Let’s Talk about Easter – I Like Dark Chocolate best!

 

What does Easter mean today?  What evidence do we see in our culture that Easter exists? How do we know it’s Easter?  Can you prove it?

Take a walk thru any mall.  As you do you’ll find store after store with various Easter displays.  In some you’ll find large bunnies, or maybe little chicks and Easter eggs. Others have pleasant spring scenes with pastel colours, and of course you’ll find chocolates, lots of chocolates! Chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, chocolate cars, we even chocolate crosses?  I like dark chocolate best but mostly it’s the milk chocolate you find.

Easter apparently has something to do with chocolate!

In the dollar store you find cards that say things like “thinking of you at Easter”. I wonder what they were thinking?  Were they thinking of sending chocolate and sent that card instead?

Frequently there is a “Spring is Here” motif in the cards.  Easter is apparently associated with the coming of Spring?

Oddly enough, I began writing this sermon March 20th…officially spring had sprung with Easter still weeks away… I guess the calendar people need to get together with the card people and figure out when spring really is.   This year we can forgive them because it didn’t look much like spring back in March.

Anyway, if the greeting card displays of most stores are an accurate reflection of the culture and their thoughts about Easter, we would have to say that the Biblical narrative, that which we Christians celebrate, specifically the resurrection of Christ is not considered a very significant part of Easter anymore.   Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs have won “hands down” over Christ, the cross of Calvary even the empty tomb.  I wonder, why is it that the common folk aren’t interested in the true meaning of Easter?

Perhaps it’s just our culture that has lost the significance of the resurrection?  Or could it be that the Christians have lost interest in telling the greatest story ever told?

I wonder, what do Christians in other cultures celebrate Easter morning?

I asked a Kenyan groups on WhatsApp chat what does Easter mean to you?  This group is mostly 20 somethings… so they are the next generation and they are in touch with their culture.

Here’s what a few of them said: “For me its a time that everyone can celebrate what Jesus did for us… In Unison.”  Another wrote, “Its a time to remember the death and the resurrection of God… Or rather to celebrate… Even though I feel like we do that every day”

I like that next one though: “It is a day to share the freedom n liberty plus the happiness Jesus gave us, with those people who have no smile in life”.    That sounds like chocolate time to me!   People always seem to smile when they get something unexpected don’t they?   What could be more unexpected then to know someone who rose from the dead?

So, what do you think does Easter exist?  Is there enough proof to say it does?  I think we’d have to admit yes.  But is there more to Easter than chocolate, family time and greeting card theology?  Is there a truer meaning to this holiday?  We know there is!

So how ought we explain the true meaning of Easter? How can you and I share the good news along with the chocolates and warm fuzzy greetings of Easter?   

Maybe Dr. Bobby Conway can give us a few pointers to help people know the truth about the resurrection so we can confidently share what Easter is about.

You see, the resurrection changes everything or perhaps nothing at all but which is it?   Does it really matter what you believe about this day?

As Dr. Bobby Conway read, apologetics began shortly after the resurrection,  when Paul wrote, (3)  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4)  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5)  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (6)  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (7)  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, (8)  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (NIV).

 

 
So let’s look once again at the real people whose lives were forever altered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But wait, there were so many, who should we focus on today?

I see Peter’s name here why not begin with him.  Peter, the same man who pre-resurrection, denied Christ not once but three times on the night he was betrayed.  And not only did he deny Christ but he even swore an oath that he wasn’t a disciple of Jesus that night.   Peter watched from a distance as they crucified this friend whom only hours before he swore to defend and even die for if need be.  Yet there he lurked in the shadows helplessly witnessing the gruesome death and subsequent burial.  Pre-resurrection, fight to the death, Peter didn’t lift a finger to help and even denied knowing Christ or being His disciple.  And death came for Jesus on that day.

Dr. Conway, can the death of Jesus also prove his resurrection?

 

That death of Jesus sure made Peter feel ashamed of himself!  Yet three days later post resurrection Peter was one of the first to see Jesus alive again!  He had learned the depths of the grace and forgiveness of Christ.  And later, having received such grace, the Scriptures record that Peter would go on to lead the disciples and bring the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles so they could know the grace of Jesus too.

The Bible records an occasion when Peter was praying and he heard a knock at the door.  Their stood people, that pre-resurrection Peter would have never dreamt of going with.  They came to take him to the home of Cornelius, someone pre-resurrection Peter most certainly would not have visited.

