“You meet us in our mourning, with a love that casts out fear. You are working in our waiting; You’re sanctifying us. When beyond our understanding, You’re teaching us to trust.”
—Michael W. Smith, “Sovereign Over Us”
This year’s Easter is like no other in recent memory. Since COVID-19 completely altered life as we know it several weeks ago, the word “uncertainty” has popped up everywhere, from email inboxes to every major news program.
Sunday, Franklin Graham, joined by longtime ministry friend Michael W. Smith, spoke to people about one thing that is certain—a message that doesn’t change with the passing of time or the rise and fall of a pandemic.
In a special Fox News Channel broadcast filmed this past week in New York City, the hardest hit city in the United States, Graham and Smith acknowledged the danger and severity of the coronavirus as they stood in front of an emergency field hospital set up by Samaritan’s Purse. Medical professionals, along with chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Rapid Response Team, have been serving there as the field hospital takes in overflow from Mt. Sinai Hospital across the street.
“Twenty-nine years ago,” Franklin Graham shared during the Easter broadcast, “my father [Billy Graham], just right over here, preached here in Central Park, and I remember that so well. The city was quiet that day. It’s like so many people had come to hear him preach, there was kind of quietness over the city, and here we are on Easter and once again we’re in this city, and it’s quiet, and this time it’s for certainly a different reason, and it’s the coronavirus that has gripped not only our nation but the world.”
From behind his keyboard, Michael W. Smith shared a few thoughts.
“You might be asking … ‘Where are you, God? Where are you in the midst of this plague?'” Smith said. He acknowledged he doesn’t have all the answers, but whatever is happening around us today doesn’t lessen the message of Easter. If anything, today’s events highlight even more the great drama that unfolded just before that first Easter when Jesus was raised to life after a gruesome death on the cross.
“When I consider what is happening in our time, and sitting here on the ground where the battle is perhaps fiercest against this foe we all face in common, I think about Jesus when He was hanging on the cross, on another collision course, heaven and hell, life and death,” Smith said. “Here we are where calamity and hope collide, and where your sin and mine and the cross collide as well.”
It’s sin that separates people from God, and the price of that sin is death—eternal separation from God. But Jesus, who was sinless, stepped in to take our place because of His great love for us. His death on a cross covered our punishment, He was buried in a tomb and His resurrection three days later defeated death so that all who trust in Him will live forever with Him in heaven.
“The penalty of sin is death, but Jesus took the death,” Franklin Graham explained. “He took the shame of the cross. He took the sins past, present, future to the cross, and He died in our place on the cross. So, on Easter morning we celebrate not a tomb with a body in it. We celebrate an empty tomb.”
During the half-hour program, Graham told three stories of people in the Bible whose situations seemed hopeless. There was a blind man named Bartimaeus who was reduced to begging because he had no way to make a living. There was a contagious leper no one wanted to be near. There were the disciples who went out on a boat and feared for their lives when caught in a storm.
But Jesus, Graham said.
Jesus gave the blind man his sight, He healed the leper, and He calmed the storm.
What’s your storm? Those tuning in to the broadcast may be dealing with money problems, job loss or marriage difficulties, he said.
“Jesus knows how to take those hopeless situations and turn them around, and He can do that for your life,” Graham said. “He can turn the hopeless situation of your life a hundred and eighty degrees. He can turn it around, but you’ve got to be willing to trust Him.”
That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect.
“If you come to Christ, you don’t get some kind of pass where you don’t have to go through storms. No, we’ll still have storms in life. We’ll still have viruses or whatever else comes down our path in life, but He promises to be with us.”
Standing before some of New York’s skyscrapers outlining Central Park, and within view of the field hospital constantly receiving COVID-19 patients, Graham made a final appeal during the broadcast—and for all reading this now.
“It’s my hope and prayer that you have trusted Him as your Savior this Easter, that He’s the Lord of your life, and if you haven’t done it, do it now. We don’t know if we’ll have another opportunity. We don’t know what next week holds.”