Summary: Four levels of faith regarding Easter. Risen? -Risen! Up Where HE Belongs! - Risen! Up Where WE Belong! - Risen! Up Where I Belong!
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Matt 28:1-6 (NIV)
Easter – the most important day for Christians – more than Christmas.
Christmas is to Christianity what …
- Mawlid is to Islam (birthday of Muhammed)
- Janmashtami is to Hinduism (birthday of Krishna)
- Hanamatusuri is to Buddhism (birthday of Buddha)
- Teacher’s Day is to Confucianism (birthday of Confucius)
Accepting the idea of Christmas doesn’t make you a Christian. Most of the world believes that Jesus was born. But Easter – that’s a different story!
Muhammed, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius – all dead. But Jesus is Risen!
Today, I want to talk about being a Christian… Not saying you are a Christian – but really being a Christian. Are you really a Christian? Can you celebrate Easter?
I want to talk to you about four perspectives of Easter… Each perspective is a step in the right direction, and I hope that you will move with me from faith to faith…
- The history of Easter – Is Jesus risen?
- The theology of Easter – Jesus is risen. He is up where he belongs.
- The hope of Easter – Jesus is risen! We can be up where we belong!
- The celebration of Easter – Jesus is risen! I am up where I belong!
What kind of a Christian are you now? What does Easter really mean to you?
Easter is the day when most Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, which they believe happened on the third day after his crucifixion. The date is not fixed in the calendar, but is calculated based on a number of Christian and non-Christian factors, including Passover, the full moon, and the vernal equinox (the day when the sun is positioned exactly over the equator).
At first, Easter was celebrated by many Christians on Nisan 14 of the Jewish calendar, which is supposedly the date of the first full moon in the north after the vernal equinox. In the second century, it was officially moved to the Sunday following Nisan 14, to coincide with the practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper on Sundays.
The real controversy in the world is not the date, though. The real question is – is Jesus actually risen?
There is no doubt that Jesus was born. There is no doubt that he lived and taught in Israel. There is no doubt that Jesus died. There is no doubt that Christianity exploded within a few weeks of this event, with Christians claiming that Jesus has risen from the dead.
Skeptics offer the following theories:
· Wrong tomb (authorities could have produced the real)
· Disciples were seeing things (over 500 having the same hallucination? – why wasn’t the body produced?)
· Jesus fainted (Roman scourging, crucifixion, buried and tomb sealed – yet well enough to get out when he “woke up”, and convince his disciples that he was healthy)
· The body was stolen (Peter had denied Christ, now he’s overcoming soldiers and moving a 2.5 ton stone)
The greatest proof is in the lives of the apostles. These men went all over the world, and maintained their story to their dying day. All of them except John were martyred – for a lie?
Are you a historical Christian? ______________
Since you are here today, I trust for you this holiday is more than a study in history – as it is for most. You’ve already taken a great step in the right direction.
RISEN! UP WHERE HE BELONGS.
So you believe that Jesus is risen. What does that mean?
It means that He was more than just a normal man. Actually, the story of Easter is not just about a good man that lived 2000 years ago. It is a about God coming to earth in flesh. John 3:16 says that “God so loved… He gave…”. Because of our sin, we were doomed to die. So Jesus came, and lived a sinless life. He didn’t have to die – he chose to. Why? He died for us. He took our punishment upon himself.
But because he had no sin – death could not hold him. He rose again on the third day, and having conquered death for us, he ascended back into heaven.