Summary: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and of Hades."

April 7, 1996

What Easter REALLY Means

Revelation 1:17 Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and of Hades.

MY EARLIEST RECOLLECTIONS of Easter are in the Great Depression, when, although I don't recall being "poor," I do recall how often we were literally "penniless." And yet somehow Easter was special— Easter we boiled eggs and colored them— Easter my mother somehow always took us to church looking fresh and scrubbed and greased and creased— and usually wearing something brand new— even in the Depression.

I got the idea that Easter was important— and of course that the Resurrection was the central thing about Easter.


ALL MY YEARS as a Christian pastor I have seen Easter as important, and have seen the Resurrection as the center of what Easter stands for. But I think there has been a subtle change as I have been growing older. I no longer see the Resurrection as the most important part of Easter. I see the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the heart and soul of all our faith, and Easter is an important part of the Resurrection, and not the other way around. As Paul wrote some twenty years or so after the Crucifixion, in 1 Corinthians 15:14 "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." It is as simple as that.

HOW MANY TIMES have we heard this Resurrection Day story? How can we hear it again as for the first time? J. B. Phillips was a translator of the scriptures. I remember when his translation seemed very modern indeed, and his words still carry a freshness. I came again recently across his words about translating the resurrection passages in Corinthians. He wrote:

For me, the translator, this fifteenth chapter seemed alive and vibrant, not with pious hope, but with inspired certainty. Quite suddenly I realized that NO MAN HAD EVER WRITTEN SUCH WORDS BEFORE. As I pressed on with the task of translation I came to feel utterly convinced of the truth of the Resurrection. Something of literally life-and-death importance had happened in mortal history, and I was reading the actual words of the people who had seen Christ after his resurrection and had seen men and women deeply changed by his living power. Previously, although I had known something of the "comfort of the scriptures" and had never thought them to be false, I must have been insulated from their reality simply because they were known as "Scripture." Now I was compelled to come to the closest possible terms with this writing, and I was enormously impressed, and still am. On the one hand these letters (of Paul) were written over quite a period of years, but there is not the slightest discernible diminution of faith. And on the other hand, it was borne in upon me with irresistible force that these letters could never have been written at all if there had been no Jesus Christ, no Crucifixion, and no Resurrection.

Easter IS Resurrection— and specifically, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. So actually Easter means specifically JESUS IS ALIVE—



When Jesus appeared to the eleven that same evening of the day he rose from the dead he said these words (Luke 24:44) "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." In other words the Risen Savior was making the flat statement that the Old Testament Scriptures existed to help us know who Jesus is, in order that we might come to understand what God wants us to know of Himself. When Jesus appeared to the two on the Road to Emmaus (in that same chapter in the Gospel) he warms their hearts, and enlightens their understanding by beginning with Moses and the Prophets and speaking to them from the scriptures the things concerning Himself.


When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (in the passage in John read this morning) he made it clear where he was heading. "Do not hold on to me," he said (John 20:17), "for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " The Prophet awakens us to the truth of God, and to our need to be holy so we can walk with God in fellowship, as God intended in Creation. But the Priest makes a way for us to come to God. He bears the sacrifice of his own life into the Holy of Holies for our sins and infirmities, so that he can assure us we may call His Father OUR Father, and His God OUR God!

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