Summary: The Easter event is the lynchpin of history. God has given us hope for eternal life. In our culture there is a battle for the mind regarding this truth.

In Jesus Holy Name April 16, 2006

Text: John 20:1-18 Easter Sunday Redeemer

“The Epic Event - Easter”

If you visited the shopping mall this week end, would your visit there help you understand the meaning of Easter?

Our culture definitely has an Easter holiday. You can buy chocolate Easter bunnies or real bunnies for your back yard. You can fill your Easter Basket with chocolate eggs and marshmallow baby chicks. You can wear new clothes, and you can even buy eggs from the grocery store all ready colored.

If you were an investigator and studied the merchandise in stores, I believe you would be hard pressed to discover the true meaning of Easter.

Every other religion has values for behavior. They have leaders and religious teachers. There is one difference. The graves of their religious founders are occupied. Christianity has an empty tomb because Jesus lives. Jesus rose from death and Christianity is based on this historical reality.

Theologian Gerald O’Collins put it this way: “In a profound sense, Christianity without the resurrection is not simply Christianity without its final chapter. It is not Christianity at all.”

The resurrection of Jesus from death after his crucifixion is the epic event that changed human history. It is the lynchpin of history. “If Christ had not been raised from the dead, your faith would be futile and you would be dead in your sins.”

Many years ago, a submarine sank off the coast of Massachusetts. As soon as possible, divers descended to the disabled ship, listening for signs of life. One diver heard a gentle tapping. Listening intently, he recognized the dot and dashes of the Morse Code. The message was simple. “Is there hope?” (Story in Decision Magazine – Billy Graham April 2000)

Is there hope? That is the constant cry of humanity. Easter is the answer to that question. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall have eternal life.” He can make that promise because he himself came from God and the Spirit of God raised his body to life. It was a transformed, glorified, resurrected body, not limited by human time or space.

Early that first Easter, somewhere between sunset and early dawn…. Before the women reached the tomb…the darkness of the night was shattered by a radiant burst of energized light. The earth shook. The stone was rolled away. Light exploded from the tomb and the body of Jesus, wrapped in linen shroud, passed through the cloth. It floated back to the stone slab, leaving his imprint. No wonder the guards fainted.

Jesus, whom the Jews and Pilate had made sure was dead on Friday….was alive. He did not rise up from the stone slab as you and I might rise from bed early in the morning, throwing back the covers. No. John writes: I ran to the tomb with Peter. I looked in and “saw the strips of linen lying there as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.” He was not there.

The resurrected body of Jesus was not bound by the molecules of that linen shroud, nor stone walls. His energized body passed right through the cloth. It fell limp like a glove from which a hand has been removed.

His resurrection guarantees that all of his promises are true. Our sins have been forgiven. His resurrection guaranties that we are set free from the fear of death and freed from the unending, overwhelming burden of trying to please God by our own merits and deeds.

Is there hope? There is hope for life beyond the grave. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead will also give eternal life to all who confess Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life.” Without this Easter event…you and I would be without hope. There would be a nagging emptiness in your soul. Why?

Why do we believe that there is life after death? Something inside each human being tells us that there is more to life than a few years on earth. ‘Where did you get that feeling? God put it there. When God created each human being he “placed eternity in the heart”… Just as people know from observing creation that there is a creator, so we sense in our hearts that there is life after death.’ (from Decision Magazine April 2000 Billy Graham)

But there is a battle raging for the hearts and minds of people. It’s Easter, an epic celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection is the one truth upon which hinges all the teachings of God. Is it any wonder that “The Gospel of Judas” has again surfaced….just at this time…. The Gospel of Judas, an ancient writing from the 3rd century has been known to exist for over 300 years. But it’s like its some new scientific piece of history “The Gospel of Judas” states that Judas was given secret knowledge by Jesus…. According to the “Gospel of Judas” Jesus wanted death so that he could escape his body. There is no mention of a resurrection.

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