(4/17) Have you ever wondered what a huge rabbit, eggs, and candy have to do with Jesus? I have! And the answer is, nothing! So, why do we hide eggs, and give baskets of candy and tell our children about an Easter Bunny? No one is 100% sure. Best guess is that it comes from a celebration of the spring equinox, (first day of spring) when there are equal
amounts of daylight and darkness. Some say, that an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, named Eostre, had a pet bird that she changed into a rabbit that laid colorful eggs. Eostre would put the eggs in baskets and hide them for children to find (I donít know if she hard boiled them first or not). Some say that this goes back to the 7th century, some say that it goes
back to the 16th century, and since it occurs around the time of the Christian Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus each year, it has become incorporated into our Easter traditions.
Every year when I think of Easter and the fact that this is supposed to be a celebration of Life, I try to think of what I can say to challenge you, or help you to worship and love our Lord better, and year after for 35 years, there is just one word that comes to mind; hope! I have titled several sermons, A Sure Hope, because the Resurrection is the
absolute foundation and basis for all we believe. I know what the grand old hymn says, "Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesusí blood and righteousness," but the concrete that our faith is built on is the fact of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
For my last Easter Sermon, as a pastor, I went back and found one of my first.
Philip was born with Downs Syndrome. He was a pleasant child . . .happy it seemed . . . but increasingly aware of the difference between himself and other children. Philip went to Sunday School faithfully every week. He was in the third-grade class with nine other eight-year olds.
You know eight-year olds. And Philip, with his differences, was not readily accepted. But his teacher was sensitive to Philip and he helped this group of eight-year olds to love each other as best they could, under the circumstances. They learned, they laughed, they played together. And they really cared about one another, even though eight-year olds
donít say they care about one another out loud.
But donít forget. There was an exception to all this. Philip was not really a part of the group. Philip did not choose, nor did he want to be different. He just was. And that was the way things were.
His teacher had a marvelous idea for his class the Sunday after Easter. You know those things that pantyhose come in . . . the containers that look like great big eggs? The teacher collected ten of them. The children loved it when she brought them into the room and gave one to each child. It was a beautiful spring day, and the assignment was for each
child to go outside, find the symbol for new life, put it into the egg, and bring it back to the classroom They would then open and share their new life symbols and surprises, one by one.
It was glorious. It was confusing. It was wild. They ran all around the church grounds, gathering their symbols, and returned to the classroom.
They put all the eggs on a table, and then the teacher began to open them. All the children gathered around the table. He opened one and there was a flower, and they ooh-ed and aah-ed. He opened another and there was a little butterfly. "Beautiful!" the girls all said, since it is hard for eight-year old boys to say Ďbeautiful.í He opened another and
there was a rock. And as third-graders will, some laughed, and some said, "Thatís crazy! Howís a rock supposed to be like new life?" But the smart little boy whoíd put it in there spoke up: "Thatís mine. And I knew all of you would get flowers and buds and leaves and butterflies and stuff like that. So, I got a rock because I wanted to be different. And for me, thatís new
life." They all laughed.
The teacher said something about the wisdom of eight-year olds and opened the next one. There was nothing inside. The children, as eight-year olds will, said, "Thatís not fair. Thatís stupid! Somebody didnít do it right."
Then the teacher felt a tug on his shirt, and he looked down. "Itís mine, Philip said. Itís mine."
And the children said, "You donít ever do things right, Philip. Thereís nothing there!"
"I did so do it right!" Philip said. "I did do it right. The tomb is empty!"
There was silence, a very full silence. And for you people who donít believe in miracles, I want to tell you that one happened that day. From that time on, it was different. Philip suddenly became a part of that group of eight-year old children. They took him in. He was set free from the tomb of his differentness.
Philip died last summer. His family had known since the time he was born that he wouldnít live out a full life span. Many other things were wrong with his little body. And so, late last July, with an infection that most normal children could have quickly shrugged off, Philip died.
At his memorial service, nine eight-year old children marched up to the altar, not with flowers to cover over the stark reality of death . . . but nine eight-year olds, along with their Sunday School teacher, marched right up to that altar, and laid on it an empty egg . . . an empty, old, discarded pantyhose egg. And the tomb is empty
Letís stand and read the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1-20.
