This week is Easter Sunday. Perhaps the biggest day on the Christian Calendar. Why! Because Easter Changes Everything. Today, we'll explore some of the things Easter changes.
Today’s message is based on 1 Corinthians 15:17-22. To read it now, click here.
There was a made for TV movie from 1980 called The Day Christ Died. When they get to the crucifixion, they lay the actor playing Jesus on the crossbeam and one of the Roman soldiers lifts up his mallet and comes down with a crashing blow to drive the spike through one of his hands. At that point the actor lunges upward, and his mouth flew open, and he let out a terrible scream, and the camera freezes, and the credits start to roll. That’s the end. The movie is over. How tragic. How false. How untrue. That’s not the end of the story.
I heard a story about a man in an art museum in Glasgow, Scotland. He was visiting the museum, and as he was walking along looking at the pictures, he came to one picture, and in front of it was a little fella with his wide eyes gazing up at a picture, totally transfixed by it. The man watched him for a moment, as he stayed there quite a while without moving. The man finally walked up and put his hand on his shoulder and said, "Son, what picture is that?"
Why, sir," replied the lad, "don't you know? That's the picture of our Lord dying on the cross for our sins." The man said, "Thank you, son." And he went on his way. But as he walked down the hall a little ways, looking at other pictures, he paused in front of one particular picture and as he just started to really look at it, he felt a little tug at his sleeve. He looked down, and there was the little fella he'd seen a few minutes before. He said, "What is it, Son?" The boy said, "Pardon me, sir, I forgot to tell you the rest. He didn't stay on the cross. He rose, you know!" It’s almost tragic to me that a movie about Jesus would end at his death. He rose, you know! And without that, there is no Christianity...
You see, the resurrection is the heart of everything. C.F. Evans, a professor and author, has said, “To a greater extent than it is anything else, Christianity is a religion of the resurrection. More than anything else, we count on the reality of the resurrection. It is attacked. It is denied. It is ridiculed. It is ignored. It is explained away constantly, because it is the vital point in our Christian faith that holds up everything else; and, naturally, the enemy hits at that reality.”
For the Christian, Easter is far more than eggs and rabbits and new hats and clothes and spring and whatever else you might think of. For us, Easter is not the worship of Astarte. Did you know that’s where the word Easter comes from? Astarte was the goddess of spring. The Old Testament calls her Ashtoreth. According to Greek legend, she is supposedly the mother of Baal.
The story goes that she was the queen of heaven. The Egyptians believed that she was dropped out of heaven in a giant egg, landed in the Nile River, and was pushed to the shore by some fish. The egg rolled its way up onto the shore and cracked open, and out came the queen of heaven, Ashtoreth, Astarte. The festival of Easter and the Easter eggs came from this celebration to this pagan God, and redefining it, so it would have a Christian significance. But as Christians, we don’t worship a pagan God. We celebrate a Risen Savior.
Easter is the resurrection, the day we celebrate Christ’s being raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basic cornerstone of our Christian faith, and it is the hope of all human history. If there is no resurrection, there is nothing to hope for. Some don’t believe Jesus was raised from the dead. And they promote that idea in the media, they promote it in books, they promote it on TV, they even promote it in some very liberal seminaries. And we see it from everyone who is an enemy of Christianity. And it’s an important point because if the enemy is going to destroy Christianity, it’s going to be here, at Easter. At the resurrection of Christ.
The Resurrection is everything to the Christian faith because we believe that the Resurrection is the most important aspect of Jesus’ life on earth. The Resurrection helps us understand the human condition, and the reasons for human suffering, and the struggles we face every day. You see, Easter changes everything! Paul knew this. He knew how critical an understanding of the Resurrection is.
In William Barclay’s commentary on the New Testament, he suggests four things that the Resurrection proves. The first of these is that the Resurrection proves that Truth is stronger than fiction. John 8:40 says, “You are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.” You see, Jesus came to earth with a thorough understanding of the truth, and He spoke the truth that God gave Him to speak.
In fact, Jesus said He is the truth. In John 14:1-6, Jesus is comforting his disciples, telling them that in his father’s house are many rooms, and that he is going there to prepare a place for them, and to prepare a place for us, for all who believe. Thomas is confused by this, he doesn’t know where Jesus is going, so how can we join him there? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Jesus was crucified because the truth threatened their false views of who they thought God is and their false views of goodness. If that were the end of it, truth would have lost out. But because of Easter, truth has the last word. And the lie is exposed. Truth is stronger than the lie. Truth is stronger than fiction.
