By Charles F. Stanley
What is Easter about? Greeting cards speak of “renewal,” “the promise of spring,” or even “God’s love.” To believers, however, these sentiments fall far short of the power and victory of Easter—Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Does it really matter if Christ rose from the dead? Some would argue it doesn’t. But I submit to you that if Jesus didn’t conquer death, Christianity is a lie. Without the Resurrection, the most eloquent sermon is empty; sin still holds us captive; and our faith is nothing more than wishful thinking (1 Cor. 15:13-14,17).
The Resurrection is a fact. Those who are not quite sure, and who do not trust the Bible story, can go to the library and investigate the records of the time written by Josephus, a Jewish historian.
And for those of us who do believe the Bible is an accurate account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have much to rejoice about.
For many years, our church, First Baptist Atlanta produced a three-hour dramatic performance about the life of Jesus. Many of those years, the civic center has been sold out for all performances. It was the highlight of the Easter season for thousands of people. I enjoyed it immensely.The basic script was “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Each year it ended with the ascension of Jesus.
Each year as I sat there and anticipated the Resurrection scene, I felt as if I would explode with excitement. I felt tense during the trial and the beating of Jesus. I got angry at the Roman soldiers (who are my church members!) as they yelled at and hit our Savior. I grew weary and sad during Gethsemane and the Crucifixion scenes. I became exhausted after those scenes because they seemed so real to me.
Then, the music would change. The mood would change. Disciples and women would run across the stage looking for Jesus, wondering where His missing body could be. Women weep. Disciples shook their heads. Jesus’ mother is pondered. I recall wanting to stand to my feet and shout, “He’s risen, just as He said!” I never have said that, and I’m sure those around me were grateful. But I’ve wanted to.
The strangest feeling overtook me one year. As the disciples peered into the tomb and as angels hovered nearby and they cradled His folded grave-clothes in their hands, I wanted to get up and walk up on to the stage to look in the tomb, too. I knew it was empty, but I wanted to experience the thrill that those first disciples must have felt when they walked into the empty tomb.
We can’t imagine their despair and then their feeling of utter amazement and victory.
His resurrection assures our resurrection. There would still be the sting of death if He had remained dead. But He was the firstfruits of resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20). He paved the way for us.
Of course, we grieve when someone we love is taken in death. But we grieve differently from the way the world does. We do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We can look forward to a wonderful reunion someday with them and with the One who died—and lives—for us!
If He had remained dead, we would have nothing.
No hope. No faith. No comfort.
But we have a living Savior, who transcended the laws of death and smashed them forever.
A little girl took a caterpillar and put it in a metal box that once held Band-aids. She shut the lid tight to keep the caterpillar in and then went on her way, virtually forgetting about her wonderful catch. The caterpillar spun a tight cocoon inside the box.
One day, when the girl was at school, her mother was cleaning her room. The mom opened the box to see what treasure the little girl had hidden. Out came a beautiful butterfly.
The mother closed the bedroom door tightly, so she could show this creation to the little girl when she came home. She could hardly wait. She met her daughter at the door and said, “Guess what! You’ve kind of become a mother!”
The child couldn’t imagine what on earth her mother was talking about. But then the mother slowly opened her daughter’s door and showed her the butterfly basking in the sunshine on the window sill.
Butterflies, although a beautiful illustration of new life emerging out of something seemingly dead, do not adequately portray the Resurrection. Jesus was not in some flimsy metal box. He was in a sealed tomb with guards standing nearby. He was wrapped in a cocoon of death, yet He broke free.
The stone was rolled away from the tomb, not so Jesus could get out but so the world could look in. His resurrection assures yours. Because He lives, you will live forever.
Death is never a pleasant topic, but for the believer, it is a positive event leading to eternal life in the presence of the Lord. There is no reason to fear death if we honestly make a decision to trust Jesus Christ and enter into a personal relationship with Him. In this message, Dr. Stanley reminds us how Jesus told his disciples He was going to prepare a place for them and would come back to get them. (Watch Right Thinking About Death and Resurrection.)
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