Summary: My Easter 2013 message. Without the resurrection our faith is nothing. However, he has been raised so it is everything. Jesus was poured out for the world and he says we will do the things he did ...this is a challenge!
There’s a lovely old story about children who were asked to bring plastic Easter eggs to Church on Easter Day, filled with something that would symbolise the meaning of the resurrection. One child’s egg contained a tiny flower to speak of the new life that springs forth at Easter. Another egg contained a crayoned picture of Jesus. Another contained a small nail to remind people about the nails of the cross; and another contained a pebble to represent the stone that had guarded the tomb. Each child had brought something to help the church think about the resurrection, but everyone was speechless when the egg brought by seven year old Brian was opened. Brian had learning difficulties, and as his egg was opened there was nothing inside. Brian spoke up loudly and clearly, “It’s full of emptiness – just like the tomb of Jesus”; and his was the best lesson of all.
The angels declared, “He is not here; he has risen” (24:6)! And the implications of this statement are literally out of this world.
The preaching of the early Church was filled with the death and resurrection of Jesus. In his first recorded preaching after the resurrection St. Peter stood with the disciples to address a crowd and said, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32). He also said, “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold of him” (Acts 2:24).
St. Paul, before becoming a Christian himself, threw many of those early Christians into prison. He gave approval to the killing and arrest of believers (Acts 7:54-8:3); but after a dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus he was changed (Acts 9). He wrote much of the New Testament and preached the resurrection.
In one of his letters (1 Corinthians 15:14) he writes, “If [Jesus] has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”. He goes on to say, “If our hope in [Jesus] is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else” (1 Cor 15: 19); but St. Paul then asserts with the confidence of a man who met the risen Lord Jesus himself: “But Christ has indeed been raised” (1 Cor 15:20).
Elsewhere Paul is clear about the results of believing in the resurrection. He writes, ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Romans 10:9).
Paul is also clear about the power for resurrection living: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised [Jesus] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).
Those words spoken by the angels at the empty tomb on that first Resurrection Sunday are also for us: “He is not here: he has risen!” Friends, this is Good News!
William Sangster was the senior Minister at Westminster Central Hall Methodist Church during the Second World War and beyond. Sunday by Sunday 3000 people would be stirred by his passionate preaching. In the 1950s he was diagnosed with the neurological disorder Muscular Atrophy that progressively paralysed his body and eventually his vocal chords. At Easter, just before he died in 1960, Sangster managed to scribble a note to his daughter: ‘How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, “He is risen!”’ The note ended, ‘Far worse, to have a voice and not want to shout.’