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What Does Easter Mean? [4-9-23 | Easter Sunday]


April 9, 2023

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

“What Does Easter Mean?”


I recently read where only around 2% of Americans said Easter was the most important holiday of their faith. What would you guess is the most important holiday? It’s funny what’s on our radar and how it gets there. A preschool teacher was going over the months of the year with her students, and she asked them, “What comes after September?” To which they all replied, “Halloween!” Even at such an early age, things get attached to seasons and holidays apart from ordered reality.


We could spend the rest of our time uncovering all the things we attach to Christmas that are not rooted in Scripture. Some of it is pagan in origin, although there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. Some of what we do at Christmas is driven by the culture. It’s tough to separate what are warm traditions from Biblical truth. Although there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Here’s the one thing we do know. Christmas is not the most important Christian holiday. Think about it this way. If there had been no Good Friday or Resurrection Sunday, what would be the point of Christmas?


You’d be surprised by what people in our culture don’t know about Easter. I cringe when I see the Easter Bunny set-ups at malls. And then there are churches that have Easter egg hunts the day before Easter or even on Easter. They advertise giving away prizes, bikes, and candy. One year, a mega church had a helicopter drop prize-filled plastic eggs. Such tawdry displays cannot bear the weight of the gospel. If you ask me, it’s all kind of creepy. As Charles Spurgeon so presciently observed almost 150 years ago, “The day will come, that instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, we’ll have clowns entertaining the goats.”


Through the years when my wife was an instructional assistant at the high school, she had more than one student ask her what Easter meant. In our secular understanding, it’s about bunnies and butterflies and candy and renewal and the end of winter and Valentine’s Day displays giving way to

gardening and planting displays.


What does Easter mean?


On the positive side, about 42% of Americans know that Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus. Yet, ten years ago, only around 50% of 18-25-year-olds said Easter was a religious holiday. And roughly 37% of Americans have cobbled together a mixed basket of what Easter means, none of which has anything to do with the true meaning of Easter.


Here's a quote from Charles Spurgeon to set up an observation of what Easter is not. First the quote:

“IF THE LORD’S BEARING OUR SIN FOR US IS NOT THE GOSPEL, I HAVE NO GOSPEL TO PREACH.”

What does Good Friday commemorate? Right…the crucifixion, which is exactly what Spurgeon is talking about. He goes on to say this:

“THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL IS REDEMPTION, AND THE ESSENCE

OF REDEMPTION IS THE SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE OF CHRIST.”

In other words, the debt for our sin was paid for, in full, by Jesus’ death on the cross.


So, what of Easter? Here’s the full meaning of Easter:

THE RESURRECTION CONFIRMS JESUS’ WORK ON THE CROSS WHICH MAKES OUR FORGIVENESS POSSIBLE WHICH MEANS WHEN WE DIE WE WILL STAND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ONE, TRUE, AND HOLY GOD.


To open up the full implication of this, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:12-20:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this

life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.


In explaining the powerful truth of the resurrection, Paul draws us in to consider six gifts of the resurrection. But before he does that, he says there are six things that would be in shambles if Christ did not rise from the dead. Here are those six things:

  1. Verse 14: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain."

  2. Verse 14: "…and your faith is in vain."

  3. Verse 15: If Christ has not been raised, "we are found to be misrepresenting God {literally, we are false witnesses}, because we testified about God that he raised Christ."

  4. Verse 17: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you

are still in your sins."

  1. Verse 18: If Christ has not been raised, then "those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished."

  2. Verse 19: If Christ has not been raised, then "we are of all people

most to be pitied."

Then here's what Paul does. It's really brilliant. After listing all these negatives, verse 20 reverses the whole paragraph:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.


Here's the impact those 10 words have:

  1. Since Christ has been raised, our preaching is not in vain.

  2. Since Christ has been raised, our faith is not in vain.

  3. Since Christ has been raised, the apostles aren't misrepresenting God.

  4. Since Christ has been raised, we are not still in our sins.

  5. Since Christ has been raised, the dead in Christ have not perished.

  6. Since Christ has been raised, we are not to be pitied.

This is a reversal of fortune. Paul takes the misfortune of our lives if there were no resurrection, and he says, but wait, you don't have to worry about that, because Christ has been raised.


For the next few minutes, we're going to look at how the resurrection satisfies four essential needs.


1. Because of the resurrection, our sins are forgiven. How many of us believe we are without sin? The Bible says we all, like sheep, have gone astray. The Bible also says if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves. We all sin. My primary focus needs to be on Richard Mortimer and his sin. The speck in my neighbor's eye pales in comparison to the log in my eye. That’s what Jesus said. But here's what people do. We look at the sin of others…the ones that are plain to see, and we think because we're not like them, we’re not so bad off. Oh, but unless we have psychopathic tendencies, we know our sin. We’re all in the same boat.


