It seems as if this world has just about turned upside down and inside out since we last celebrated the absolute fact that Jesus Christ conquered death and rose from the dead abut 2,000 years ago. We see the cross in many places, we are often reminded how we love Jesus, yet we all too often get mired in despair about many things or we feel heartbreak all too often. When we think we are all but down and out, when we think the world is totally a jumbled up mess, then we have forgotten the real message of Easter, the empty tomb.
Every Christmas we gather in amazement that Jesus would leave the splendor of heaven and come to our crazy planet, become human, and experience life on earth. A few months later, we gather on Good Friday in humble amazement that our Jesus would die that terrible death on the cross for our sins so that He would take the punishment we deserve.
So Easter Sunday is the climax, the highest point, the culmination of Jesus ministry. And now we celebrate and we rejoice together! Not just that Jesus came to earth. Not merely that He died. BUT! That He rose from the dead!!! That is the uniqueness of our faith!
As our closing hymn says it: I serve a RISEN Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He’s always near. He Lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”
I hope we never tire of hearing the words, He Is Risen! I hope we never cease to be amazed, to be awestruck, at the incredible fact that death couldn’t hold the Lord of Life. And, most of all, I hope we never miss this simple fact, Jesus is alive today. When we say “He is Risen,¨ we don’t mean just that at a moment in time Jesus came back to life, but really we mean He is Alive Today. And that changes everything. The Apostle Paul is incredibly blunt in 1 Cor. 15:14 when he writes, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.¨ What does it mean for you and I that Jesus is Risen? Let me suggest four things that I see in the resurrection
1. There is Love in the Resurrection
1 John 4:9 says, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” We see this love in a painful way on the cross. We see the extent of God’s love for us as we reflect on Jesus’ death. But it doesn’t end there! The love of God did not only send Jesus to the cross, it also raised Him back to life! The love of God did not leave Jesus in the tomb, and us in despair, but it raised Jesus back to life so that, as John writes, “we might live through him.” Love hates death. Love struggles against death and in favor of life. And in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, love overcomes death.
Also, the love we find in the resurrection also overflows from us to others. 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death.” We know that we participate in the resurrection life of Jesus when it spills over into our relationships with one another, even with those who are difficult to love. Jesus prayed that the world would know we were His disciples by the depth of our love for one another.
This resurrection love needs to characterize all of our conversations. It needs to be the central part of all of our interactions with one another. This love needs to be sincere, truthful, grace filled, and honest. That is what the resurrection of God calls us to, to love one another. To abandon our needs and desires so that we might lift one another up. God’s Kingdom cannot sustain harsh, critical, unloving words and spirits. They need to be replaced with the incredible love of God that raised Christ from the dead. That is what will be irresistible to those outside of Christianity.
As I look around our world, I think it is love that we need most. It is perhaps the deepest longing of our hearts, to be loved, to be appreciated, to have worth. And it is the first thing I find in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. “This how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 Jn 4:9). If you are searching, striving, dying to be loved, come to the empty tomb. Go first to the cross, of course, and see the love and forgiveness on the face of God. But don’t stay there, come and meet the resurrected Jesus, the God who is risen and is alive today. And you will discover love beyond what you could imagine.
2. There is Life in the Resurrection
This coming Tuesday we will celebrate the life of Bob Cloin. We will celebrate his life and witness to his faith in God. I wonder, what would that would be like if Jesus had not been raised from the dead? What would it be like to stand at the time of death of a loved one without any knowledge that there is life beyond the grave? I can’t imagine the desperation, and I don’t have to try! For there is life! There is victory! All because Jesus rose from the dead.
Romans 6:4-5 says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” We will be united with Jesus in His resurrection life.
And in fact that is exactly what happens at the moment we respond in faith to God. Jesus described it as a “new birth.” 2 Cor 5:17 says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, then new has come!” Are you a new creation? Are you “living” as a vibrant joy filled follower of Jesus or just getting through each day? Jesus is alive today. He is here, right now, according to His promise. And He brings with Him the gift of life, and He won’tt force it on you, stuff it down your throat, but He will freely offer it. Life eternal.
3. There is Hope in the Resurrection
The fact that there is life in the resurrection is the source of the third thing: hope. I have hope because Jesus rose from the dead. Most of you know this hymn: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, I can face uncertain days because He lives.” The resurrection gives us hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity. Hope that things can change. Hope that even if they don’t change, and the worst happens and death comes, that is not the end! Do you really believe that deep in your heart?
There is more life after that, better life after this life without sickness or pain or tears. Life without ever having to wonder, “Lord, where are you?” because we will see Him with our eyes, touch Him with our hands, and never worry or fret again. I know that for many of us, one thing we fear is death. We are afraid to die. It seems so final, so horrible, so unavoidable. But in the resurrection of Jesus I find hope, hope for something greater, something better, something eternal. We know that because Jesus lives today, we too can live with Him. This hope effects how we live, and how we die.
And so, for each of us when the moment of death comes we have hope. We can know that Jesus will be right there with us, His presence right at our side. We don’t go through it alone, we go through it with Him. Jesus entered death, made it to the other side, and He is back, alive and present. 1 Peter 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Because He lives, we have hope. Finally….
4. There is Power in the Resurrection
1 Cor. 6:14 tells us, “By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” This is the fourth thing I want to remind us of this morning, that there is power in the resurrection. You see, the simple point I want to make this morning, that winds its way through each of the four things I have talked about, is that Jesus is alive. He is alive right now, with us, walking beside us. He didn’t rise up from the dead and then take off to heaven, maybe to come back again someday. But He is Alive and with us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. And because of that, His power is available to us. The same power that raised him from the dead.
That power is here for our daily lives, and God desires us to experience it more deeply. It/Jesus is here to enable us to have victory over sin, it/Jesus is here to bring us hope and encouragement, it/Jesus is here to shine through us to our world around us, it/Jesus is here to enable us to worship and celebrate. This morning it is my prayer that you would know the Risen Lord Jesus. That you would know the love, the life, the hope, and the power of the Resurrection. That is the simple message of our faith, Jesus is Alive!