On Easter Sunday little Johnny listened as his Sunday school teacher told the class that the lesson would be about the meaning of Easter. “Can anyone tell us the Easter story?” she asked. When no one volunteered to speak, she called on Jimmy. “Umm, I don’t think I know,” Jimmy said. The teacher reassured him that was okay and moved on to Betty. “I don’t know how to tell it,” she responded.
Finally, little Johnny decided to raise his hand. He said he would tell the Easter story. The teacher was pleasantly surprised at his willingness, since he was usually the class clown. “On Easter,” said Johnny, “Jesus and his disciples were eating the Jewish Passover at the last supper, but later Jesus was deceived and turned over to the Romans by one of his disciples. He was accused of teaching he was the Messiah and when he confessed it, the Romans made him to wear a crown of thorns, took him to be crucified, and he was hung on a cross with nails through his hands and feet. He said ‘It is finished’ which means ‘Debt paid in full’ and died. He was definitely dead because the water was separated from his blood when they stabbed his side. So they buried him in a nearby cave on Friday which was sealed off by a large boulder.”
“Very good, Johnny!” the teacher gasped excitedly. “And what else happened that we celebrate on Easter?”
Johnny thought for a moment before continuing. “Now, on Easter Sunday each year, we move the boulder aside so that Jesus can come out. And if he sees his shadow, then we know there will be six more weeks of winter!”
… and he was doing so well!
In some ways it is much easier to speak of the great sacrifice and death of Jesus. It is extraordinary, but it need not be seen as supernatural if you really don’t want to. People will probably listen if you want to talk about Jesus as a good, even a great moral teacher and may even be persuaded to acknowledge a sad and horrible, yet sacrificial death. But that is not the end of the story, there is a very definite “to be continued” attached to the end of Good Friday.
On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead, and the resurrection changes everything! Jesus being raised from the dead cannot be anything else but supernatural and miraculous. Jesus was raised bodily, he wasn’t just a spirit; they touched him; he ate with them; the physical nature of it is what makes it resurrection and it changes defeat into victory. The resurrection is the heart of Christian belief and our faith makes no sense without it. The resurrection changes everything.
As they journeyed toward Jerusalem I think the disciples felt an increasing confusion and Jesus’ own heaviness of heart. Then with Jesus having been executed they must have been very fearful and grief stricken. And before they really had a chance to come to terms with all of that, first Mary, and then Peter and John discover that the tomb is empty. The disciples left, but Mary waited at the tomb and Jesus appeared to her in her grief and then you can see it, hear it, feel it; what a difference! She will not be swayed in her testimony to the risen Lord.
The resurrection changes everything!
The disciples all found this as Jesus appeared to them and their utter conviction of the truth of the resurrection, empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, changed the world. No one could change their minds. They were totally convinced. Too easily we allow Christianity and ourselves to be pressed back into the good moral teaching, “one faith among many”, that our culture would very much prefer. We need to talk far more often about the resurrection, about our own experience of the risen, living Lord Jesus and seek to live with the conviction that knowing Jesus and the empowering of his Holy Spirit brings in our hearts. Let’s celebrate this Easter with joy and conviction, the wonder of Jesus’ loving sacrifice on the cross and the glorious fact of the resurrection that changes everything!
Have a blessed Easter,