Summary: Easter is God's Yes to eternal life and personal transformation.
It’s fun to look back at certain dates in history and see what happened. Let’s take today’s date, April 8th. April 8th, 1974, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record by hitting number 715. April 8th, 1960, Mabry Harper caught a world record 25-lb. walleye in Tennessee. That’s a keeper! On a serious note, on April 8th, 1945, Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who denounced Adolf Hitler, who even joined the plot to assassinate him, was hanged in a POW camp only days before the Americans liberated it. The last words of this brilliant and courageous 39-year-old were "This…for me, is the beginning of life." Why? Why did he view his death as the beginning of life? Why will you be able to say those same words on the day of your death? Bonhoeffer knew what all believers know: On Easter God said Yes!
God said yes to the events of Good Friday. Jesus claimed He was the Son of God; He claimed that by His death God would forgive the sins of the world and give eternal life to believers. God would judge our sin by punishing His only Son in our place, like a condemned criminal standing before a judge, about to be sentenced. All of a sudden a man steps up and says, “Your honor, I’ll take this man’s place.” The judge considers the request, condemns the new man and frees the other. Jesus said that’s why He came to this earth - to die in our place. Then it happened.
Good Friday is the torture and death of Christ. Good Friday doesn’t prove that our sins are forgiven. After all, anyone can die. How do we know Jesus is the One who forgives? Easter is the proof that God accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins. Easter is God’s YES to Good Friday. ROMANS 1:4 “Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” Jesus resurrection shows He was who He said He was. The Son of God, our Savior. He brings eternal life. Good Friday is the payment for our sins, Easter is the receipt. On Easter God said Yes! I accept the sacrifice of My Son for the sins of the world by raising Him from the dead. Through faith in Christ, all who believe are forgiven. The day a person dies is the day they begin eternal life in Heaven. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Today, the day of your death, in Heaven. No long journey, no place of suffering first. Instantly in the presence of the Lord. That’s the Biblical truth of the death of a Christian. Next Sunday we start a 3-week sermon series and a 5-week Bible study on what Heaven will be like. Everyone is invited to come and grow in our understanding of our future home.
The Gospel is such great news. Then why do people often reject it? A few weeks ago Americans were stunned by the news that an American soldier in Afghanistan apparently killed 17 Afghan civilians. Friends and teachers of Robert Bales describe him as caring, gregarious and self-confident before he just "snapped." One childhood friend told the New York Times: "That's not our Bobby. Something horrible, horrible had to happen to him." I thought the words of one of the commentaries written about this tragedy were right on: “Any of us would be shocked if someone we knew and admired killed children. But these days it's especially hard to think through these situations because of the worldview that prevails in our culture. According to this view, most people are naturally good, because nature is good. The monstrosities of the world are caused by the few people, like Hitler, who are fundamentally warped and evil.
This worldview gives us an easy conscience, because we don't have to contemplate the evil in ourselves. But when somebody who seems mostly good does something completely awful, we're rendered mute or confused.”
Today’s world is confused. Many people reject Christ because they think they don’t need Him. After all, they’re by nature good, or at least good enough. If God grades on the curve, I’ll be OK. I’m not a mass murderer. I’m not a cheater. I pay my taxes. How about the customer who gave a struggling waitress a $12,000 tip last year? A mother of 5, working 2 part-time jobs and waitressing full time at the Fryin’ Pan restaurant in Moorhead. It’s a miracle. Surely that generous person is near the top of God’s Heaven list. But what does the Bible teach? Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death” (eternal physical and spiritual separation from God in Hell). God’s word says that we’re born enemies of God. That’s original sin. Anybody who denies original sin needs to come over to our house and watch our girls for about 2 minutes. Cute, loveable…scheming! They’re bonding with each other - that’s great. But it also means they’re ganging up on mommy and daddy, kind of like those teenage flash mob attackers in the cities. One incites the other to mutiny. You don’t have to teach kids to not obey, to not share, to not be nice to each other, do you? It’s all natural! Of course, it comes naturally for mommy and daddy too!