Why do I make such a big deal about Easter?
This is the first holiday that Alyssa, Bennett, Lincoln and Logan would have all of us in town! Randy and Elaine (my son-in-law's dad and step mama) drove down from Michigan and I was excited to have all for our first big meal in our North Carolina home. Elaine commented to Amy, 'I've never gone to an Easter dinner - what do I wear?'
Never been to an Easter dinner? Nosirree, Bob - Elaine is Jewish. Ah....
My new neighbors also wonder, 'what is the big deal about Easter?!'
Here's the answer - in full.
From Scripture: Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes. . . 1
Now, just why does Jesus' resurrection matter to you and me, to Elaine and my new Wake Forest neighbors?
Let's start with Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15 -
"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. . ." another translation says, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." Why? Because the resurrection changed everything. Jesus had said he would die and be buried, and on the third day, he would rise again.2
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, it would have made him a liar,
and nothing else he taught would have been credible.
if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, we would not serve a living Savior and Lord; we would not have the hope of resurrection after death ourselves to live with him forever.
The Christian faith would not have gone forward if Jesus had been killed and never heard from again. The disciples would have remained hopeless, died in shame, and that would have been the end of Christianity. Alas, it was not, and we are evidence of that. The young Jewish-Christian church started in Jerusalem after Jesus' resurrection and ascension into Heaven from the Mount of Olives. The good news soon spread to Mediterranean lands and beyond--which assures us that the young believers, enduring intense persecution, saw and believed in the risen Lord.
Let's consider the most extensive biblical treatise on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15 ~ “I delivered to you that... Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, (Peter) then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also.3 The above verses formed a creed that was recited in early Christian churches--note: that creed has been dated to within two to eight years of Jesus' resurrection.
Friends, eyewitness accounts are the most valuable evidence in any matter or event being analyzed. Five hundred and fifteen eye witnesses, most of whom were still alive when this 'creed' was written, could have and most certainly would have, refuted what has been recorded about Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, but they did not. [read that again as this must be an easily recalled fact for each of us]
"The Resurrection is the epicenter of belief. It is not a belief that grew up within the church; it is the belief around which the church itself grew up, and the 'given' upon which its faith was based."4
Christianity without the resurrection is not simply Christianity without its final chapter . . . it is not Christianity at all.5
Indeed the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest symbol of hope for believers today, but what's more - the resurrection or what we familiarly call "Easter" is the greatest reason for hope for all people today--including Elaine and my neighbors, if they just understood that! Believer, it means that we serve a living God, there is a new world to come, and in that world, God will set the record straight. The resurrection is one more testament that God keeps his promises. O, this is so powerful.
And, dear Elaine, that is why I invited you to Easter dinner.
Great addition to these truths, the song:
1 - from Luke 24 and John 20.3-10
2 - Matthew 12.40; 16.21 et.al
3 - 1 Corinthians 15..4 - 8
4 - C.H. Dodd
5 - Gerald O'Collins, Jesuit priest and theologian