Faith, hope and love – the message of Easter!
How to explain Easter? Well, we’ve been trying for 2,000 years and we’re still only scratching the surface. However, what about an illustration of Easter? well the best I can think of is a cross between a friend helping out a friend in trouble and a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. However, any illustration must fall down. We can’t explain Easter by our experiences in this world, but should try and explain our experiences in this world by Easter!
The message of Easter is that death is not the end! it’s a new beginning! This world is not all there is! there’s a better one to come! The problems of this world are temporary! Our responsibility for the problems doesn’t matter if we turn away from what we know is wrong and turn back to God, Jesus on the Cross has put things right – Jesus – Immanuel – God with us (if we’ll let Him) – today in this world! yesterday in the past, and forever! Jesus is not a dead-God, but is alive!
The Christian Faith is a Resurrection Faith and our Resurrection Faith is based on Resurrection Facts:
- the message of the early Christians was that Jesus was Lord, that Jesus was God – and the proof of this was that He had risen from the dead! Not a claim that would be easily received!! And where was this message proclaimed – that Jesus was God, the Christ, that he was alive? – in the very place of His death!!
- His death was public. How on earth would these people who had so recently seen Him die come to believe that He was alive ? And how did two of the most prominent leaders in the early Church – James, the brother of Jesus, and Paul – who weren’t even believers during Jesus’ life-time before the Cross – come to believe ?
- the best response of the Authorities to these claims was that the disciples had stolen the body. It’s illuminating to consider what the actual facts must have been that constrained them, if this was the best explanation they could come up with!
But, an empty tomb – the absence of Jesus – doesn’t explain the transformation in the disciples – who were afraid and denied Jesus before His death – who were afraid that they might receive the same fate. After His death, just a few weeks later, in the same place, they were fearless! proclaiming a message that would pit them against all the powers of the known world – that the man Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified as a criminal, was in fact God! The proclamation that Jesus is Lord! set them in open defiance against the Romans, the Jews, and most of the Greeks with their plethora of gods. What on earth possessed them to do such a thing ?
- the consequence is clear to see – they would quickly be stamped-out! Well, the persecution certainly happened – the early Christians were attacked, tortured and killed. However, the Faith grew!! How on earth do we explain this? The Church’s explanation is very simple – that Jesus was God and that He had risen from the dead and that He was alive. It’s easy to mock or scoff at this, but … what other rational explanation is there ?
- the origin of the Church was not a single country or culture or family or similar background. Although it came out of Judaism, or rather was the fulfilment of Judaism, the early Church was made-up of all cultures, and all classes. Furthermore, whatever background the early Christian came from, they opposed and generally persecuted them. The only commonality between the enormous diversity of the early Christians, was Jesus Christ!
- Bearing-in mind the known circumstances of the world and the early Church and the death of Jesus, the fact that needs to be explained (if you don’t want to accept the Christian answer) is the remarkable spread and growth of the Church and Christian Faith amidst ruthless persecution in the 1st and 2nd centuries.
People don’t just rise from the dead. But Jesus wasn’t just any man – the question is,
did this man rise from the dead? Is this man – Jesus of Nazareth – God ? Is the claim of the early Christians, the claim upon which the Church is founded, that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is God, that Jesus rose from the dead – true?
It explains all the facts! – what other explanation is there ?
And this is why it’s not blasphemous to worship Jesus – as we specifically do when we come together on a Sunday. In fact, the truth is – it’s blasphemous not to worship Jesus!
Jesus, both man and God, who died on the Cross, for our sins, so that we could experience forgiveness and healing and new life – with God, within ourselves, and with each other.
Come! Let us follow Him! In this world we will have troubles, but God is with the followers of Jesus. During this Easter period, let’s marvel again at the Cross – the justice and holiness of Almighty God touching us – human sinners – with His love and mercy, forgiveness and healing, and Resurrection life!
Let us glory in the Cross and not be ashamed of the name of Jesus
and let’s take note of, although we don’t really understand, the fellowship of His sufferings and that it’s the worse our circumstances are in this world, the greater is our witness to, and our identification with, our Lord and our God and His Resurrection life living in us
He who has died, is risen and will come again