A friend, who was not a Christian, once asked me to tell him the Easter story. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Here is a person, who has lived in America with so many churches, and is ignorant of the Easter story that most of us have heard repeatedly. It tells us that Christians cannot take anything for granted. We live in a society, which for the most part, is Biblically illiterate.
Well, speaking to a person in his 30s, I told him the Easter story as if he were 10 years old. Let me review the story with you, for it wouldn’t be Easter without telling it once more.
The first Easter began early on Sunday morning when the ladies went to Jesus’ tomb. They were going to anoint his body, but they had a problem Ð who would roll away the stone, for it was big and heavy. As they came near the tomb, their hearts rejoiced seeing the stone was rolled away. Hurriedly, they entered the tomb to find the body gone. A young man stood on the right side of the tomb and said, “Don’t be alarmed. You’re looking for Jesus. He isn’t here. He has risen! Now you go and tell Jesus’ disciples the good news, and especially make sure that Peter hears about Jesus’ resurrection.”
With this news those women made an about-face and ran as fast as they could to be the first heralds of the resurrection.
This is the story of the resurrection. Now here is the message of the resurrection:
Through His resurrection, Christ defeated sin. We know well that, many times during the day, we sin, but because of His payment for our sins on the cross and the resurrection revealing that God has accepted the payment, our sins have been forgiven, if we trust Christ as our Savior. It is with this good news we can sing, “Amazing Grace.”
Through His resurrection, Christ defeated death. We die, but those who trust Christ will live with Him forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps you have buried a loved one since last Easter, but, as a Christian, you left the grave knowing your loved one lives with Christ. It doesn’t stop the tears, but it gives us a peace that is unexplainable.
Through His resurrection, Christ defeated the devil. Hearing this, my unbelieving friend said, “It doesn’t appear to me that the war is over. Look at all the terrible things that are happening in our world and even in the lives of those who call themselves Christians.”
One of the best answers to this remark that I have read comes from the writings of Dr. Jim Kallas, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ was not the end of the war with Satan. It was the turning point in the war. The war has been won, but the battle goes on. People continue to fall in sin, but Jesus does not tell us that Satan’s reign is over. He assures us that the devil is doomed. His immediate victories will not endure.”
Is this not the Christian’s daily experience?
Let me illustrate this teaching by reviewing a piece of history about the Civil War.
Benjamin Thomas, in his book, A Biography of Abraham Lincoln, writes, “The Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg marked a turning point in the war. Never again would the confederacy command sufficient power to invade in force, or to impose peace through military victory. The blockades squeezed more tightly as Union amphibious operations sealed off seaports one by one. Federal command of the Mississippi split off Texas, Arkansas, and western Louisiana, and largely ended Confederate trade with Mexico.”
“But the South was far from defeated. Village forges and foundries throughout the South pounded out guns. By remaining on the defensive, the South could still win victories, make the North pay dearly for every small success, and perhaps exhaust the Northern will to win the war.”
Now, let’s make the comparison. The resurrection of Jesus from the grave marked victory over sin, death, and the devil. It marked the turning point in the war with God and the devil. Never again would Satan command sufficient power to invade our lives and make us slaves to him if Jesus Christ lives in us. We possess the eternal Kingdom, which comes through Christ’s cross and resurrection. However, as we live out these years on earth, we do experience Satan’s attack and daily victories in our lives. We sin, but these sins cannot destroy us, for God, in His grace and love, continually forgives us. The spiritual battles continue, but the eternal victory has been won. It was an act in history, namely the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.
This is the result of the resurrection and the central teaching of the Christian faith.
It is because of this Biblical truth St. Paul could sing in the first century,
“O death, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?
Thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
John G. Whittier, in the 19th century, wrote his famous hymn, “We May Not Climb the Heavenly Steeps,” which includes these words,
“But warm, sweet, tender, even yet,
A present help is He;
And faith has still its Olivet,
And love its Galilee.”
But that’s not all! To this point in our conversation I have given my friend, who is not a Christian, a lesson in the history of dogma, as found in the Bible and the creeds of the Church. This is necessary, but it not will change his life. Jesus is more than a historical figure. He is the living Lord who wants to live in our lives. He meets my unbelieving friend when I am telling the story and asks, “May I come into your life and live there? If I do, your life will change, for my presence will guide you each step of the way and you will live with the assurance that, as Jesus was raised, so you will be raised to live with him forever.”
As William Barclay said, “Jesus is not a memory. He is a presence. Jesus is not someone whom we discuss. He is someone whom we meet.”
And so, in the twentieth-first century, we can sing the words of Alfred Ackley,
“I serve a living Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy; I hear His gentle voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.”