It’s Easter! How do you feel about that? More than a few people – inside as well as outside the Christian church – tend to lose the wonder and awe of Easter. People have heard the Easter story before. They know how it ends, and so it tends to lose a bit of an edge for some. But imagine the wonder and delight of being a first timer to this story!
I came across a true story by Pastor Chuck Swindoll about a kindergarten teacher in a Christian school who was determining how much religious training each of her students had. While talking with one little boy to whom the story of Jesus was obviously brand-new, she began relating the story to him about Jesus’ death on the cross. When he asked what a cross was, she picked up some sticks and fashioned a crude one. She then explained that Jesus was nailed to something like this, and then He died.
With downcast eyes the boy quietly acknowledged, “Aw, that’s too bad.” In the very next breath, however, the teacher told the boy that Jesus rose again. “He came back to life and is alive!” The boy’s little eyes got as big as saucers and exclaimed, “That’s totally awesome!” He’s right. Easter is totally awesome! Let’s not get ourselves to the place where we lose sight of it.
Think about it. Easter came unexpectedly. The Easter story is filled with surprise, astonishment, confusion, and fear. Women went to the tomb to hold a funeral service. They brought their spices to anoint the dead body and show their last respects to their dead friend, Jesus. Instead, they found the stone rolled away, an empty tomb, and two dazzling angels who asked why they were looking for someone who’s alive among the dead. They heard an announcement they didn’t anticipate – “He’s not here; He has been raised.” Then the angel reminded them of the predictions Jesus made about His dying and rising. And when they remembered the words of Jesus, they ran back from the empty tomb with the angel’s announcement to the disciples and told them of the experience.
The disciples responded with total unbelief. Dead is dead, they reasoned. What you are telling us sounds like a silly fantasy. You women are just tired and traumatized, and your imaginations have gone wild.
Peter, one of the disciples, ran out to the cemetery and found the empty tomb with the linen cloths Jesus had been wrapped in strewn about. He went home wondering what was happening. It appears that no one expected this to happen (except Jesus who predicted three times it would happen).
Soon though, as Luke and the other gospel writers tell us, the disciples found themselves having an encounter with the risen, living Jesus. He appeared to them eleven times in six weeks, in various locations – at a lake, in the Upper Room. They must have even been peeking around street corners expecting to run into Jesus.
Luke tells us in the book of Acts that Paul, an enemy of the Christian movement, encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and became a believer. Paul wrote in one of his letters to the Corinthians that not only did he see Jesus, but five hundred others saw the risen Christ as well!
The news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead is definitely something out of the ordinary. It is a shattering historical event! Death, which had been irreversible, had suddenly become reversible in the resurrection of Jesus. He is risen. He is risen indeed! He’s alive, and it really is totally awesome!
Now, I know that since that time, skeptics have looked at this Easter story and thought the disciples were being gullible. But let me ask you, do these women look gullible? Did they all have the same hallucination and encounter with those angels? And do the disciples look gullible? They refused to believe the story. In fact, their response was quite disappointing. They were the Lord’s right-hand men and had seen Jesus do amazing, miraculous things like raising people back to life. They had heard His predictions about dying and rising. Yet this report from the women seemed to be an idle tale, too far out in left field to be true.
Others point to the Easter story simply as wishful thinking. These people wanted Jesus to be alive, and so they are living in a denial of sorts.
However, the women did not come out to the tomb with spices just in case Jesus might be alive. They came to anoint a dead body.
Some speculated it was a conspiracy. The disciples cooked it up to keep the Jesus movement going. But if that is true, then why would each of them die as a martyr for the cause of Christ, for an untruth they had concocted? Would you die for a lie? That doesn’t make sense.
We know from history that conspiracies unravel over time. The account of Jesus being raised from the dead has stood the test of time and the investigations of some of the brightest people who have checked out this evidence. The truth is, Jesus was dead. He was crucified on a cross, buried in a rich man’s tomb, and now He is risen! That, my friends, is totally awesome! Give me an amen? Amen!
