This Easter, Pastor Kong Hee delved into the works of Jesus on the cross to encourage the church that He can turn their lives around.
The Easter weekend (April 15-17) was met with much anticipation—for the first time in two years, the restrictions on live performances and seating capacity was lifted, returning the church to its pre-COVID Easter traditions. The church auditorium was abuzz with excitement an hour before service—even torrential rain could not dampen the atmosphere on Sunday.
This year’s Easter production was an engaging marriage of City Harvest’s various ministries. Helmed by the Drama Ministry, it involved the Dance Ministry, CityWorship, Creative Media and Visual Communications ministries to tell, in 20 minutes, the moving story of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, drawing from different “stations of the cross” along the Via Dolorosa.
The story was told through the juxtaposition of video scenes of Jesus’ journey to Calvary with live dramatisation of three characters who encountered Him, as CityWorship worship leader Alison Yap performed “Via Dolorosa” live.
The drama opened with the embalmer of Jesus’ body, sent by Joseph Arimathea to clean up and prepare the corpse. Startled by the state of Jesus’ mangled corpse, he took the audience through a graphic description of the brutality evidenced by the 39 stripes across Jesus’ body and the puncture wounds around his head, made by the crown of thorns.
Following that, the audience was brought through the retelling of the paraplegic who was lowered from the roof and a Mary Magdalene-style woman forced into prostitution. Their encounters with Jesus brought them physical and emotional healing—”He made me whole”, declared the woman. The paraplegic’s healing was demonstrated in a triumphant dance.
After the video where Jesus died on the cross, the story returns to the embalmer who encounters the risen Lord in the tomb. Jesus restored the man from a past where he grew up alone after the death of his mother, giving him a future and a hope.
GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON
CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee began his sermon by sharing a story of a man named John Griffith, a bridge operator in 1920s Oklahoma. He was tasked to pull up the draw bridge to allow ships to pass. One day, he brought his 8-year-old son to work with him; while John carried out his duties from the control shack, his son was out fishing below the bridge.
After he pulled up the drawbridge for an oncoming ship, John realised that his son had wandered off and was now climbing the mechanical gears of the bridge.
At that point, if he were to lower the bridge, his son would be crushed under its weight. Just as John wanted to rush out to rescue his son, he heard an approaching train—it was packed with 400 passengers at peak capacity. John screamed at his son, but it was futile; the boy could not hear him. He faced a quandary: save his only beloved son or the 400 passengers on the train. In that moment, John decided to lower the bridge, sacrificing his son.
John watched as the train sped past, and looked at the faces of the passengers—some reading, some waving. All blissfully ignorant of the supreme sacrifice made for them. There might have been passengers aboard, lost in life, busy in life, angry, hurt, or struggling. All were spared from what would have been a horrific accident.
“This story is a picture of what happened on Easter,” Pastor Kong said. “God so loved the world that He sacrificed his only Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross, to die in our place so that you and I can be saved.”
The Bible describes men as sheep that have gone astray (Isa 53:6) and states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Pastor Kong reminded the congregation that none are free from the corruption of sin.
Sin has separated mankind from their Creator and hardened and desensitised their hearts; it hurts them deeply, creating an emptiness in them that cannot be filled other than by the love of God.
“But the good news is God is love,” Pastor Kong reminded, “And in His love, He wants to forgive you and me.”
While God is a good God, He is also holy, hence He is unable to look upon evil (Hab 1:13). Holiness demands the punishment of sin; to overlook that would be to run contrary to the holy nature of God.
“To forgive us, God must do it righteously and properly. And the only way was Good Friday,” Pastor Kong explained. Jesus was sent in the place of mankind, to die in their place.
THE GREAT EXCHANGE
John the Baptist alluded to this in John 1:29, where he called out to Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Isaiah 53:5 prophesied the coming of the One who would be “wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities.”
Tradition says that Jesus was whipped 39 times, coinciding interestingly with the theory that there are 39 categories of sicknesses. There are also studies in which scientists report the existence of 39 types of genetic disorders.
“On the cross, Jesus was afflicted for each [disease] in your place,” Pastor Kong declared.
He illustrated this with the testimony of CHC member Jessica Irawan, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 16 years old. Despite undergoing treatment for a year, her condition did not improve. It continued to spread and soon, her cancer reached Stage Four and she had just a few more months to live.
During that time, Jessica attended church, started to read the Bible and believed in Jesus for healing. Together with her cell group, they prayed for a miracle to happen. Jessica fiercely wanted to live for God. She wanted to resume school, meet friends and grow back the hair she had lost.
Against all odds, the cancer went into remission, and Jessica was completely healed—her oncologists were stunned. Jessica went on to attain a bachelor’s degree in music. Twenty years on, she is still cancer-free and now works as a music teacher.
On the cross, the greatest exchange took place. “Jesus took away every curse so that the blessings of God can come,” the pastor affirmed. While this does not mean everyone will become millionaires, God will provide for His people, and allow them to be a blessing to those around them.
Oh Yan Ming came from humble beginnings: his father was a bus driver and his mother worked in a hawker centre. In order to put himself through school, he gave tuition classes. At 16, he came to CHC and accepted Christ into his life. Radical changes began to happen: Yan Ming graduated from university with distinction and currently works in Amazon with a stable income. Beyond finances, he is also blessed with a beautiful family.
Amos Koh grew up in a two-room flat. In his youth, he was entangled with gangs and eventually dropped out of school. During a stint in prison, he accepted Jesus. Today, Amos helms two successful businesses and is blessed with a loving family.
Pastor Kong highlighted that although Yan Ming and Amos came from humble backgrounds but lived very different lives, Jesus transformed them and prospered them when they made him Lord of their lives.
JESUS TURNS EVERY MINUS INTO A PLUS
The cross is the greatest symbol of the Christian faith. Pastor Kong likened the horizontal beam to the minus sign. From birth, human beings struggle with the “minuses” in their lives.
“On Good Friday, a miracle happened. Jesus crossed through from top to bottom,” Pastor Kong asserted “This is the heart of the gospel: Jesus turns every minus in your life into a plus.”
Pastor Kong shared an anecdote of the late evangelist Reinhard Bonnke who once appeared on television and was challenged by an atheist who noted that despite the fact the blood of Jesus had been around for the last 2000 years, the world seemed to be in a worse condition than it had ever been.
Bonnke gave him the analogy of soap: despite the fact there is plenty of soap all over the world, there remains people who are dirty. Standing beside a piece of soap will not result in cleanliness. To become clean, one needs to stretch out and apply the soap to one’s body.
Likewise with the blood of Christ: it is not enough to hear about the blood, sing about the blood, or talk about the blood. Only through outstretched hands and an open heart to allow His blood to enter and cleanse one’s life, will one’s life and soul be truly transformed.
Continuing on the significance of Jesus’ blood, Pastor Kong told the story of a young girl in America who was diagnosed with a rare form of blood disorder and needed a blood marrow transplant to grow new, healthy blood cells. The transplant was a success, and interestingly, in the process, her skin, hair and eye colour were transformed. In the same vein, when Christians receive Jesus, it is the very life of God that dwells within us, exchanging our old sinful nature for a new one.
At the end of the service, Pastor Kong gave an altar call for those who wanted to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Hundreds responded to the altar call.