Easter. Retail stores of many kinds are advertising their select goods that are somehow going to play a part in the holiday. From “Easter eggs” to bunnies, both live and edible, to ducklings, flowers, and bright-colored clothing – all are marketed to help us step into the new life found in spring. Yes, Easter is about new life, but it’s not about the perennial cycle of seasonal transition from the cold and dormancy of winter to the new buds and vibrancy of warmer days and nature’s new season of growth.
Christ-followers look to Easter as the celebration of the defining event of their faith. For them it is about the Son of God, Jesus, who was tortured and killed on a Friday before the start of the Jewish Passover, buried in a rock-hewn tomb, then rose from the dead three days later. Yes, rose from the dead! In Biblical terms, it is called the resurrection.
Common Greek was the language of commerce in the 1st century A.D. When talking about Jesus’ resurrection, or the concept of resurrection in general, a word most often used was anistanai. The word was a verb that literally meant “to make stand upright”. Another word often used, egeirein, meant “to awaken”. God is always the subject of these verbs in the New Testament, so the idea conveyed is that God awakened Jesus’ corpse and made him stand upright in new life.
One of the missionaries and writers in the early church, The Apostle Paul, wrote “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14) To you, that may sound like everything about the Christian faith stands or falls on the reality on the resurrection. You would be exactly right! The resurrection is the single defining event to Christians and the world.
Jesus’ resurrection served to validate His ministry and His claim. People often think of Him as a great teacher. That’s nice. However, Jesus’ claim about Himself stood out as singular in that He claimed to be uniquely the Son of God whose identity and nature was God’s. You see, Jesus doesn’t allow us to think of Him as only a great teacher, but God as man. I share with you His quote from Mere Christianity:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Jesus raising from the dead was witnessed by more than just a few people. Over five hundred people saw Him alive walking about and talking at the same time. Others saw Him eat, touched Him, and He them. The documentation to Jesus’ resurrection is really quite outstanding.
We would miss the point to think that the intent of the resurrection was simply to show us how powerful God is. Although it most certainly does! The point of the resurrection is that when Jesus allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross by the religious and civil authorities, God the Father placed the sins of the world on Jesus. By His death, the penalty of our sin, death, is paid – but it doesn’t stop there. Because Jesus was raised to new life, a life that was more than just human existence, but renewed spiritual life as well, we also can be raised to new life through by His power and grace. Yes, death is defeated and because of that, we may know an eternal life of relationship and fellowship with God Himself.
The old favored verse goes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him [trusts Him for forgiveness and new life with God] shall not perish but have eternal life.” Is that life simply life extended forever? No. Jesus is talking about a quality of life as well as its length. He said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have send.” (John 17:3) Through Jesus we can know God – have a relationship with Him.
This Easter, I pray you are experiencing what Jesus intended. Not just celebrating the new growing season, but celebrating that just as Jesus was raised to new life in His resurrection, you also know a new life in which your spirit is awakened to a living fellowship with God that results in you being transformed so you gradually become more and more like Jesus.
If you do not belong to a church family, I invite you to join us at RiverStone Church this Sunday morning for an Easter celebration. We’re starting off with breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and will celebrate in worship at 10:00 a.m. Come see the difference the resurrection makes in people’s lives!