Easter Sunday

March 27, 2016

HAPPY EASTER! He is RISEN! He is RISEN indeed!

For a lot of people, Easter is just another holiday, a 3-day weekend of fun and no work. For others, it’s chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.

But for us Christians, Easter means the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead!

The very foundation of the New Testament is FAITH in the Resurrection.

The fact is that, without faith in the Resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian Church would never have been established. The Jesus movement would have fizzled out after the Crucifixion.

Christianity stands or falls with the Truth of the Resurrection - the Truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead!

As St. Paul says, “If Christ is not risen, then our faith is vain” – empty – meaningless.

The words, “He is not here, He is risen”, changed the course of history!

The Resurrection is the basis for the Church’s witness to the world. And the Resurrection is the key to our Faith.

Because Jesus did what He said He would do, we know He is in fact the Ruler of God’s eternal kingdom.

Because He rose from the dead we know for a certainty that we will have a future life after this earthly life.

We know it because: God planned it - the prophets foretold it - Jesus promised it – and there were witnesses to prove it.

One only needs to study the Old Testament history to see that – starting with the creation of Adam and Eve, and continuing throughout God’s relationship with the chosen people of Israel – man (by his very nature) would continue to SIN.

No matter what God did, no matter how often he reached down from heaven by His actions or through the words of the His prophets…mankind just could not help itself out of the ways of darkness.

God already knew that given the free will to love and obey him, mankind would fail, and stray from his ways like lost sheep. And so, God already had a plan to provide a way back to fellowship with him.

And that plan was to send his Son to die as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world; and to rise again - conquering death, and providing an eternal life in fellowship with him – for all those who would believe.

So the first reason we can have faith in the Resurrection is because God planned it!

The second reason for our faith is that the Prophets foretold of God’s plan. I won’t quote you all the Messianic Prophecies regarding the coming of Jesus, but I would like to share with you two of them that speak specifically about the promise of man’s resurrection from the dead. When speaking of God’s Messianic plan, the Prophet Isaiah said, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19)

In the 12th Chapter of Daniel, the 2nd verse, we find another prophet telling of God’s plan regarding Resurrection. “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

So you see - the resurrection of the body was NOT a new concept. It was part of God’s plan from the beginning, which is why he had the Prophets foretell of it - AND later had Jesus accomplish it.

And accomplish it He did – just as He promised He would!

Our Lord’s promises are the third reason for our faith in the Resurrection.

Luke 24:6, 7 reminds believers about what Jesus said regarding the resurrection: “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

In John 2:18, 19 we hear our Lord promise His Resurrection during an encounter with the Jewish leaders. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

I Corinthians 15:20-22 also speaks of Jesus’ Resurrection: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Jesus) came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Did Jesus rise from the dead? You bet He did! He overcame death - He rose from the dead – He is the Resurrection and the Life. And there were plenty of witnesses to prove it. And those witnesses provide the fourth reason for us to have faith in the resurrection.

A list of those who witnessed our Risen Lord is recorded in the four Gospels, the first Epistle to the Corinthians, and the Acts of the Apostles.

There was Mary Magdalene – the other women at the tomb – Peter in Jerusalem – the two travelers along the road – ten disciples behind closed doors – all the disciples with Thomas – seven disciples while fishing – eleven disciples on the mountain – a crowd of 500 – and those who watched Jesus ascend into Heaven. All witnesses, who because of what they saw, went on to turn the world upside down; many of them even dying for professing their faith in Jesus Christ and His promised gift of a future resurrection unto Eternal Life. The focus of Easter Day, that first one and the one we celebrate today, is the future.

Because of what took place that first Easter Morning, the future of ALL believers is assured - GUARANTEED! Guaranteed by ONE whose birth was marked by poverty – whose life and work were marked by hostility – whose suffering was marked by agony – and whose death was marked by public disgrace. But whose RESURRECTION is marked by VICTORY and whose ASCENSION is marked by MAJESTY! “HIS is the GREATNESS, and the POWER, and the GLORY, and the VICTORY, and the MAJESTY! All that is in the heaven and in the earth is His, the Kingdom is His and He is exalted as head above all.”

It is clear from the New Testament that the first Christians considered it their mission to be a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ - who offered himself as a perfect sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, had defeated sin and death, and rose from the dead - offering a new and eternal life to all who might confess and believe. The historical fact of the empty tomb on Easter morning - the fact that Jesus Christ, who had been crucified, has risen as he said he would - is one of the most astonishing events on record.

But for us, Easter should not simply be the remembrance of a great event which took place over 20 centuries ago. For us, the real significance of Easter is that Christ, in rising from the dead, has conquered the power of sin and death, and offers to us the Victory which is His. We are dead unto sin – We are Risen with Christ - Our lives are hid with Christ in God. My brethren, the message of Easter is not to look for Jesus in the empty tomb. He is not there. He is Risen – He is alive – just as He promised.

Let us therefore give thanks and rejoice in the knowledge that – the tomb was empty – that the grave clothes were left lying as if Jesus passed right through them – that the napkin that covered His head was neatly folded and set aside.

Easter is the day when Heaven and Earth were joined together.

Easter is the day humanity was reconciled to God.

Easter is a time of hope for those who dare to believe. And for those who do believe - Easter ushers in a NEW Life with nothing to fear – not even physical death. Easter is the perfect day for us to have a rebirth of personal faith – a resurrection of our confidence in the future life Christ won for us.

And finally, Easter sends us forth to proclaim the wonderful mystery of the Resurrection to the whole world. Let us with courage and conviction tell anyone who will listen – that God planned it – that the Prophets foretold it – that Jesus promised it – and that witnesses confirmed it: Jesus Christ is Risen today – Alleluia! AMEN

Last updated - March 28, 2016.