Can you feel the conviction and passion of Paulís writings here? This is the most important and the most solid evidence that what we believe and hold to is true. There is no other faith system in the world that is as solid as ours and it is the only one with historical evidence to support its claims. We can talk about that sometime if you would like.
But why does Paul make such an issue of this? He says back in verse 4, that, "Christ rose again according to the scriptures." It is part of the gospel message.
It was not that Jesus rose again, that people didnít believe; instead, it was the resurrection of anyone from the dead that the Greeks didnít believe in.
Did they not believe in an afterlife? Mostly, they did. They believed like some religions that the life of man returned to the God who gave it, or that the body is evil, the soul is good, and so death would be a release and freedom. Some believed in a ghostly, gray, underworld of hades. The Gospel message is, that these bodies, are created by God, and
though aged by time, wracked by sickness, injury, or genetic imbalances, these bodies will be resurrected and re-united with the souls that indwelt them. And one of two things will happen. They will be forever anguished by the consequences of sin, separated from God in hell, or they will be changed, made whole, well, glorified, and will experience joy and peace forever in the
presence of God.
The Hope of the Gospel is not just the salvation of the soul, which in itself is a wonderful gift, it is also the redemption of the body.
Today, there are many people who believe in spirituality, and that, after death, all will be in heaven. Some believe, that after death, at least at some point, the soul will be absorbed into the oneness of the universe or Nirvana. Some believe in the trans-migration of the soul, otherwise known as reincarnation. Some believe that when you are dead, you
are dead, end of it all, worm and dandelion food. To all of this, Paul says, "No, No, No!" Jesus rose again from the dead, and, He will resurrect every one of us. Our Lord said in John 5:28-29, Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forthóthose who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those
who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
Now, here in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says:
ē If there is no resurrection, then Jesus did not rise.
ē If there is no resurrection, there is no substance to our preaching about Jesus
ē Ö. Our faith is empty, no foundation
ē .... We are liars, you, me and anyone who talks about Jesus is a liar
ē Ö. We are all still in our sins, unforgiven, and controlled by the power of sin
ē Ö. Our deceased loved ones are forever gone, no reunion, no hope of ever seeing them again.
ē Ö. Our hope is limited to the dash between our birth and death. No purpose for benevolence, or charity, or holy living.
But, because resurrection is part of Godís plan from the beginning, and because we know that Jesus rose again, we have hope. Letís just take a few moments and reflect on what the resurrection of Jesus the Christ means to us.
1. We know that Jesus was not a Legend, not a Liar, nor a Lunatic; He is the Lord of creation- He is as He claims in the Gospel of John and John declares about Him, He is God the Son. He laid down His life and He took it up again. Mohammed is dead, Confucius is dead, Moses is dead, Buddha is dead. None of those claimed that He would be killed and would
rise again. But Jesus made this claim and then He lived this claim. Paul says, "Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of
God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:1-4). The Old Testament spoke of Godís Son in Psalm 2 and Prov. 30:4. The Jews understood this to mean the visible, and personal presence of God. They wanted to stone Jesus on several occasions when He claimed to be the Son of God.
Why is this so important? Because only God could pay the infinite penalty that we were condemned to pay because of sin. Only God can forgive us of the penalty of those sins. Only God can extend such awesome grace, and promises of eternal life and more. He is the One True God. His word only is the standard of truth. We rest in this because Jesus rose
from the dead.
2. We Know Our Sins Have Been Paid for. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (v. 3). Peter says in, 1 Peter 3:18, Christ died for our sins once, the just for the unjust. Isaiah 53, Romans 5:8, 2 Cor. 5:21 and more are true, and we know it because Jesus was raised from the dead. Romans 4:23-25 says, "Now it was not written for his sake
alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification." Others say He was the propitiation, or the justice satisfier, on our behalf. So, how do you know that your sins have been paid for? The
Bible tells me so? Yes, but that is verified because Jesus was raised. What other faith system can say that? None!