 

(Acts 10:30-43:NLT) “(30)  Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. (31)  He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! (32)  Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ (33)  So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.” (34)  Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. (35)  In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. (36)  This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  

(37)  You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. (38)  And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (39)  “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, (40)  but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, (41)  not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (42)  And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. (43)  He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Acts 10:30-43 (NLT)

Peter knew forgiveness because he knew the resurrected Christ.  But perhaps we should focus on someone less prominent in some respects than the Apostle Peter.  Someone who could relate more to common people.  Perhaps someone, like Mary Magdeline?

Yes, in Mary Magdeline we find as common a person as there will ever be.  The Scriptures record that “in Galilee {she} had followed Jesus and cared for his needs” (cf. Luke 8:2).  She didn’t do miracles, she hadn’t led millions to the Lord, she was just a good friend of Jesus (cf. Mk 15:41)

And yes, she too stood by as they nailed him to the cross.  It must have been heart wrenching to watch as they nailed her friend to a cross.  Powerless to do anything that would save him.  After all, she was only a woman in a society dominated by men, —what could she do?

So she stood there with another Mary (Jesus mother) at the foot of the cross weeping as the Lord uttered his last words.  She likely heard him say, “It is finished“As he committed his soul unto god” and saw His body grow limp as death settle upon Him.

Sadly, as they took him off the cross, she followed Joseph to the tomb where Christ’s body was laid.

On the morning of the resurrection, Mark’s Gospel records that it was Mary who stood perplexed that someone had stolen the body.  The Scriptures record that, “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen! He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter,” (16:5)  And so, it was also Mary, obedient Mary, who ran to Simon Peter with the news of the empty tomb.  Yet without fully understanding it’s meaning.

After Peter went to the tomb to see for himself, and left in astonishment, it was Mary who remained outside the empty tomb weeping for the Lord.  What happens next to this common woman was something very uncommon to the culture!

Dr. Conway can you explain the significance of the empty tomb and who found it first?

Not only was Mary the first to find the empty tomb but was also recorded for all of history as the first witness to see the resurrected Christ.  Even if at first she didn’t even recognize him.  She sure did once Jesus spoke her name! (cf. John 20:16)   Mary never forgot that moment as long as she lived!  And she immediately responded to this special encounter by going as instructed by Jesus to tell the disciples that she had seen the Resurrected Lord.

That makes her the first of many eyewitnesses that day.  But there were many more eye witnesses there after right Dr. Conway?

 

Even with so many eye witnesses Paul had to address false teaching that crept up within twenty years concerning Christ’s resurrection.  People were being deceived by prominent men who argued there is no resurrection from the dead.

Paul wrote,  “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” (1Cor. 15:17-21). 

Having seen the risen Lord on the Damascus Road, Paul had no doubts.  He like Mary would never forget His experience with the Risen Lord.  Nor can I even after 30 years of walking with Him.

Yet that hasn’t ended the argument, some continue to believe and argue that Christ was never raised.  And as Paul so elegantly put it, their faith is futile.  But Christ did rise from the dead, it happened just as the eyewitnesses, and countless witnesses since said it did.

What’s more, Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to bear witness to our spirit of the truth of these things.  The truth is without His witness you and I will never believe what is written concerning the resurrection.  But the Holy Spirit combined with eyewitness testimony is far more credible than the best human scholars and researchers, no matter who they are.

For example, a Mohammedan wanted to impress a Christian missionary with what he considered to be the superiority of Islam.  So, he said, “When we go to Mecca, we at least find a coffin, but when you Christians go to Jerusalem, your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty tomb.”

To this the believer replied, “That is just the difference.  Mohammed is dead and in his coffin.  And all other systems of religion and philosophy are in their coffins. But Christ is risen, and all power in heaven and on earth is given to Him!  He is alive forevermore.” (Illy)

 Yes, even the empty tomb testifies of a risen Savior.  It assures us that the work of salvation has been completed, and that there is hope for us beyond the grave.

Just as it assured Peter, who was no longer downhearted.  He had been given new life and another chance to be a true friend.  And he would go on to give his life for his friend.

It assured the disciples too!  They too would go and do marvelous works for the Lord.  Living each day with the assurance of everlasting life.  The women who saw Jesus were no longer mourning! But instead they were praising God, and telling all that He has Risen, and that in Him there is life.

So what about you?  What does Easter mean to you? Easter bunnies, chicks and eggs or the resurrection power of God unto Salvation?   Put your faith in that which has withstood centuries of skeptics even more skeptical then you.

My thanks to Dr. Conway for allowing us to include his videos in today’s service.  I hope you have had some of your questions about the resurrection answered and I would recommend you to go to the OneMinute Apologist website for even more answers to curious questions.    And I pray that you will come to know Jesus Christ more intimately as you continue to seek Him.

Christ has Risen indeed!  Happy Easter Grace!

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