As I stated in my previous post, the sermon from Easter Sunday was supposed to begin with a short video. It didn’t. So I had to do some quick explaining of what everyone would have seen if the video had worked properly. So the audio will sound a little different from the manuscript. But that’s not really a bad thing.
We kicked off a new series on Easter called What’s the Big Deal? Each Sunday we’ll be asking that very question about some things that people might take for granted, including the Church, the Bible, and Missions. We started off by asking What’s the Big Deal? about Easter. Here’s a secret: it’s about more than the candy and the Easter Bunny. 😉
I’m working on transferring the audio to a digital file. It should be available in the very near future.
What’s the Big Deal?…about Easter
Selections from John 20
April 4, 2010
If we were to take a video camera to the Muncie Mall and ask patrons the same question asked in this short video, I’ll bet we’d get some very similar answers.
Today…Easter Sunday…Resurrection Sunday…Pascha…whatever you want to call it…is the central, most important day on the church calendar. And yet, for many people, Easter weekend just means getting together with family for a traditional Easter meal. It means getting a new Easter outfit to wear to church on Sunday morning. It means Easter bunnies and Easter baskets and Easter eggs. And if it’s a weekend like this one, it means Final Four basketball for many people, too. Oh – by the way – how ‘bout them Bulldogs?!? J
Those are all good things. In fact, as you know, we hosted an Easter egg hunt yesterday morning. And again, I want to thank Susan for orchestrating everything. You did a fabulous job! And anyone who supported yesterday’s efforts, whether by volunteering or stuffing eggs with candy or providing cookies for everyone, or praying for the families who participated yesterday…if you had any involvement in the egg hunt at all, thank you for all you have done!
But if that’s all Easter means to you, then it can easily lead you to look around and ask, “Is that all there is? What’s the big deal?” Well, it’s a much bigger deal than those things. If you have your Bible with you, please turn with me to the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John. If you don’t have your Bible with you, you’re welcome to use the one in the pew in front of you. John chapter 20 is found on page ??? in those red Bibles.
This morning, we’re kicking off a new series called What’s the Big Deal? Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at some common questions that people ask both within Christianity and about Christianity. We’ll be answering questions like, What’s the Big Deal about the Church? What’s the Big Deal about Heaven? What’s the Big Deal about the Bible? And this morning, we’re answering the question, “What’s the big deal about Easter?”
And Easter is a big deal. It’s a huge deal – even though there are many who might not realize what the real meaning behind the holiday is. There’s all kinds of side-events and trappings that can take away from the big picture of the main event. Here’s the thing, though: You can have Easter without eggs. You can have Easter without candy or Easter baskets or the Easter bunny. You cannot, however, have Easter without Jesus!
At the age of 30, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, began his public ministry He showed the kingdom of God through His preaching, His compassion, His healings, His miracles, and through His teaching. He had many run-ins with the religious elite and power-brokers. They began to look for an opportunity to kill the miracle-working teacher. After three years of changing the lives of countless people through his ministry, the time had come.
Jesus was betrayed by a close friend, handed over to the Jewish authorities, and put on trial before the religious authorities. After they managed to piece together a guilty verdict, they took him before the Roman government because they had no legal authority on their own to carry out a death sentence. And that’s what they wanted. They wanted Jesus to die.
Within a span of just a few hours, Jesus was put on trial no less than four separate times by three different authorities. And in the end, the death sentence was eventually handed down. Jesus was sentenced to be crucified. Death by hanging on a cross. It is one of the most cruel and inhumane methods of execution ever concocted by a human government.
In the ultimate mistrial of justice, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was condemned to die. And it was just as he planned. On the surface, it appeared that Jesus’ life was spiraling further out of control, when in reality; he knew exactly what he was doing. Because of the sin that had caused a division between God and humanity, we could not have the close, intimate friendship that we were created to have with God. So God provided a way to make that right. But the punishment our sins have earned is death. And God loves us so much that He wrapped Himself in flesh and became a man. He became the sin of the entire world. And by stretching out his arms and allowing his own creation to kill him on a cross, He willingly accepted the punishment that you and I deserved. And our sins were nailed upon that cross with Him and they died with Him that day.
The followers of Jesus didn’t understand what was going on. Yes, Jesus had told them that this was going to happen. And he had told them on countless occasions that he would come back to life. But in the midst of this tragedy with darkness surrounding them, those words…if they remembered them at all…would have rung hollow. After all, this was the Messiah – the Promised One. And now he lay lifeless in a borrowed tomb in a garden near the hill where he was executed.
And that’s where we pick up the story in John 20.
This is more than just a quaint little story about something that happened 2,000 years ago. It impacts us today. It can completely change your life today.
Death could not hold the Son of God in that cold, lifeless tomb. Because of that very physical death that Jesus experienced and that very physical, very powerful resurrection that he experienced, death was defeated that Easter Sunday morning some 2,000 years ago. Death died in that Garden Tomb in the shadow of the cross. Death is no longer victorious. It no longer holds any power over us. Followers of the risen Jesus Christ live in the hope of the power of the resurrection. One day the grave shall give up their dead and we will be alive with Him. That doesn’t mean that we won’t experience death. We know all too well that death is a part of life. And there is real pain when we lose a loved one. But it’s not permanent. Death is like a snake that has had its venom removed. It can still bite, which is painful, but it has lost its destructive power! And so we have hope in eternal life because of the resurrection of the Son of God.
Easter Sunday isn’t something we celebrate just because of the hope of eternal life, however. God is in the business of making old things new again. He is in the business of taking the dead and dying and bringing them back to life. Because of the power of the resurrection, lives can be transformed right here, right now. Because Easter Sunday means life. Abundant life.
If God has the power to bring His own Son back to life after three days, He has the power to resurrect the dead things in our lives, too. Because of the power and the hope of the resurrection, dead marriages can be brought back to life. Because of the power of the resurrection, broken relationships can be restored. Because of the power of the resurrection, emotional wounds that keep breaking open can be healed. Because of the power of the resurrection, the lost can be found. Because of the power of the resurrection, the beaten and broken can be made whole and complete.
God is in the business of making old things new. That’s the message of the empty tomb! Traditionally, that is why people buy new clothes for Easter Sunday. Although it’s become just an excuse to buy another outfit, the original reason people would wear new clothing on Easter was because the power of the resurrection breathes new life in us. Without the resurrection, we would still be dead to sin. But now we can alive with Christ!
That’s why baptism is such a powerful symbol. It’s the message of the hope of the resurrection in a very tangible, very real way. When you are baptized, you go into the water as your old self – the one that was condemned to die because of the sins you committed when you willingly chose to disobey God. And in the waters of baptism, your old self is symbolically put to death in a watery grave. When you come up out of the water, you’re symbolically a new creation. You’ve put your old self to death and put on Christ, participating in His death, burial, and resurrection!
Easter Sunday isn’t just something we celebrate because of fire insurance, saving our souls from the pit of hell. It’s not something we celebrate once and then sit around and wait to die. The power of the resurrection means that lives change today. The power of the resurrection means that we can be new creations and work towards the accomplishment of God’s will here on earth. The big deal about Easter is that we can have life. He died so that we may live. And because of the hope of the resurrection, we can live for Him.