Radio Pastor James McDonald calls Easter the Christian’s “Super Bowl”. It is the day when churches all over the world are filled to overflowing. It is a “main event” in the Christian calendar.
In some respects you might wonder why Easter is so special. We hear stories of “Near Death Experiences” all the time. We are told about those who died on the operating table or in the emergency room but were brought back from the dead. It is a fact that the resurrection of Jesus is not the only account of a resurrection in the Bible! The Bible actually records seven other people who were raised from the dead. Several of these had also been dead for a day or two.
- The Widow of Zarephath’s Son- 1 Kings 17:17-22 (Elijah)
- The Shunammite’s Son- 2 Kings 4:32-35 (Elisha)
- An unnamed man- 2 Kings 13:20,21 (buried man touched Elisha’s bones)
- Jairus’ daughter- Matthew 9:23-25
- The Widow of Nain’s son – Luke 7:11-15
- Lazarus the friend of Jesus – John 11
- Dorcus the faithful worker in the early church – Acts 9: 36-40
This being the case, what makes the resurrection of Jesus so remarkable? There are several things.
- The resurrection of Jesus happened without the agency of another human being. There was no Prophet praying over his body, there was no medical team performing heroic measures. Jesus was dead, buried, and left.
- Jesus foretold his resurrection. He told his disciples he was going away but they would see Him again. He talked about being raised up in three days.
- The resurrected Jesus never died again. The Bible records that Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days after his resurrection. At the end of the 40 days he was with the disciples and they saw Him ascend into Heaven.
- Jesus was resurrected in a body that was changed. He still ate with the disciples, he still had the scars on his hands and feet (most likely these things were to show that this was a true and physical resurrection). However we also are told that the disciples were meeting and “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.” When we went with the men on the road to Emmaus we are told, “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:31) Jesus appeared to be able to appear and disappear at will. His body had changed.
The resurrection of Jesus is unique. It is a one of a kind event that had an enormous impact. The Resurrection is the point to which the gospel build. It is the cornerstone of Christian belief. In other words, those who do not believe in a literal and bodily resurrection from the dead are not genuine believers.
In all the accounts of the resurrection a prominent feature of the story is that the huge stone that was sealing the entrance of the grave had been rolled away. The grave stood open. I don’t believe the grave was opened so much so Jesus could get out; it was opened so that the disciples could get IN and verify that He had risen.
This morning I want to look at the “open doors” of Easter. I want you to see the difference that Easter makes.
EASTER OPENS THE DOOR TO ESCAPE OUR PAST
Suppose I could tell you today that you could pick five events or decisions of your life and have them erased. Would you have any trouble coming up with five things? My difficulty would be in limited the choice to five events. Most of us are haunted by foolish choices and mistakes that we wish we could erase.
In Romans 4:25 Paul tells us that “Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Paul reminds us that Jesus didn’t die just because people were mean or because He was powerless. Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sin, rebellion, indifference and hostility toward God. He died for our sin. Paul says He was also “raised to life for our justification.”
Justification means to be in right standing with God. It is like being declared “Not guilty” in a court of law. If you are justified, it means your past debt is paid. You will not be charged again for the things that you have done in the past.
Notice, Paul doesn’t say we are justified because of the death of Christ; we declared “Not Guilty” because of His resurrection! The reason for this is that the resurrection shows that the sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient for our sin. The resurrection shows that the debt for our sin is “Paid in Full” for anyone who will trust Christ as their Savior and Lord.
In other words, when we place our allegiance with the resurrected Savior we have the assurance that when we get to Heaven and God opens the books to evaluate our lives . . . all the bad stuff (and there is plenty of bad stuff) will be gone or cancelled out!
- Our past illegal acts will be forgiven
- Our past moral sin will be forgiven
- Our past religious indifference or hostility will be forgiven
- Our addictions will be forgiven
- Our abusive and manipulative actions will be forgiven.
- The hurt we’ve caused others will be forgiven.
Our record before God will be clean because they debt has already been paid by Jesus. It is true that in this life we continue to deal with some of the consequences of our past decisions. There may still be things we need to confess and make restitution for. There are things in our past that others are going to continually point to. However, in Heaven, none of that will happen. We will finally escape the failures and scars of the past. That feeling of failure will be replaced with the assurance of God’s love.
Think about it. All those things you are ashamed of . . .forgiven! Imagine the relief of being set free from the shackles of your past. There is however a condition to this forgiveness. We must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. True and Biblical belief is as easy (or as difficult) as A,B,C.
- Acknowledge the facts about Jesus’ death and resurrection
- Believe that what Jesus did is sufficient for you to have forgiveness and new life.
- Commit yourself to work of Christ. Trust Him for your salvation and bet your eternity on Him.
If you have never done this, let me stop right now and invite you to do so. Please understand that Easter is not really about family gatherings, dinners, and crowds of people in worship. Easter is about new life. You can have that new life in you if you will stop running from God and instead trust Him. You can know that life if you will give up all hope of saving yourself and instead put your confidence in Jesus. You can know forgiveness if you will let Jesus pay your way.
EASTER OPENS THE DOOR LEADING TO ETERNAL LIFE
The door of Easter not only allows us to be free of guilt, it opens the door to life beyond the grave. In John 11:25, 26 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” In John 3:16 we are told, “whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life”.
