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What does Easter means to you?

by Dr Alex Tang

 

Text: 1 Cor.15:17-19 (NIV)

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.

 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Summary

Easter means ‘Jesus is alive!’ Because He is alive, this proves our faith is real and offers forgiveness of sin, those who have died believing are saved from their sins and we have a purpose and power for living the Christian life.

Introduction

What does Easter mean to you?

  • Public holiday? Unlike Christmas, there is no mad shopping for presents.
  • Easter eggs?
  • Easter bunny?
  • Chocolate Easter bunny.
  • Christian ‘Cheng Ming”?
  • The empty tomb?

The Good Friday service in Dampara Baptist Church, Chittagong, Bangladesh, was packed. Little children sat on the floor in the aisles and across the front of the church. Rows of people stood in the back, craning their necks to see the crucifixion scene as depicted in the "Jesus Film."

Weeping and gasps of unbelief could be heard in the shocked hush as Jesus was crucified. As the Bengalis watched, they were feeling the agony of Jesus' pain and the disappointment of the disciples.

In that emotional moment, one young boy in the crowded church suddenly cried out, "Do not be afraid. He gets up again! I saw it before."

A small boy's encouraging cry gave new hope to the viewers of the film. "He is risen!" is the cry that gives new hope to all[1].

Director Mel Gibson, explaining why The Passion of the Christ ends with a scene of the empty tomb[2] said, "Without the resurrection, our faith is dead. The story's not complete without it."

For me, Easter is the empty tomb. The empty tomb means that Jesus is alive. God has raised him from the dead. Jesus did not raise himself from the dead. God did. God raised Jesus from the dead. After the events of Good Friday where Jesus was unjustly condemned, tortured and crucified, Jesus died on the cross that Friday afternoon. He really did die. He had not fainted, he was not substituted and Judas did not take his place. Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to the cross and he died on the cross. All this was part of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind. When Jesus died on the cross, he died for our sins. He died in our place for our sins. Jesus, the Son of God who is God died as sin, separated from God the Father. An innocent man died for the sins of all mankind. How can this be? Can one man die for the sins of all men? Yes, if this man is also God. And as we all know, God is sinless. The events did not end with Good Friday. It was on Easter morning when the tomb was discovered empty. It was Easter morning when the disciples met the risen Jesus. He is not a ghost. He is alive. Jesus is alive. Jesus was resurrected.

That is the meaning of Easter for me; Jesus is alive, Jesus’ resurrection. The apostle Paul writing in 1 Cor. 15 talked about this. He gave us three points about the meaning of the resurrection. In this letter to the Corinthians church, Paul giving an answer to those who denied the resurrection of Jesus had even taken place.

I.                   Easter changes the meaning of faith

 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

Jesus being raised from the dead proved to us that all that he has said is true. How many of you have met someone who has died for three days and come back to life again?

If someone tells you that he is going to die but will come back to life is three days, would you believe him? You must think him mad, delusional or wonder what drugs he is high on. But if he is not mad, delusion or on drugs and his character is so perfect that you almost believe everything he said except maybe the dying part. But if he did die, and come back to you alive. Would you believe all the other things that he said? You would, won’t you?

If he died and does not become alive as he said he would, then he is a liar and not to be trusted. But if he died and then come alive, then what he said has to be true.

If what he said is true; that he is the Son of God who took away the sins of mankind by his dying on the cross, then your faith in him is not futile. It is real. Your sins have been forgiven you. You are now blameless before God.

A man once asked his friend, “What must I do to be saved?” His friend answered you are too late.” He asked again and got the same reply, “You are too late.” He asked again the third time and again he got the same reply. Finally he asked again, “What must I do to be saved?” His friend replied, “You are too late. There is nothing you can do. Jesus has done it all for you.”

Jesus died on the cross for us. After doing that and completing the task, God raised him from the dead.

 

II.                Easter changes the meaning of death

17 (And if Christ has not been raised )  18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost

What Paul meant here is that if there is no resurrection, then those who believed in Christ and died is still in their sins and thus are lost. They will still have to face God’s judgment. But if there is a resurrection, then those who have died in Christ are not lost. They will have been saved from their sins.

There is an afterlife. Death does not mean the end of everything.

Death is not like  someone switching off the computer and there is nothingness.

Death is not a waiting room, where you wait to be reincarnated into another creature. Hey, there’s a cockroach here. Wait, don’t squash it! It may be your great grand uncle.

