I recently watched a television commercial recently that began by boldly exclaiming in massive letters, “EASTER IS HERE,” followed by quick-shots of dancing kids and teens, each sporting pastel and Spring-themed clothing. As dancing music and flashing lights interspersed among the youth, a person in an Easter bunny costume appeared, also dancing wildly. As you might have guessed, this was a commercial for a clothing company, tempting you to go out and buy brand new cute fashions for kids because…well, because it’s Easter.
That’s what you do on Easter, right? Buy new clothes, and of course candy. Could we possibly have any holiday without candy?
Ok, ok. Please… don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to rant and rave about Easter bunnies, or candy, or the secularization of America, or anything like that. I personally accompanied the “Easter Bunny” (played by the youth minister at our church) to a local elementary school just last week, and it was so wonderful to see the joy the experience brought to all of these children’s faces.
No, I think the thing that always fascinates me about Easter is how difficult the reality of it is for us to process. I think Easter is so wildly serious – so massively impactful – that for many people, devout Christians included, the intensity of Easter is so deep that we just don’t know how to really deal with it. I think that’s a lot of the reason behind why we always have such bubbly celebrations of Easter, because we’re trying to find ways to celebrate the life-giving reality of what it represents in a way that we can all feel comfortable with.
Because, if you really want to take Easter, and boil it down to what it really stands for, and really means in your own life, right here and now – here’s what it means – and it’s very serious stuff.
Easter means that trusting in Jesus means you’ll live again after you die.
Really, that’s the super-practical application that we can all draw from Easter. I mean, death is an issue we all have to deal with, right? Yes, we follow monumental observations of Christ’s suffering throughout the days and weeks leading up to Easter. If you observe Lent (which we do), then you will have spent at least 40 days prior to that Sunday focused on your own spiritual life, and possibly walking through disciplines to help you focus more deeply on God.
But Easter is the central focus of our faith. Without Easter, none of this thing we call “Christianity” or “Following Jesus” means anything.
Seriously – if Easter did not exist, then to be perfectly honest, there would be no faith to begin with. You’d likely have never heard of a itinerant preacher in the land of Ancient Israel 2000 years ago. History would have never remembered Him.
The apostle Paul agrees, as he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
See what I mean? Everything depends on Easter. Even the Cross means nothing without the Empty Grave.
The reality that God raised Jesus from the dead is what set everything in motion about our faith. It’s the reason a hapless scattered band of disciples, cowardly and fickle at times, turned from aimless deserters to the men who carried the faith from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8).
The reality that God raised Jesus changed the planet’s perception of the ministry of Jesus, remarkable as it was. Prior to the Resurrection, Jesus led a movement of healing, exorcisms, miracles and teachings with a new authority led by a charismatic and controversial leader. After the Resurrection, well, that’s when the full recognition of Jesus as the Son of God emerged as a wide-spread belief among His followers. Raising Jesus from the dead vindicated every action and word Jesus gave in His life.
Nobody had ever been raised from the dead in such a way that they would never die again.
The reality that God raised Jesus from the dead demonstrated that death can be defeated, and Jesus Himself paved the way. What Jesus did in thwarting death, and being raised from the dead by God to a new, glorious existence, means that we too have the opportunity.
The reality that God raised Jesus from the dead means there is hope.
The reality that God raised Jesus from the dead means there really is another world.
The reality that God raised Jesus from the dead vindicates everything that Jesus said, and proved all true.
The reality that God raised Jesus from the dead means there is new possibility for each one of us, here and now.
That’s what Easter means – new life, in the future, and now.
Everything depends on it. Everything depends on that grave being empty. If, as Paul says, that grave was not empty, then everything we are doing as Christians is useless and futile.
But it’s not empty or futile. Instead, it’s the most important thing in the entire universe.
All because God raised Jesus from the dead on the day we have come to call Easter.