Easter Sunday is almost here and Christian pastors like me are up to their eyeballs in tasks to prepare for the big day. There are services to plan, breakfast to organize, and an egg hunt to get settled. The whole church pitches in, really, to make Easter a special day for families. But, honestly, why are we putting in so much work just for a “special day for families?” I don’t have to go to church for that, I can just go to Disneyland—and I’d probably have more fun, too! What’s the big deal about Easter, anyway? Well, the answer is in one word: resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus is the central truth of Christianity itself. Jesus of Nazareth—who claimed to be God in the flesh and was subsequently executed by the Roman government—rose bodily from the dead and appeared to hundreds of eyewitnesses, many of whom had seen him dead. This historical event happened at a real place and at a real time in front of real people. And they were just as skeptical as we would be at the thought of someone coming back from the dead—to say nothing about God coming to earth as a human being to deliver eternal life by his death! This fact so thoroughly convinced the witnesses that they staked their lives and reputations on the proclamation of this good news: Jesus Christ died to pay for your sin and rose again to prove it. Life does not end when we die.
Of course, that’s heavy stuff. Since each of us has a hard time comprehending what life might look like after we die, we often settle for a religion that can just help us get by in this life. And as long as something like Christianity keeps the kids in line, keeps the spouse from cheating, and makes us feel a little better compared with the rest of the world then we might be willing to show up for it. But I’ll be honest, if that’s all Christianity is about then I want nothing to do with it, and neither should you. I’ll hang up my pastor’s robe and turn in the keys to the church so I can find something more meaningful to do with my Sunday mornings—not to mention my life!
As it turns out, that’s exactly how the earliest Christians felt, including Jesus Christ’s messenger, the Apostle Paul. This is what he wrote about it:
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:14–15)
Paul knew full well that Christianity without the resurrection becomes nothing more than a strange moral philosophy. And worse, with no resurrection that strange moral philosophy becomes truly useless. Christianity has no point if it tackles behavior and not death.
But there is good news:
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 20–22)
Despite what you may have heard, biblical Christianity is not about getting your life in line, it’s about solving life’s most dangerous challenge: death. The historical record assures us that Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the dead, and so will all who are united to him by faith.
I hope you’ll take time this Easter to gather with us at St. Stephen Lutheran Church to hear more about the resurrection and its importance for life in our hymns and message. We worship at 9:30am on Easter Sunday. I’ll see you then.