The resurrection of Jesus answers the most important question of life: “Is there life beyond the grave?” We all want to believe it is true. We have heard the stories of the bright light and the out-of-body experiences. We’ve seen the shows where those who dabble in the occult purport to talk to the dead (which is expressly forbidden in the Bible). But none of these things give us any real confidence of life beyond the grace. Wishing for something certainly doesn’t make it true.
The resurrection of Jesus is unique. It proves that there is life beyond the grave. Jesus not only told us about this life, He provided the way for us to live beyond the grave in Heaven. This is a life-changing fact.
It changes the way we face our own mortality. As you may be aware, I turned 50 this week. That means there are more days behind me in this life than there are ahead of me. That sense of invincibility is gone. For some, getting older is a time of despair. It is like the clock running down to the end of life and then there is NOTHING. However, for the person who places their confidence and trusts in Jesus, the experience is different. It’s not a matter of winding down and fading away . . . it is a matter of trying to kick through the finish line. Why? Because of what is ahead. Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
This doesn’t mean we want to die. Death still makes us uncomfortable because we don’t know anything other than this world. We have never been to Heaven and that makes it scary. However, our fear is different from the fear of those who look toward the end of life with nothing to hold on to.
The truth of the resurrection also changes the way we deal with the death of those we love. There is no spot quite as lonely as a gravesite. It is natural to grieve any time you lose someone you love. We are going to miss that person and that makes us sad. However, Paul tells us that we should not grieve like the rest of people who “have no hope”. We know (because of the resurrection of Jesus) that the coffin and grave is not the end of the story. Those who have placed their trust in Christ will meet again. The believer does not say “Good-bye” they say, “See you later.”
The resurrection fills us with hope rather than despair. It sets us free rather than weighing us down.
EASTER OPENS THE DOOR TO A NEW CONFIDENCE IN DAILY LIVING
Jesus talked to His disciples on the way to the Garden where he would be arrested. He knew what was coming and He tried to prepare His disciples. He said, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7). The Counselor He talked about was the Holy Spirit . . . God living inside those who believe.
The Resurrection opens the door to new power and a new focus in living. That power comes from God’s Spirit. The Lord gives His Spirit to everyone who believes. The Holy Spirit guides us into the truth, assures us of God’s love, intercedes for us before God, and empowers us to follow and to change.
The Resurrection of Jesus makes it possible for us to have a new kind of relationship with God. No longer is God someone who is “out there someplace. The Lord now dwells in us.
At the end of Paul’s discourse on the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Paul tells us the resurrection also gives us a new focus. Because of the resurrection our perspective changes. A door has been opened and we see more clearly. We understand that we are living now to live again. For the first time we know with certainty that the good we do for others, the grace that is extended, the souls that are changed, are all things that have eternal significance. It no longer matters whether the world applauds us or sees what we have done. We see that this life is temporary. The things that used to occupy our thoughts and energy we now see as temporary. Our motivation is no longer the applause of men but the “Well Done!” of the Father in Heaven.
This is the true “Purpose Driven Life”. It is not a book, program, or a new fad. The Purpose Driven Life is a life that lives seeking to honor and glorify the Lord. These are people who know that this life is not all that there is. They understand that the best investment is an investment in Heaven.
When I was in history classes while I was in school I always had a problem remembering data. The reason for that is that I didn’t find much contemporary relevance to what we were studying. I had trouble answering the question, “So What?” I am afraid that there are many people who view the resurrection in the same way. They hear the evidence of the empty tomb, the missing body, the appearances to hundreds of people, the changed lives, and the lack of a credible alternative explanation, but it doesn’t mean much because they can’t answer the “So What?” question.
This morning I have tried to answer that question. I want you to see that the resurrection of Jesus is not dry history; it has a powerful relevance to your life and mine. The stone that was rolled away made it possible for the disciples to enter the tomb and see that Jesus had truly risen. But that stone that was rolled away also made it possible for you and me to find that forgiveness and new life that we long for. The Resurrection opened the door to life beyond on the grave, and opened our eyes to a new power and perspective for our living.
There is one more door that still needs to be talked about. It is a door that you and I still have to open. In the book of Revelation there is one more door that is mentioned. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus tells the people of Laodicea, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” The picture is clear: All that we have said this morning is true . . . but only for those who receive the salvation and new life that Jesus offers. Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts and lives. He invites you to open the door and receive Him.
Would you like to know the difference that Easter makes? Would you like to know the forgiveness He made possible? Would you like that confidence that comes from knowing there is life beyond the grave? Would you like to live with new confidence and purpose; seeking to honor God in your living. If so, you need to open the door of your heart and life to the Savior who knocks. You must receive His gift that is offered freely to you. If you have never done so, you have missed the real reason we celebrate at Easter.
If you have opened that door, then you know that Easter is not just the Christian Super Bowl. It is not just a fun time when we all get together. Easter is not an “event” is the foundation of our faith. This one fact changes everything. I can tell you that the resurrection has changed my life. It is the thing I hold on to when the storms of life swell around me. It is the basis for my hope and joy, and it is the motivation for my living. I hope and pray the same is true for you.