Most people in Western Civilization are familiar with the Christmas story of the Bible (Luke 2:8-14). It doesn?t seem to matter if you?re a believing Christian, a cultural Christian, a member of some other faith, or even an atheist or agnostic.
Perhaps it?s the magnitude of Christmas itself?since the holiday is almost universally celebrated and on a level that dwarfs every other, there?s some understanding that the birth of Jesus Christ is somewhere in the origin of the holiday.
But to the believing Christian, Easter is the most significant holiday. Christmas is, after all, about the birth of Jesus Christ–not that that?s an insignificant event in itself, but all of us have been born and we have various holidays that mark the birth of many significant people in history.
Easter isn?t a day to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ either?that?s Good Friday, a day long on prayer and solemn reflection and virtually absent festive celebration of any kind. No, Easter is different.
Easter is a holiday unique among all holidays
The significance of Easter to the believing Christian is that it?s the day that commemorates and celebrates Christianity?s most outrageous claim?that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
No other holiday celebrates a resurrection, certainly not in the Western world.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is an article of faith among believing Christians, and a complete absurdity to virtually everyone else. It?s the dividing line between believing Christians and cultural Christians. A pastor in a church my family used to attend put it well??you can believe in Christmas and still not be a Christian, but you?re not a Christian if you don?t believe in Easter?.
All of Christianity rests on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection and the Believer
Why is the resurrection so important to Christians?
- It proved that Jesus was divine
- It fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus
- It proved the claims Jesus made about Himself
- It showed that Jesus holds power over death
But it gets even closer to home. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ has deep, personal meaning for believers.
Because Jesus rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead. Jesus promised that he would raise us from the dead as well. In John 14:3 He tells us ?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.? As believers, we rest in the His promise of eternal life.
Jesus? Resurrection proved that He is the ransom for sin. No matter how good a person we may want to believe ourselves to be, in the eyes of a Holy God we?re stained with sin. Our very lack of belief in Him is a sin. Jesus? death was a ransom for sin?our sin?he was the final blood sacrifice, ??the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!? (John 1:29). His resurrection is the culmination of that ransom, and a triumph over the bondage of sin. As believers, we have reconciliation with the Eternal God. The concept of a sovereign and all-powerful God is a one that?s been highly diluted in our culture, but to the believer it gets to the root of faith.
Jesus? Resurrection affirms that we have a deep, personal relationship with a loving God. Perhaps more than any other book in the Bible, the Gospel of John shows us Jesus on a personal level. His love, mercy and desire for a relationship on a very personal level abound. The Resurrection confirms that Jesus is God and that means we can have personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe in a way we never imagined. We can know God intimately through the life of Jesus Christ.
Jesus? Resurrection means that He will come again. In Mark 13:26-27, Jesus tells us of his return, ?At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.? This is the ?rapture? that believers sometimes speak of. The Resurrection means that in it?s time, Jesus? return to call home the believers will be a reality.
There?s a better way to live and it?s blessed by God Himself. Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, pray for those who persecute you, blessed are the poor in spirit, the merciful and those who mourn?Jesus said all these things as recorded in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. We inherently know all these pronouncements to be good and pure, but when we know that they were given to us by God himself, they go from wise teachings to directives from on high. The Resurrection confirms that Jesus is God, so living our lives according to His teachings have value beyond human comprehension and reward. The ?golden rule? is affirmed to be worth more than all the gold in the world.
The Resurrection means that Jesus is not merely a good man, a wise teacher, a great philosopher or even a gifted prophet. It means that He IS God, and because He is, then everything that?s been written about Him?everything He said about Himself?is true and worthy of our trust.
What is the ?Easter Story??
We can debate the origins of chocolate, Easter egg hunts and the Easter Bunny but none of it has anything to do with it. Those are just human traditions. But the Easter Story comes straight out of the Holy Bible.
?After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, 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 lightning, 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.?
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ?All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.??Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20 (NIV)
A tall tale? A wishful story? A complete fabrication? Or is it?true?
I?ll tell you what every believing Christian knows and has experienced: God reveals himself to those who truly seek him. We just have to be willing to take the first step and to be genuine in our desire?God will take it from there.
?You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.??Jeremiah 29:13
Are you ready to seek your God? There?s no better time than Easter.
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