Another thing that Easter proves is that Good is stronger than evil. Going back to John 8, Jesus is talking to those who want to kill him, who later do kill him, and they tell them that they have Abraham as their Father, and Jesus said that if they knew His Father they would accept Him. His teaching comes from God the Father. But then he goes on to say, in verse 44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.”
Those that were behind Jesus’ crucifixion may have thought they were trying to do the right thing. They may have thought that by preserving their faith, those that followed them would be kept pure, but they weren’t pure. They were acting out of pure evil. Satan is the father of evil, and the chief priests had somehow become tools in Satan’s hand. And at the time of the crucifixion, Satan thought it was over. But Easter shows us that it didn’t end in death. It ended in new life.
In Romans 12:9, we see, “Hate evil and cling to what is good.” Paul tells us that because he knew that good is stronger than evil. In verse 28, he wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” He knows that through faith in Jesus, this is possible. We can, in our lives, overcome the evil around us with good. Because good is stronger than evil.
Easter shows us that Love is stronger than hate. Jesus was the love of God incarnate. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus was born because of God’s love for us. And the next verse, verse 17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Because God loves us so much, he gave us Jesus, who, by our faith and trust in Him, saves us. Why? Because he loves us.
Romans 5:8 points out, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God didn’t wait for us to straighten up. Good thing, right, or he might still be waiting. He loved us too much, and it was just too important. So He sent His Son to die for us. That’s unconditional love. And love is stronger than hate.
In fact, Jesus said, in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That’s exactly what Jesus did, He laid down his life for us. In verse 14 He called us friends.
During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound that night. The soldier's fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell so when the clapper hit the sides, it was silent. She was battered severely, slamming into the sides of the bell, but she kept it silent. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell's heart was touched and he said, "Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!"
But the Pharisees didn’t love like that. In Jesus’ seven woes in Matthew 23, one of the woes said that they were faithful in giving God a tithe right down to the smallest thing, but then in verse 42, he said, “but you neglect justice and the love of God.” They were so particular about keeping the law they even tithed in tiniest things, but they didn’t love. Jesus was so filled for love for us that he laid down his life for us. But the Pharisees neglected love. Their motivation wasn’t love at all – they’re motivation was hate. And if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, hate would have won. But Easter shows us that love is stronger than hate.
One last thing Easter shows us is that life is stronger than death. If Jesus hadn’t been raised from the grave, if His death was the end of the story, then it could be proved that death can take the best, the most beautiful, and destroy it.
In Acts 2:24, Peter is speaking in the streets, part of his message on Pentecost, and he tells us of Jesus’ resurrection, “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.” Why was it impossible for death to keep its hold on him? Because life is stronger than death. And in Jesus we have life. In John 5:24, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
During World War II, in London, there was a church in the city that was all set for its annual Harvest Thanksgiving celebration. In the middle of the room, there was food piled up, portions of the harvest that were given as gifts for the celebration. But the actual service was never held. Because there was an air raid that leveled the church.
The months passed on. Winter came and went. Then Spring. Someone noticed that where the church had stood, there were shoots of green peeking up from the rubble. Then summer. The shoots flourished and became larger and larger. When fall came, there was a flourishing patch of corn growing up out of the remains of that old church. Not even the bombs and the total destruction of the church could kill the life of the corn and its seeds. Life was stronger than death. Easter is proof that life is stronger than death.
For Paul, if the Resurrection of Jesus didn’t really happen, then the whole Christian message couldn’t be true, either. Because all those who died believing it would have died trusting in a delusion. And all those living by their faith in the pagan world, paying the cost of following Christ when it’s not popular, if they sacrificed like that for no reason, that would be pretty pathetic. If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, we are to be pitied more than all men.
But Easter changes everything! It proves that truth is stronger than the lie, that good is stronger than evil, that love is stronger than hate, and that life is stronger than death…. And it fills us with hope in Christ.
As I close, I want to share a poem by Annie Johnson Flint. It reads…
Some of us stay at the cross,