THE RESURRECTION DAY
During this time of the year we get questions asked by friends, neighbors and our own children about Easter and certain traditions surrounding Easter. That is a good thing, in fact in the Jewish tradition, questions are part of the way festivals are celebrated and they are a way to remember what God has done. Don’t you think that we Christians have gotten a little foggy and confused about what we believe at times?
Let’s clarify a few things before we go further. How and when did the name Easter come about? How about the Easter Bunny and the Eggs? What is the Christian significance of Easter? Should Christians celebrate Easter in the first place? This is what I found during my research. As early as in 8th century the name Easter was used. The name itself is not Christian but pagan. “Easter—the name comes to us from Ostera or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, for whom a spring festival was held annually, as it is from this pagan festival that some of our Easter customs have come”
On Easter Sunday, children wake up to find that the Easter Bunny has left them baskets of candy. He has also hidden the eggs that they decorated earlier that week. Children hunt for the eggs all around the house. Neighborhoods, churches and organizations hold Easter egg hunts. The Easter Bunny is a rabbit-spirit. Long ago, he was called the "Easter Hare", hares and rabbits have frequent multiple births so they became a symbol of fertility. The custom of an Easter egg hunt began because children believed that hares laid eggs in the grass. The Romans believed that "All life comes from an egg." Christians consider eggs to be "the seed of life" and so they are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and new life.
Should we celebrate Easter or allow our children to go on Easter egg hunts? This is a question many Christian parents struggle with. There is nothing essentially evil about painting and hiding eggs and having children search for them. What is important is our focus. Now I believe that not only the church has a role to play in keeping the record straight I believe it has to start in the Christian home. That is where we are to have the right focus in the first place, it is up to parents to not let the media dictate terms as to what our holidays should be like. If parents make knowing and serving God the first priority in the home there are many ways in which we can build a culture at home that is Christ centered, through reading and discussing the meaning of scripture, through singing hymns and making music, through art or service projects and many other ways.
Last Thursday we had the incredible opportunity to share the true meaning of Easter right here in the sanctuary with 53 children from the Chinese after school program, just before their Easter egg hunt. We asked them some questions and interacted with them before we shared the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. You should have seen the rapt attention of these kids as the gospel was presented to them in simple terms.
Wilma and I were amazed at some of the questions the kids asked, such as: Does Jesus know what I am thinking? What about Easter eggs and bunnies? How was Jesus born? We said that was the Christmas story to deal with another time. They wanted to know more. We could not have presented the gospel to them had we not capitalize on their interest for Easter egg hunt. So let’s not be rigid and adamant, Celebrations like Christmas and Easter presents us a rare opportunity to share the good news of the gospel to those who need to hear the most. May be we should put up a big Easter Extravaganza next year.
In the Christian faith, however Easter has come to mean the celebration of the resurrection of Christ three days after His crucifixion. It is one of the oldest Christian holidays and the most important day of the church year because of the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the events upon which Christianity is based. Therefore the main focus on Easter Sunday for us as believers is not on Easter baskets and bunnies, we remember and celebrate the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. By this He conquered death and proclaimed to the world that one day every human being will be resurrected; but each to a different destination.
There are skeptics who discount any sort of resurrection of the dead let alone the resurrection of Christ. In the midst of growing controversy surrounding the resurrection of Christ, how can we hold on to this most important Christian doctrine, live out its message and most importantly pass it on to the next generation? I began my study exploring the word resurrection, the importance of Christ’s resurrection, other references to human’s resurrection and how it effects our view on life.
What does the word Resurrection mean? In the English it means: A rising again from the dead. The Greek word anastasis means “A standing on the feet again or rising of the body from the grave. Have you wondered what happens to humans when they die? Is the grave yard or crematory their final resting place? Depending on where you are from; most people even from other religions agree that there is life after death. What does the Bible say about life after death? In the Bible there are several references concerning life after death beginning with the resurrection of Christ.
RESURRECTION OF CHRIST IN THE OT:
Here are a few OT scriptures that foretell the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Psalm 34:20, “he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. and Zechariah 12:10, They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." Isaiah 53 is all about crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and the work of redemption of Christ, in Vs 10 “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
In the midst of intense agony and suffering Job prophesied about the LORD’s resurrection, Job 19:25-27: "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another.
These are only a few. All the events that surrounded the crucifixion and resurrection took place so that the scriptures might be fulfilled. Jesus himself told his disciples about his resurrection, Matt 17:23, “They will kill him, and on the third ay he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.”
According to his own words Jesus after the Sabbath at dawn on the first day of the week was raised back to life. All the four gospel writers give various details of that glorious resurrection day. Jesus’ resurrection was a precursor to the resurrection of men. Death is not the end of life; but is the beginning of eternal life. The first resurrection day though it was powerfully experienced by the guards who were manning the tomb and his own disciples the devil tried to discredit it by spreading a lie.
What was the lie about Christ’s resurrection? The guards who witnessed the resurrection were bribed by the chief priests to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” Matthew 28:13 unfortunately this lie is still being circulated even after 2000 years.
How can we counter this lie and silence the vain allegations of skeptics? Here are a few scriptural references: After his first appearance to Mary and other disciples Jesus spent over a period of 40 days with his disciples, teaching them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3)
There is other evidence of Paul who himself was converted by the appearance of Jesus Christ on the Road to Damascus writes now to the young church believers in Corinth. Listen to his witness: I Cor 15:3-7, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
All the early apostles were the first eye witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They saw with their own eyes, their hands touched Him, they believed and spread the good news of the gospel to the rest of the world. As a result the gospel came to you and me and changed our lives. The truth is that the gospel of Christ is still changing lives all over the world. That is the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You may be wondering about the relevance of the Resurrection of Christ today. Speaking to a group of people who were preaching that there is no resurrection of the dead Paul says, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”( ICor 15:13-14) Not only our faith but also 2.2 billion (this is growing by the day) (show the slide) who claim themselves Christians is useless.
Paul did not leave us hanging on a negative note, Vs 20 “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Christ himself has said, in John 5:28-29 “28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”
Dear friend do not be fooled; a day is coming and on that day no matter who you are, we all will be brought before God and judged according to what we have done. Those who have put their faith in Christ will be raised to be with Him forever in heaven and those who reject Jesus will be cast away into a fiery place called hell.
On this resurrection day the way to eternal life is presenting itself before you. Do you have the assurance that there is resurrection for you, life after death? If not today you can have it by confessing that you are a sinner and ask Jesus to forgive your sins and have him come into your life to be with you forever. The power of resurrection can give us hope, perspective as we experience the challenges, trials of this life here on earth, above all grant us eternity with Christ forever and ever. Amen