Summary: This is a Resurrection Sunday/Easter message based upon the account of Jesus raising Lazrus from the dead. It centers in on His promise to Martha, and to all believers, in John 11:25-26.
Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life
Today is the holiest, most inspiring, reassuring, and joyous day in the Church year and for all human history. Regrettably for centuries our Western culture has secularized and obscured its true meaning and significance. As Christians it is we must always “keep the main thing the main thing,” and the main thing is the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central tenet of our Christian faith, but it has become lost in Christendom and our secular world through the pagan practices associated with the day the world has come to call Easter. Our motives have been pure and innocent, but our practices often fail to give our Resurrected Lord the honor and glory which is His and His alone.
The very name Easter, along with its traditional customs, is rooted in pagan practices that have no kinship with the Resurrection of Jesus. In his work On the Reckoning of Time, eighth century English Historian The Venerable Bede explains the name Easter. Its etymology comes from Eastre, the name of the Teutonic Goddess of Spring to whom the month of April was dedicated.
The historic origins, however, go much deeper into ancient history, for Eastre had her counterparts in all societies. She was called Aprhodite by the Greeks, Ashtoreth by the Old Testament Syrians and Phoenicians, Isis by the Egyptians, Ishtar by the Assyrians and Babylonians, Diana by the Ephesians of the New Testament, Venus by the Romans, and Ostara by the ancient Norse and Germans.
As the goddess of fertility associated with bountiful crops and human procreation, her worship has always been lewd, immoral, indecent, lascivious, obscene, vile, and wicked. She has always venerated promiscuity, sensual love, depravity, temple prostitution, and sexual orgies. Because they fell into such sinful idolatry as this, The LORD allowed Israel to be conquered by Assyria and Judah by Babylon.
Today this same pagan Goddess of Spring is worshiped by Wiccans and Neopagans worldwide. It is from this background that our culture has incorporated the symbols of the Easter bunny and the Easter egg both of which are connected with fertility rituals and the Mother Goddess Ostara, Ashtoreth, Ishtar, Eastre, or what ever name she may be called. Wal Mart and Wall Street exalt the Easter bunny and Easter eggs, but ignore Him Who is the Reason for the Season.
Therefore, many contemporary Christians, including me as your pastor, prefer to designate today as Resurrection Sunday rather than Easter, for our sole purpose is to praise and worship the Only True and Living God for the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and His victory over sin and death. However, old habits die hard, and you still may hear me from time to time wishing someone a “Happy Easter.” The glory of this day belongs only to Him Who speaks personally to each of us as He did to Martha some two thousand years ago, “I AM the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Today we celebrate the “Day of Resurrection.” This is our “Blessed Assurance.” This is the reason we must “keep the main thing, the main thing.”
When I was a student at Asbury College in the late 1960s, we used to sing the old Gospel Chorus:
Let’s talk about Jesus
The King of Kings is He,
The Lord of Lords Supreme throughout eternity,
The Great I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life the Door;
Let’s talk about Jesus more and more.
On His Glorious Resurrection Day let us glorify Jesus Who has conquered sin and death and exalt Him as THE GREAT I AM.
In John’s Gospel the pace of Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem, the Cross, and His Resurrection begins to accelerate. In Chapter 11 Jesus resurrects Lazarus from the dead, a prelude to His own Coming Resurrection. John tells us at the beginning of Chapter Twelve, the occasion when Martha prepares a banquet for Jesus and Mary anoints his feet for burial, that it is now “six days before the Passover.” Then in Chapter Thirteen we are at the Last Supper.
In our text we learn that Lazarus has been buried for four days. Martha runs to meet Jesus upon His arrival and, somewhat disappointed that He had failed to come in time to heal Lazarus of His fatal disease but still declaring her faith, confronts Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask.”
Jesus comforts her, “Your brother will rise again.” Then He lovingly speaks these reassuring words, “I AM the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Today we affirm that He “Is the resurrection and the life.”