The Essential Easter
By Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
(1 Corinthians 15:14)
I am the early riser in the family. I am usually showered, shaved, and in my office by 5:30am most mornings. The Easter Sunrise Service at 6:30am fits me perfectly. I love it!
Sometimes worship feels a bit too somber, the liturgy moves a bit too slowly, and we sing a bit sluggishly. Not so on Easter! The organ is louder, the trumpets blare, and the congregation belts out “I Know My Redeemer Lives” – often by memory and with a faint glimmer of a smile.
I also have met more new visitors at the traditional Easter morning breakfast than at any other time at church. I have worshiped with the newest members and visited with the family and friends of long-time members. All of these describe the steeped traditions associated with my church life at Easter time.
However, the essential element of Easter is not found in the traditions we have established – no matter how precious they have become. The essential element of Easter is its message – that sin has been conquered, our salvation is secure, and though we die we shall live. It is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. We can have everything else but if we do not have the resurrection of Christ, we have nothing.
The story of perfectly-sacrificial love moves us emotionally. From Spirit-inspired hearts, we are struck by the abuse Jesus experienced from Gethsemane to Calvary’s hill. We see it in each harsh word thrown at him, each mockery made of him, each fist that struck him, every strap that flogged him, every thorn that pierced him, and every nail that was driven into him – because we caused it.
The prophet spoke so clearly about it hundreds of years in advance:
“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)
But could this really be so? Is it possible that all our sins, our terrible thoughts, the bad things we have said, our heartless moments, our apathy, our self-righteousness, our arrogance, our rebellion against God and all in authority could be placed on Jesus? The empty tomb is the answer. As Paul told the Corinthians,
“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The evidence of the resurrection is that God accepted the payment. If not, the tomb would still be sealed. The body would turn to dust, and there would be no redemption, no salvation, no deliverance. Even in the Old Testament, Job – a probable contemporary of Abraham – knew that God’s love transcended the ages and even the foe of death itself when he confessed:
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25–26)
There are other elements of my traditional Easter that I enjoy – family gatherings, hiding eggs for the grandchildren, and seeing all of them dressed in their best for this special day. These are precious parts of an enduring tradition, but they are not the essential message of Easter. Easter, today, lives in the heart of every Christian. It’s the comfort that sustains us at the passing of a believing loved one. It is the courage to face the unexpected illness. It is the light at the end of the tunnel, the hope that does not disappoint, the trophy at the end of life’s race.
As siblings of the resurrected Lord, we can cherish our blessings – even in the worst of times. We can celebrate the lives that blessed us, even though they are now gone. We can be thankful for the times when we had an adequate income, and it was sufficient to have met our needs. We can celebrate the freedoms we had to live out our routines and enjoy our traditions. All of this is possible because the essential Easter is the message that “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6).
Never forget that the essential element of Easter is the Easter message. As we gather this Easter, embrace the enduring message that “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” It changes everything!
May 4, 2018