Well, the celebration is about to begin! God, in His infinite wisdom, devised Plan B, after the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, to reunite with His people. And this could only be accomplished through the blood atonement of a sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world. Until the time of Christ, periodic sacrifices of lambs, oxen and many other animals were offered to God in payment of sins under what we theologically call “substitutionary atonement”. But these sacrifices were only temporary and had to be repeated at intervals to ensure God’s forgiveness of sins. Finally, God, unwilling to forget the justice that required a penalty to be paid for the sins of the world, made the decision to pay the price Himself by sending a member of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, in human form, as a final sacrifice, once and for all. And that is what Good Friday is all about – the ultimate sacrifice.
But Easter; that is a celebration of the victory over death. And there are some simple things that we really don’t think about when we celebrate Easter. For example, most of the major religions of the world focus on the teachings of their leaders. Whether it is Judiasm, Buddhism, Mormon, Christian Scientist, or Islam; each of these religions centers on what we can learn from the teachings of their founders. However, when you think about it, Christianity is the only major religion in the world that centers on what the leader DID – not just what he taught. And therein lies the celebration of Easter. Because the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the defining moment of our faith; that time when we realize that even death could not contain our Lord.
If it had not been for this event, chances are that Christianity would not have survived. The death of Jesus would have been recorded as another event in the annals of history, and the teachings of Jesus may have been studied, as they have been, for centuries – but that probably would have been it. Because after the crucifixion, even the disciples were despondent and afraid; they were mourning the death of their leader. Notice that none of them continued to preach or profess the divinity of Jesus. They even wondered whether they had been wrong to follow Jesus; and what would happen to them now. We don’t think about this part of the Easter story very much.
But after the resurrection, when they encountered the living Messiah – now that was something new and that event rejuvenated the faith of the apostles. And then, more than a week later, when Jesus entered the locked room and commanded Thomas to touch His hands and Thomas finally “believed”, Christianity was really here to stay. Because nobody in the history of the world had ever been resurrected from the dead!
And, I just can’t resist the desire to unpack this just a little for you. Because, Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, had been raised from the dead. And so had children – and even a woman! So people coming back from the dead had occurred before. But notice that these people had all been “raised” – and that means that they had returned from the dead through the agency of some outside force – and we know that force to be the power of Jesus! But now, a deeper issue – Jesus was crucified and notice that when we speak about his death, we use the word “resurrection” – not raising. And the Scripture uses both words in various places. But, in the original Greek, one of the definitions of “resurrection” is that it involves the “raising of one’s self from the dead”. In other words, Jesus brought Himself back to life – a powerful statement that had never happened before.
In fact, in various parts of the Scripture, all three members of the Godhead are attributed with the resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 2:24, God the Father is given the credit, “But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” And, the Holy Spirit is given credit in Romans 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” And, in John 10:18, one of the most compelling verses in the entire Bible, Christ Himself, referring to His own earthly life tells us, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” Did you get that? He has the power, from the Father, to take up His own life again! Hallelujah! Christ is Risen. In fact, Christ has Raised Himself!
And that is why we celebrate Easter. Because God lives, and when you hear confirming stories throughout the Scripture that all three parts of the Godhead were involved, just like at the creation of the world, and at the baptism of Jesus, you know a monumental event has taken place. So, this Easter, may the Holy Spirit, through the will of the Father, give you divine grace and peace, which only comes from having an intimate, personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, the Risen Jesus Christ.
My encouragement tonight is that there are people all over the world who long for the same kind of relationship you already have with Christ – and you can be the hands and feet of Jesus as you encourage them to explore the possibility of accepting the free gift of eternal life from God. And, this Easter Sunday, my prayer is that you will enjoy the grace and peace that comes from the consequences of Christ’s supreme sacrifice on the cross – and that you will spend some special time thanking God for the love that he has not just for us – but for the entire world. Happy Easter! The Lord is Risen indeed!