One of the most haunting movies I have watched is “What Dreams may Come” staring Robin Williams. It was about a doctor who stopped at a roadside accident to help and was killed by a runway trunk. He found himself dead and in a wonderful place full of flowers, trees and mountains. Meanwhile, on earth his children were drowned. His wife could not take the pain and committed suicide. On hearing this, he decided to go to hell to save his wife (the Roman Catholic believes that all suicides has committed an unpardonable sin and goes straight to hell. Our belief is that all sins except the sin against the Holy Spirit can be pardoned). After being shown the horrors of hell, he saved his wife. He discovered that ‘Hell is what we made of it’. It is not God who cannot forgive the suicides but that the suicides cannot forgive themselves. While this is a movie, it assumes that heaven and hell are a state of mind and we are responsible for our actions in this life. Heaven and hell is not a state of mind. Heaven and hell are real places. Paradise, a part of heaven is a real place.

Death is paradise where you will be with Jesus until he comes again. Remember the thief on the cross? Jesus said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise”. Those who died in Christ will be in paradise. We will meet our loved ones again. They will be there with Jesus waiting for us to join him. They are not reincarnated away somewhere.

Three years ago, my mother went to be with the Lord before Easter. There are a lot of things I wanted to say to her but never have the chance to say it. I know I will see her again and have the opportunity to say what I have to say. Again I want to appeal to those whose loved ones do not know Christ yet to continue praying for their salvation. When they are called, let them be called ‘in Christ’. There is no second chance.

 

III.             Easter changes the meaning of life

(And if Christ has not been raised )  19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then everything he said is a lie. Then why should we live a moral life? Why should we be good? Or as the apostle Paul said, “If the dead has not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”” (1 Cor. 15:32b). Why bother with being good if there is no afterlife? If there is no accountability after death, why should we behave ourselves” If there are no consequences, we can do anything we like: rob, kill, murder, rape, destroy, burn, enjoy ourselves to the detriment of others.

But Christ has been raised. Jesus is alive.

  1. Because Jesus is alive, there is meaning and purpose for our lives. There is purpose and calling because we know God has called us to be involved in his plan of redemption for this creation. There are no little people in His Kingdom. We are all called to be his instruments for his purpose.
  2. Because Jesus is alive, we have power: the power of the resurrection. Rick Warren, the author of the Purpose driven Church and the Purpose driven Life, wrote in a Christianity Today newsletter, “The number one complaint I hear from people today is this: "My life is out of control." I hear it a thousand times:

·        I feel powerless to change the situation…

·        I feel powerless to break a bad habit…

·        I feel powerless to save a relationship…

·        I feel powerless to get out of debt…

·        I feel powerless to manage my schedule.

What you need is a power greater than yourself. You were never meant to live this life on your own power. God want to have a relationship with you. And here's the good news. Ephesians 1:19-20 says: "How incredibly great is his power to help those who believe him, the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead."

The same power that enabled Jesus to rise from death will help you rise above your problems. The same power God used at the Resurrection 2,000 years ago can be used in your life right now. You don't know what the future holds. I don't either. I don't know what's going to happen next year, next month, and next week. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, and neither do you. But it doesn't matter, because even though it's out of my control, it's not out of God's. He will give me the power to face it. Philippians 4:13 says: "I'm ready for anything through the strength of Christ, who lives in me."

"I want to help out," God says. Some of you came crawling in here—you've had a tough week. God wants to say to you this: "Don't give up."

No problem is too big for God. No situation is hopeless if you'll turn it over to him. "I am ready for anything through the power of positive thinking"? No, it doesn't say that. "I am ready for anything because I psyched myself up"? No. "I am ready for anything through the strength of Christ, who lives in me."”

So there is purpose and power in our lives because of the resurrected Christ.

Conclusion

One of my patients, a 7 years old Chinese boy was born deaf from birth. There was something wrong with his nerves so he cannot hear. In such cases, a hearing aid will not help. Recently, he had a cochlear implant. It cost RM 30,000 for a cochlear implant device. We have to help the parents raise the money. After the operation was done and I reviewed the child in my clinic two weeks later. “Listen”, he said. I listen but cannot hear anything out of the ordinary- a baby howling outside my clinic. “Listen,” he said again. I listen again but I could not hear any special sounds. “Listen to the creak of your chair,” he said with a smile on his face, “You are putting on too much weight!” Cheeky fellow. One event has changed his life. The cochlear implant enables him to hear. He can hear now and life is never the same for him.

What does Easter mean to me? Jesus is alive! Because He is alive, this proves our faith is real and offers forgiveness of sin, those who have died believing are saved from sins and we have a purpose and power for living the Christian spiritual life.

What does Easter mean to you?

                                                                                                                                                                            Soli Deo Gloria

 


 

[1] William D. Barrick, Christian Reader, Vol. 35, no. 2.

[2] Outreach Magazine (Jan/Feb 2004)

 

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