One of the remarkable aspects of human life is how an individual can triumph over adversity, bringing good out of the most difficult situations. An English pioneer missionary, John Williams, who was used by God to help establish the Church in the Pacific Islands (eventually being killed and eaten by the inhabitants of Erromango island, part of modern Vanuatu) wrote of a cheerful and persevering believer he met on Rarotonga (one of the Cook Islands).

The man’s name was Buteve and he had neither hands nor feet but still managed to cultivate his patch of land and grow plenty of food for his wife and children. He could not walk with the other local people to church to hear John Williams preach on a Sunday, but he would sit by the road when the people returned after the service and “beg a bit of the Word” from each one as they passed by.

He would receive a variety of brief answers, some remembering one point in the sermon and others another. Buteve would store up in his heart all the answers and prayerfully meditate on them until he understood them. In this way he became a staunch and faithful Christian. Three times a day he would pray:

“O Lord, I am a great sinner, may Jesus take my sins away by His good blood; give me the righteousness of Jesus to adorn me, and give me the good spirit of Jesus to instruct me, and make my heart good, to make me a man of Jesus, and take me to heaven when I die.”

Buteve shows us the triumph of hope over despair, of light over darkness. This is the message of the Christian faith at Easter, when Jesus burst from the grave and rose victorious from the dead.

Last Christmas, the UK television programme Songs of Praise ran a survey to discover the nation’s favourite Christmas carol. To the surprise of the presenters, it turned out to be “O Holy Night”. This was sung on the programme by Andrea Bocelli, with the original French words, which focus as much on Easter as on Christmas, as much on our redemption as on the incarnation. The final words in French are “Noël Noël, chantons le Rédempteur” meaning “Christmas, Christmas, we sing the Redeemer”. We could just as well sing “Easter, Easter, we sing the Redeemer.” For Jesus’ redeeming work is at the heart of Easter.

The Bible character Job endured intense suffering. In the midst of his agony of sickness, pain, loss, bereavement, rejection and dishonour he cried out, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25). When all seemed hopeless, then came the vision of a Redeemer.

As Christians, we too can hold on to the knowledge that we have a Redeemer. The Old Testament Hebrew word is goel, that is, a kinsman-redeemer, the closest relative who will deliver us and rescue us. For Ruth it was Boaz (Ruth 3:9). For us it is Jesus (Galatians 3:13; Titus 2:13-14). Our Kinsman-Redeemer is our blessed Lord, on Whom we have set our hope.

There is a Redeemer
Jesus, God’s own Son
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

Jesus my Redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain 
(Keith Green, 1982)

Whatever we must face today, whatever uncertainties lie in the future, we can affirm with Job that our Redeemer lives, singing:

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wonderous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.
I will sing of my Redeemer,
And his heav’nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be. 
(Philip P. Bliss, 1876)

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.