3. We Know That Every Promise of God is True. (Acts 13:32-33) And we declare to you glad tidingsóthat promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. Now, that verse is specifically referring to the promise of a savior, but think of the promises that Jesus made to us.
a. He would prepare a place for us.
b. He would come back for us.
c. We would share His glory.
d. The Father will love us.
e. He would come and live in us.
f. He will never leave us.
g. He would teach us His Word.
h. We will be with Him forever.
i. All we ask for in His name He will do to glorify the Father.
j. He would take care of our needs (Matt. 6)
k. In this world, we will have trouble, but we will also have His peace. And how do you know these promises are true? He rose from the dead.
4. We Know That We Have a Home in Heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-5). How do we know that there is a repentant thief in Heaven (Luke 23:34)? Jesus is alive. We have a home (Ps. 23:6), and an Inheritance, in Heaven. John 14:9, "Because I live you shall live also," This then, goes with that:
5. We Know that We are Going to Have Brand New Glorified Bodies, Like Jesusí Own Glorified Body. Phil. 3:20-21, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to
subdue all things to Himself." Every parent with a child, or person who has a genetic defect, will have a new body, recognizable as the person he or she is, but no defects. Every born - again person who has suffered the ravages of cancer, leprosy, or any illness, any wounds of war, or accidents, will have a brand new 33-year-old (A Guess) body that will be perfect. I will be
able to hear without H-Aís, and see without glasses, walk without a knee brace, and comb my hair. My waist will be down to a 36 again. The resurrection of the body was the hope of Job in the midst of his suffering. "Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! 25 For I know
that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:23-27).
John reminds us in Rev. 22:4-5, that we will see Him face to face, and feel the touch of His hand on our face. My dear friends, never forget, that God redeemed your bodies, as well as your soul. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23) And this is so good. (cp. 1 John 3:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:51-57)
6. We are going to see every loved one that believed in Jesus. There is going to be the most awesome family reunion that the mind can imagine. Listen, "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will
bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and
remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words." With Jesus, With Moses, With Peter, With David, With my Dad. With the children that my daughter and daughter in laws miscarried, and the children my mother miscarried. Paul said to the
Corinthians, "we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you." (2 Cor. 4:13-14).
7. I will just mention this quickly, The Risen, Living, Lord Jesus is praying for you, cheering for you, ready and able to empower you, defending you against accusations from Satan and his minions. (1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 7:23-28; 9:24; Romans 8:34). Do you remember when Peter and the others swore they would never leave Jesus? Jesus said, "Satan has
asked to sift you as wheat, but, I have prayed for you." (Luke 22:33). And the One who died and rose again for you is praying for you right now. Is that awesome or what?
8. The last point this morning and coming full circle. The resurrection of Jesus means the resurrection of every person who has ever lived. God will bring back all the atoms and molecules and join them together to re-form the bones, and muscles and organs of every person. The ashes, the dust, whatever has happened to the body of every person who ever
lived, God is going to raise. And, every person will stand in front of this One who loved them, died for them, and rose again. Listen to Paul, Acts 17:30 says, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He
has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." Jesus said, (John 5:24-29), "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the
Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forthóthose who have done good, to the
resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (this is repeated in Rev. 20:11-15).
The whole point of the Gospel is that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten or unique Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life. Jesus did not come to condemn but to save. Mankind is already condemned, those who do not receive and believe, will have the wrath. that Jesus came to take for us, remain on them
forever. (John 3:16-17; 36)
This will occur in these resurrected bodies. Paul says in Phil 2:10-11, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
To those who have not received Jesus, they will hear, "depart from meÖ" To those who have received Jesus, they will hear, "No condemnation, Welcome Home; in fact, I have some gifts and rewards for you"
The wonderful grace of God is, that could be a day of great glory, and the fulfillment of a great promise even for the worst of sinners, like a murderous bandit that died beside Jesus, a battle hardened Roman soldier who crucified Jesus, a Religious Zealot who persecuted Jesusí followers, and sinners like you and me. Forgiven, adopted, changed, and
assured, that because Jesus arose, we have wonderful hope.
Letís thank God for the Promises and the Hope of the Empty Tomb.
If this article has spoken to your heart, would you write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know or if you have any questions about following Jesus, I would be glad to try to answer them for you. May God bless you as you seek to do His will.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman