesus. “We can be free from every guilt and shame, because, on the Cross, Jesus carried all our shame.”
Jesus Was Crucified To Free Us From The Shame Of Sin
The Bible says that all human are tripped in his or her sinful nature and they cannot escape. However, Jesus can set them free.
Chaw told the story of David Poh. He grew up a bitter person because of the abuses he face at home. The only way he knew how to fend for himself was by hurting others. He got into trouble with the law repeatedly and found it impossible to give up his sinful lifestyle.
He felt dirty, guilt-ridden, shameful and often wonder who could deliver him from all his pains. One day when he attended a chapel session in prison, he felt the love of God filled his heart. He accepted Jesus and started attending church after his release.
Jesus broke the power of sin in Poh’s life. He was free of all the desire to fight, cheat and take drugs. Today, he owns an interior design company and serves in the security and boy’s brigade ministry in CHC. He also volunteers locally and in Manila, the Philippines to mentor youth-at-risks.
Chaw raised three points of the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion.
One, Jesus was crucified to free Christians from the shame of sickness. Many battling with chronic illnesses often feels guilty for being a burden to their families. They feel ashamed that their illness drags on and they cannot contribute to the family in the way they used to.
“On the Cross, Jesus has taken every guilt and shame. Sickness and disease are on Jesus but in exchange, we can now have healing and health,” Chaw said. “The Bible says by His wounds, we are healed.”
In the 23 years that Peh Ah Peeh worked as a bus driver, he would treat himself to a soft drink after finishing a bus route. This resulted in him contacting diabetes in 1983. In 2006, a serious infection caused his leg to swell and he had to undergo an emergency surgery. His doctor told the family that if his condition did not improve in 24 hours, they would have to amputate his leg.
Peh was shocked. The fear and guilt of burdening his family caused him to feel hopeless. That day, his daughter gathered some church members to pray for him at hospital. He said to her, “If your Jesus can heal me and there’s no amputation needed, I will go to church.” The next day, all the swelling went down and there was no need for amputation. His doctors were amazed.
Today, Peh is 77 and a student at CHC’s School of Theology. He arrives half an hour early every day and sits attentively in the front row. His life has been transformed by Jesus.
“Jesus is still healing!” Chaw encouraged the church. “Sickness and disease are on the Cross. This morning, won’t you come to the Cross and let Him take away your shame and guilt? I want to believe with you that you’ll walk out of this place healed.”
The second significant achievement of the crucifixion is the freedom Christians have from the shame of failure.
Elton Lam grew up in a family that is always fighting over money. At 27, he packed his bags and left Hong Kong for Canada telling himself he would never be poor again. He worked hard and climbed quickly up the corporate ladder. At his “peak” Lam partied every night and took drugs. However, things turned sour when SARs hit Toronto and his company’s business suffered. His wife left him and his body broke down due to prolonged drug abuse. In a short time, he lost everything and spiraled into deep depression.
At that point, Lam remembered his family back in Hong Kong. He was full of shame but he gathered his courage and returned home. That first weekend back in Hong Kong, Lam went to church. As he cried out in despair, he heard a voice in his heart saying: “Elton, you still have Me! No matter what you have done, Jesus will never reject you!”
That day, Lam fully surrendered his heart to Jesus. God did a miracle. Not only was he reconciled with his family, he got a new job within three months and met Cecilia, whom he eventually married.
In 2013, both Lam and Cecilia graduated from SOT. They gave up their corporate jobs and became pastors to help couples restore their marriages.
“This Easter, every curse of failure and debt is on Jesus,” Chaw said, “Won’t you come to the cross for the great exchange? Breathe out all the shame and guilt and breathe in the life of Jesus.”
THE RESURRECTION POWER OF CHRIST
“This process that Jesus experienced at Easter is actually an example of what our life is often like,” said Aries Zulkarnain, CHC’s executive pastor on Mar 31.
There are three days in the Easter weekend: Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Good Friday is the day when Jesus died, Holy Saturday is the day when He was under the ground, and Sunday is the day of His resurrection.
“There will always be a time of suffering and a time of waiting,” he said, “but Easter reminds us that there will always be a resurrection after our suffering and waiting.”
Zulkarnain then referenced Matthew 28:5-7, which speaks of the resurrection of Christ. It serves to remind Christians that every suffering comes to an end and every waiting period has an expiry date.
“To many, Easter and the resurrection is only an event,” the pastor said. “But to Jesus, it is an experience.
“The difference between an event and an experience will determine the miracle or the transformation you encounter this Easter,” Zulkarnain elaborated. “I am praying that you will get to experience Easter, along with the resurrection power of Christ that can transform our lives.”
Easter is a reminder that pain and suffering are never permanent. In the story of Lazarus, Jesus told the disciples, “This sickness is not unto death, but it is for the glory of God.” Zulkarnain reminded the church that through Jesus’ resurrection, every suffering has an ending, just as Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus’ suffering would end and he would experience healing through the resurrection power of Christ.
Zulkarnain then shared a testimony from one of his Indonesian members, Rachmania Kadi, who at the tender age of 14, was already a successful model in Indonesia. Despite her popularity and success, Kadi struggled with her identity and self-esteem since young.
Things worsened when she faced immense pressure from the industry to look good and stay thin. This resulted in her self-esteem plummeting. She then fell into a deep depression, and desperate to cope, started to mix with the wrong company and abuse drugs. Her drug addiction caused her to be arrested several times. She also had to be rushed to the hospital multiple times because of drug overdose.
Hadi checked herself into drug rehabilitation countless times, but her efforts were in vain. One time, she got pregnant and thought that this could distract herself from drugs. For the sake of her baby, she stopped taking drugs during the pregnancy. Soon after the baby was born, she continued her drug consumption and her addiction escalated.
To make things worse, just one month her wedding, Kadi’s fiancé died in an accident. This took a toll on her and she became depressed and suicidal. It was at this point that her old partying friends Dimas and Ajeng reached out to her and introduced her to Jesus. After receiving salvation, her craving for drugs stopped instantly. She was set free from her addiction and until today, she has not touched nor felt any temptation to consume drugs anymore. Kadi’s testimony is proof that all sufferings end.
Zulkarnain then went on to share John 11:17, 20-23, in which by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been dead in the tomb for two days. At this point in the story, Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
He said that there will be many moments in a person’s life where one can relate to when Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, we waited, but You are too late!” Zulkarnain shared that while Martha and Mary were waiting for a miracle, Jesus was actually preparing for glory.
“Through His resurrection, every waiting has an expiry date!” Zulkarnain declared. He shared that it was important to have faith while waiting and stressed that “faith doesn’t prevent you from experiencing crisis but it prepares you to overcome that crisis”.
He encouraged the congregation by sharing that behind every pain in waiting lies a purpose for His glory. Quoting Isaiah 40:31, Zulkarnain said, “Just like how Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb in the Bible even though he had been dead for two days, God can cause your situation to rise again when you think your situation is dead.”
Zulkarnain shared that before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
He stressed that resurrection is a person, not an event. “To experience resurrection, you have to realize that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. You must experience the person of Jesus. That’s why the answer to our problem is not just how, but it is always Who.”
“Even though we may experience ‘temporary death’ at times, as long as we place our trust in Jesus, we will definitely rise again in the resurrection.”