Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Ben says, “He’s not here. He is risen, just as He said.”
April 21, 2011
Rewind: Christmas is a big deal, and it should be. Christmas is a celebration of the day Jesus Christ was born; the day our Savior God put on skin and entered the world to live among us, and it gets a whole season full of recognition and tradition. Almost everyone has a favorite Christmas memory, many of which have to do with caroling, cookie/tree decorating, gift giving, or the jolly old man in a bright red suit who slips down your chimney with a bag full of presents. Christmas is the celebration of the beginning of our story of salvation and redemption, and it deserves all the hubbub it gets. But, Christmas is not the climax of the story; it is not the turning point, it is not the true game changer, and it’s not the most important part.
Christmas, and the whole month leading up to it, is a magical time – there is a palpable change in the way the world operates: people, Christians and non-Christians alike, seem to be more generous and forgiving, all that cheery music has you in a good mood all the time, and the food is delicious! But what about Easter? Is it just another holiday; something you make an effort to get home for? Do you have a favorite Easter memory, one that you can recall at the drop of a hat? As a culture, we don’t have many Easter traditions, or at least not compared to Christmas traditions; there are the bunnies and the eggs and lamb and ham and the wicker baskets filled with shiny plastic grass and candy, but the Easter season itself is kind of understated. Why is that? Why do we allow ourselves so often to celebrate Easter Sunday as the end to a forty day fast, rather than the beginning of what it means to be alive? How do we not realize that Easter is the game changer in our story?
That’s the message Ben had for us on Thursday night: Easter changes EVERYTHING. Jesus’ birth is the beginning, and His ministry is the rising action, but His death, burial, and resurrection are the climax, the turning point, the message, the game changer. If you rid the bible of Christmas, you lose a few chapters from the gospels, but if you get rid of Easter, you get rid of the entire New Testament. You erase the entire foundation for our faith. Without Easter, without Jesus’ triumph over sin, His victory over death, and His return to Heaven, would Jesus Christ even be worth following?
“After the Sabbath [that’s Saturday, by the way], at dawn on the first day of the week [Sunday], Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightening, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”” Matthew 28:1-10
Take a moment to imagine what that would have been like: It’s Sunday morning. Thursday, you sat at the dinner table with Jesus as He broke the bread and offered the wine, and said that one of the people at that table would betray Him. Early Friday morning, Jesus, after spending the night in prayer, was arrested in the garden, and handed over to the Roman guards by none other than Judas. That same day, He was put through a mockery of a trial and crucified while the very people He came to save cheered. Friday night, He was buried in the tomb, a tomb which was guarded night and day, and His followers scattered. Saturday, Christ’s body remained within the guarded tomb, and all those who had not yet fled abandoned ship too, because Christ was dead.
And then came Sunday. The women went to the tomb expecting to anoint the body, but instead were greeted by an angel of the Lord. And don’t think for a second that this was a casual greeting; the angel’s presence was ushered in by an earthquake, and his appearance was so frightening that the guards were like dead men! Have you ever been so terrified that you couldn’t even move? Well, that’s what happened to the guards. And then this angel, who, by the way, is perched atop the stone that used to block the entrance to the now empty tomb, tells the Marys, “Do not be afraid,” everything’s all good. In fact, it’s more than good, it’s “just as He said.” The Marys listen to the angel with a mixture of fear and joy – how strange must that have been? – but they believe what they are told and take off to find the disciples. Just then, Jesus Christ the risen Lord appears to them on the road. Maybe He was standing in the middle of the street blocking their path, or maybe he was just chillin’ against a tree, but either way, they see Him and fall to the ground. They see Him and the only thing they can do is worship at His feet, because that’s what you do when you come face to face with God. That’s what you do when you realize that the tomb is empty, and Jesus Christ, the one and only Savior of the world, is alive. Just as He said.
Easter, then, is a celebration of the greatest day in history; it’s the day of our victory! And, what do you do when you’ve won, when you’ve conquered something significant, when you’ve put your power and glory on display for the world to see, and when you want other people to stand back and take notice? You put the flags out.
Easter is a celebration of the fact that Jesus Christ is who He says He is, that He did what He came to do, and that He is alive. Easter breathes life into that which was dead and lost. It means that you and I are no longer slaves to this world, nor do we have the responsibility and pressure of being kings and queens. Easter proves that Jesus Christ, the God of the universe, recognizes our desperate need to be rescued, understands the temptations we face, and has the power to remove all that separates us from Him. Easter is a celebration of the day God spread His arms wide and showed us just how much He loves us – way too much to leave us as we are.
It’s time to put out the flags. It’s time to act like we know who the winner is. It’s time to start living as if we too have been raised from the dead. Each of us is capable of living out a story of redemption, whether we realize it or not. It doesn’t matter whether you have one page, one chapter, or an entire anthology filled with sentences you’d care to erase, Jesus came, He lived, He died, He was buried, and He rose for you. Your past is what makes a Jesus-filled present make sense.
Maybe you’re confused and hurting; maybe you’ve been to church before and it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences; maybe you’re tired of trying to be perfect; maybe you’re desperately searching for Christ and don’t even know it. Maybe you’re still not sure about this Jesus guy, but I promise, He’s sure about you, and He’s been sure about you since time began. He died your death so that you don’t have to, and all He asks in return is that you trust Him with your life… it seems like a pretty good deal seeing as how He gave up His for you.
Do not be afraid. He isn’t here. He is risen, just as He said.
It’s time to celebrate. Jesus Christ lives.
Thursday: Last Supper, Luke 22:7-23.
Late Thursday night through Friday morning: Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark 14:32-42
Friday: Jesus arrested, John 18:1-11. Jesus’ trial, Matthew 26:57-68, 27: 11-31. Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial, Matthew 27:32-61.
Saturday: Even the Pharisees were afraid that Jesus was who He said He was, so they guarded the tomb, Matthew 27:62-66.
Sunday: Jesus’ Resurrection (Matthew’s version is quoted above), John 20:1-10
Push Play: Live every day like you know that Jesus Christ has already won. Put the flags out. Never stop celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Never forget that Easter changed everything; it’s the turning point in your story. Jesus Christ lives, and He is raising the dead in you and me.
Twenty-four by Switchfoot – Live differently, every hour of every day, because of what Jesus has done for you. Don’t cop out when He’s raising the dead in you…
Fire Fall Down by Jesus Culture – I’ll never be the same, because I know that You’re alive. You came to fix my broken life. And I’ll sing to glorify You’re holy name, Jesus Christ.
Happy Easter and much love,