Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham and head of the Evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, preached an Easter sermon in Ukraine, urging believers not to lose sight of the true meaning of the celebration.
As thousands have reportedly died and over 11 million have been displaced from their homes since the invasion began at the end of February, the 69-year-old Graham preached his pre-recorded Easter sermon from Lviv in western Ukraine. Fox News broadcasted the event, which featured music from the Ukrainian Easter Choir.
Graham grieved that the world is continuing to become more “violent” and “secular.”
“Many politicians and educators scoff at those that worship the Lord Jesus Christ. They make fun. They don’t believe,” Graham said. “For many, Easter has become Easter egg hunts and bunny rabbits and candy. But, may we never forget the true meaning of Easter, and that is the price that was paid for the redemption of your soul."
The head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association assured that the price was "paid by God" and "Easter is about God’s love for mankind."
“God created the world and everything in it. He made us man and woman. … And he placed the first man and woman in a perfect world," he added. "There was no sin in this world that God created. He intended for man to live, but God has laws."
“And we know from the Scripture that the first man and woman chose to disobey God. And as a result … sin came into the world. And sin has infected the entire human race,” he continued.
According to Graham, Bible states that every human has sinned and that all humans have come short of "God's standards for His glory."
"And there is a penalty for sin. And its death," he warned. "The entire human race is under a death sentence from God because of our sins. But yet, God had a plan to save us from our sins."
“What does that strange concept [of sin mean]? Well, the Bible says, telling a lie is a sin. Have you ever lied? Of course, you have. All of us have lied. The Bible says all men are liars. It's true. Stealing is a sin,” Graham stated, adding adultery, murder, hatred, bearing a false witness and pride as other examples of a long list of sinful behavior.
Although God is "holy and just," Graham stated that "sin separates humans from God."
“It breaks fellowship with God. … All of us fall short of God's standards. And the Bible says in Isaiah: ‘all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags,’” Graham said.
“The Bible says: ‘There is no one righteous; no, not even one.’ So what can man do? How can we be saved?” Graham asked hypothetically.
Graham said many people believe a false notion that they can work to earn their salvation by making enough money, building a building, being kind or going to church a few times a year.
“No, there is nothing that you can do. You see, it's only through Jesus Christ and Him alone,” Graham said, referring to salvation as a gift from God.
“The Bible says: ‘It is by grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not of yourselves. It's a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.’ Good Works cannot save your soul. It just can't do it."
In His plan to "redeem" mankind, God sent His Son, Jesus, from Heaven to earth "for the purpose of taking our sins" by dying on a cross. Graham pointed listeners to the Bible verse John 3:16.
“By Jesus Christ shedding His blood for us, He was redeeming our souls to God. But we have to be willing to accept it by faith,” Graham said.
He stated that Jesus was falsely accused and beaten beyond recognition.
"Religious leaders falsely testified against Him. The Roman government wanted to appease the crowd. They knew He was innocent. They knew there were religious leaders who were jealous of Him. So what did they do? They just gave in to the mob and gave into the crowd."
Graham stressed that Jesus "went willingly to the cross."
"He went there for you and for me. He was mocked when he hung on that cross. … And Jesus stayed on the cross,” Graham said. “And while He was on the cross, God poured upon his Son your sins and my sins, the sins of mankind, sins past, sins present, sins future. That's us today."
“We're the ones who deserve to go to the cross. We're the ones that deserve death," he said. "Jesus never sinned. … And as a sinless person, He was able to take our sins. … He was buried in a tomb."
As many in Ukraine may have "lost hope this Easter," the preacher said many wonder "what to do and where to go."
He urged them to fix their minds "on eternity in heaven with God and having belief and faith in Jesus."
“He has risen, just as He said. He is not here. He is risen. This is the greatest news that has ever been proclaimed — that Jesus Christ is alive. The tomb is empty. He's not here. He's alive. He is risen, as He said He would,” Graham said.
“If we repent and turn from our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, God will forgive our sins, and we can have that hope that we will be saved and forgiven and be with God for eternity in Heaven. … How do we have eternal life? It's not by works, but it's by God's grace, and it's through faith in His Son Jesus Christ."
He remarked: "This is Easter. It's about a risen Savior. It's about an empty tomb."
"Other religions are notable, and you can go and visit their tombs. Some of them are gorgeous, a lot of marble or granite. Jesus' tomb is empty. He is not there. He is risen, just as the angel has said."
Graham's speech comes as the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse has about 160 workers and volunteers on the ground in Ukraine meeting the physical and spiritual needs of those displaced from their homes by the Russian invasion.
“About half of [the displaced people] have gone out of the country, the other half are here inside Ukraine with no place to go and living with friends or relatives and some cities that converted factories or abandoned buildings into warehouses with beds where they can keep them,” Graham said.
“And this is a difficult time for Ukraine. So much suffering in this country and Samaritan’s Purse [has] responded."
Samaritan’s Purse, which works in regions of the world struck by tragedy, war and natural disasters, has several field hospitals and clinics established to help the people in Ukraine.
Samaritan Purse also has established food distribution centers. Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are ministering in hospitals and praying for Ukrainians.
“I think it's important for this Easter that we remember the people of Ukraine and that we pray,” Graham said.