Summary: Placing the Easter Message in the larger context of the Gospel.
The Larger Message of Easter
I Cor. 15:1-8
The first recorded action of the resurrected Jesus, outside of His appearances and guidance of the early Christian believer, was to a man named Saul. He was a brilliant Jewish scholar and an aggressive authority trying to stamp out this new group of followers of Jesus.
He participated in the killing of Steven in Jerusalem and made his was to Damascus to continue his mission. On route to Jerusalem he encountered the living Jesus, was struck blind and introduced to his next career of being a missionary to the Gentiles on behalf of Jesus. He was responsible for taking the teachings and action of Jesus and putting together a belief system, a belief system that he used to bring Jews and Gentiles to faith in Christ.
Years later he wrote to the troubled church in Corinth and, in closing his message to them, gave them and us this brief, sus(?) gospel message.
Read I Cor. 15:1-8.
Perhaps you will remember another brief, simple statement of the gospel, put into music as the chorus of the old hymn, “One Day.” It simple says, “Living He loved me; dying He saved me; buried He carried my sins far away; rising He justified freely forever; one day He’s coming – O Glorious Day!”
Today we celebrate Easter, which is the keystone of the gospel. There have been many who lived almost sinless lives, many who died innocent of any blame, buried in a borrowed tomb because they had no way to purchase a grave, but no one else has ever been raised from the dead and lived as a god-sent spirit from then until this day.
Living He Loved Me:
The biggest need we have personally, and as people in this world, is love. We pay a high price to have one or many people love us. We find it hard to believe the first line of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world.”
Jesus came to represent God and to teach and demonstrate love. That love was why He healed the sick, gave attention to the poor, taught the common folk about love, experienced the hatred of religious leaders and faced the cross as His gift to mankind. “He became flesh and dwelled among us.”
His love is yours to receive. In His earthly life and now in His spirit, we can accept His love and allow His spirit to live in us as our guide and teacher. When we fail to receive Him, we fail to experience what He called “abundant life.” We miss having our life directed into meaningful purpose. We waste our days in secondary causes.
Dying, He Saved Me:
His mission took Him to the cross, where He died. During His time on the cross, two statements describe the agony of those hours. He cried out, “I thirst” and the soldiers took a “sop” full of wine vinegar for Him to taste. To die of thirst is an agonizing death. The bone joints ache, the vital organs hurt, the tongue swells. Jesus experienced hell physically for us. He also cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” He died alone, separated even from His heavenly father as part of the hell He suffered for us.
Somewhere in our religious thoughts we picture our relationship to God as a large balanced scale. On one side we put all of our sins, and believe we will never make it to heaven. In fact, Jesus on the cross is on the other side of those scales, making us right with God and saved from hell.
Dale Evans once said that she spent a lot of her life looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, only to find the pot of gold at the foot of the cross.
Buried, He Carried My Sins Far Away:
The grave is a familiar place for most of us, and many of us already own our own gravesite. The grave is seen as our final resting place and we “carry to our grave our sins and our secrets.”
Jesus took our sins, carried them to the grave and beyond, and we are freely forgiven. That opportunity is always present. The picture in “Pilgrims Progress” is of John Bunyan, carrying a huge backpack of guilt and sin, dumping it all at the cross. We have that opportunity today.
Rising, He Justified Freely Forever:
The word “justified” is loosely defined as “just as if I never sinned.” It also means guiltless, worth of a free and full life. His resurrection is the keystone of our faith. Without the resurrection, His life would not be remembered, His death would not give us salvation and His tomb would remain the place of a corpse.
Because of His resurrection, His presence dwells in us. His spirit, the Holy Spirit, is at work in the life of every believer in Jesus. Our lives are guided and empowered. Our bodies are His temple.