Sin is real. And the Bible says God holds our sin against us. But here's

how the resurrection is connected to our forgiveness. On the cross, Jesus took our sin upon himself. He bore our sin and took our judgment. Here's why the resurrection is so important for our forgiveness. Romans 4:25 says, "Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." Do you see how Paul connects the resurrection with our forgiveness? That's why, on the cross, right before he dies, Jesus cries out, "It is finished." He's talking about what his work on the cross accomplishes. "It is finished" indicates he has consumed the cup of God's wrath, and through his sacrifice, the bridge between God and sinful humanity has been established. Jesus' purpose for going to the cross is to take upon himself our punishment for sin. And so, because Jesus is perfectly obedient and eternally loving and gracious toward us, God raises him from the dead as His stamp of approval of our forgiveness. "This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased," God said once before. And so God says it again with the resurrection.


2. Because of the resurrection, our faith is well-founded. Let's make that personal. Because of the resurrection, we can trust Jesus absolutely. I

think in every person's heart, there is a desire for someone you can count

on through thick and thin. We're only human. We let people down. People disappoint us. We’ve all been let down by someone we trusted. It’s horrible. But the resurrection shows us a Savior who is absolutely trustworthy. Jesus won't let you down. He will always be there. We all need someone we can count on. As Galatians 2:20 says, "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."


3. Because of the resurrection, we are to be envied. The resurrection changes lives. Here at Covenant Church, we know stories of changed lives. That's the power of the resurrection.


If Christ is not raised, then living for him, sacrificing for him, doing what he says, and following his will is a grand illusion. As Paul says, we would be pitied like insane people chasing after a hallucination. But because of the resurrection, devoted followers of Jesus Christ live confident, generous, and wildly adventurous lives. As 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond

all comparison."


We all long to live lives that matter. We want our lives to count for something. We want to help others. We want to leave little moments of kindness wherever we go. I don't think anyone here wants to say, "You know, when I'm gone, I want people remember me for the grumpy, stingy life I lived." We all want to leave something of worth behind. And when you live for Christ, you are doing that. That’s what our series on the Letter of James is all about. “Faith without works is dead.” So when you are devoted to Jesus Christ, you are leaving something of worth behind when your life here is over.


Paul highlights this essential need when he says:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

-1 Corinthians 15:58

Because of the resurrection, your life matters.

4. Finally, because of the resurrection, those who have fallen asleep are alive. In other words, because Christ lives, you shall live also. Remember what Jesus says to one of the thieves crucified next to him. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." That means something. Not only do we long to live purposeful lives today. But we also long to be with Jesus forever. We long to know our lives aren't empty and worthless. We long to live forever in joy. Because of the resurrection, we know our lives won't come to an abrupt end.


We know our lives here will end. It could be a lingering illness. It could be an out-of-the-blue physical calamity. It could be a tragic event. You drop your child off at school, a place that is supposed to be safe and secure, and a psychopath with a gun vents her pointless rage. Life ends. It could be after a long and full life, drifting off in your sleep. Long or short, our time here is wildly unpredictable.


The resurrection tells us that whether we live or die, we belong to Christ. His sacrifice was sufficient to atone for the sins of his people. Remember, your name was written down in the Lamb’s Book of Lamb from before the foundation of the world. And so, as we trust in Jesus’ work on the cross, we live in his joy forever. For each of us, there will be a final moment. And the resurrection promises that the moment after that moment, we will be in the presence of our glorious Savior.


Someone said, "I used to think, 'Wherever Christ is, there is no misery. Now I see wherever there is misery, Christ is there.'" That's why we drop to our knees to worship him. In his resurrection, Jesus has given us every gift to satisfy our deepest needs. That's why we join with the choirs of heaven and earth:

"WORTHY IS THE LAMB WHO WAS SLAIN, TO RECEIVE POWER AND WEALTH AND WISDOM AND MIGHT AND HONOR AND GLORY AND BLESSING!" AND I HEARD EVERY CREATURE IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AND UNDER THE EARTH AND IN THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, SAYING, "TO HIM WHO SITS ON THE THRONE AND TO THE LAMB BE BLESSING AND HONOR AND GLORY AND MIGHT FOREVER AND EVER!" AND THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES

SAID, "AMEN!" AND THE ELDERS FELL DOWN AND

WORSHIPED.

-Revelation 5:12-14









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