What makes it totally awesome for you and me are the implications of that news for our lives. Easter means, first of all, that death no longer has the last word over those who trust in Jesus Christ. Because He lives, you shall live also forever. That is a promise for us to build our lives upon!
Paul, the apostle, describes for the believer in Christ that death is simply falling asleep. I read of a pastor told of a memory from his childhood. His family was driving home from a long trip, and he fell asleep in the backseat of the station wagon. The next thing he experienced was opening his eyes to see the sun shining through his bedroom window where his parents had carefully placed him. He was home.
Those of us who trust in Christ are promised that when we breathe our last breath in this life we will awaken from our sleep in a place that has been prepared for us by Jesus. He promised “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare that place for you, I will come again and take you to myself that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:2). That is our promise.
I have watched unbelievers without the solace of Easter collapse at the grave site of a loved one in absolute despair and fear. They have nothing to hang on to. I’m here to tell you today – it doesn’t have to be like that for you. Jesus has conquered death. He’s taken the sting out of it, and He shares that victory with those who trust in Him. Death is no longer a period, but a comma. Death is no longer a wall but a door through which we pass to be with Him for eternity. When the Christian dies, it’s more like a graduation, a change of address where we will go to be with our Lord Jesus. Someone once made this remarkable statement: The world holds nothing but empty promises, but at Easter time, Jesus holds out to us emptiness full of promises.
The American evangelist, Dwight L Moody, once remarked toward the end of his life, “One day you will hear that Dwight L Moody is dead. Don’t believe it! I will then be alive as never before!” When two Nazi guards came to escort Christian theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his prison cell to the gallows for his execution, Bonhoeffer took a friend aside and said to him, “This is the end, but for me it’s the beginning of life.”
That is the implications of Easter for you and me. Totally awesome, right? Amen! The resurrection of Jesus is totally awesome because it means I am forgiven and I no longer have to carry my fears, guilt, and shame for my past. God has put his stamp of affirmation upon Christ’s sacrifice for my sins by raising Him from the grave. I am forgiven! It was God’s plan that Jesus would be the perfect payment for my sins, and that He would raise Him, affirming the payment for my sins, once and for all! Anything I have ever thought, said, or done – past, present, or future – is now covered by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I have received forgiveness by trusting in Him as my risen Savior. No longer do I have to live my days weighted down and despairing over my sin. I can approach the throne of grace confidently asking for forgiveness, being pointed to the cross, and hearing the words, You are forgiven.
That is a gift of grace. The accusing voice is silenced, and I get a new start as I trust in God’s grace in Christ. That, my friends, is totally awesome! Amen!
This Easter news is totally awesome because you and I know there will be moments in our lives when we will hurt emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We will shed tears along the way, but we do not have to face those moments alone. You see, we have an eternal friend, the risen Jesus Christ, who has promised to never leave us orphaned. He will come to you. He stands at the door and knocks, and promises to have an intimate, personal relationship with us throughout the rest of our lives. We do not have to face another single moment alone. Having walked in the flesh Himself, Jesus understands what we go through. He empathizes with our pains and our loneliness.
As I listen to Him and His word in my Bible, as I call out to Him in my prayers, and taste the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper, Jesus reminds me again and again of His own personal suffering. He shows me His nail-pierced hands and feet. He reminds me He knows what life can be like, but He is there to walk alongside of me, even during the most painful moments.
That is the Easter promise to you as you follow Him. And that is totally awesome! Amen! Amen.
Now let me ask you a question today in light of all we’ve talked about: On which side of Easter are you living right now? Are you living in the dark, dreary, defeated uncertainty of Saturday before resurrection, or are you living on the blessed, beautiful side of the resurrection? Each one of us has received an invitation to step into Sunday with the risen Jesus and face life and death with confidence and assurance knowing eternal life is ours through trusting in Christ.
I encourage you this day, if you haven’t already done so, step into Sunday and place your trust in the risen Jesus Christ for your life and eternity. Ask Him into your life today, and discover for yourself that the risen Jesus Christ is totally awesome! Amen!