ˇ°THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EASTERˇ± By Pastor YAU
Text: Luke 24:1-10 April 20, 2014.
1) Unique celebration of Easter: In most or all of the world's religions, believers celebrate the dates of birth and death of their founders such as Buddha of Buddhism, Mohamed of Islam, Confucius of Confucianism and Laozi of Taoism, and others. We all agree that it is important for believers of religions to remember and celebrate those important dates of the founders of their religion. Except in Christian faith, none of all religions in human history celebrates the date on which any of their founders rose from the dead, walked out of their graves, appeared to their believers, and ascent to heaven before the eyes of their followers.
2) Unique meaning of Easter: Among other significant meanings of Easter, one stands out to show the world that only Jesus is God, and the rest of all religious founders were merely human beings. God can never die but human beings do. This sets Christianity apart from all other religions. Religion is all about how man may do better to advance his destiny. But Christianity is about how God has provided man a destiny. Religion is about how man may follow rules of self discipline to determine his future, but Christianity is God has fulfilled all the requirements of rules in Jesus Christ so all men are given assurance of their future, heaven.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CROSS: (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
1) The cross: symbol of offense: ˇ°For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.ˇ± (1:18) Today, a white cross at the roadside of a street was taken down by a couple who erected it to remember their son killed in a car accident a few years back. The erection of this cross on that street was approved by the city council, but an atheist organization threatens to sue the city and the couple. Last week another atheist organization just lost a case on the cross at the 9/11 Memorial site in New York City. The leaders of that organization said the cross has caused them headache and mental agony when they see it. This same cross was deemed as foolish in the ancient time. It is still deemed offensive all the way through the 2,000 years of history. But the Bible says: Those who were and are offended by the cross will perish.
2) The cross: symbol of power: For the message of the cross ˇ to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.ˇ± (1:18b-19)) The same cross but not the same results, all depends on how people respond to it. To those who are being offended, feeling foolish, they are ignorant to the message of the cross which is ˇ°saving sinnersˇ± from their sins, and therefore they are perishing. To those who believe, they are being saved from their sins, and they experience the power of God's saving grace. God never changed, neither did the cross. It is the same cross on which Jesus died. To those who believe, it is the saving power of God. No human wisdom may understand the power of God in the cross.
3) The cross: symbol of salvation: ˇ°To those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.ˇ± (1:24) The Jews and the Gentiles represent the human race all over the world. The cross is the means by which God brings them all to himself for reconciliation. The cross is neither for the East nor the West, the ancient nor the present, it is for all those whom God calls to be saved by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Most, if not all, religions have their unique symbols. The symbol of the Christian faith is the cross. Anywhere you see the cross, either it on top of a building or on the necklace, you know it represents the faith in Jesus of those in the building or in the heart of that person wears that necklace.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF AN EMPTY TOMB: (Luke 24:1-8)
1) The tomb without the body: ˇ°On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.ˇ± (24:1-3) This certainly is not the act of an exhume of an old grave because it is only the third day after the burial. This is a clear account of an empty tomb of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Among all religious founders, you have never heard of an empty tomb without the body of the dead, except here we see it in the tomb of Jesus. Jesus can't be trapped in a tomb, neither his body nor his spirit. He is God, the creator and giver of life. No tomb or anything may keep Jesus in the dead.
2) Empty tomb explained by angels: ˇ°While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground. The men said to them: Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen!ˇ± (24:4-6) Why was the tomb empty? Where was the body of Jesus? I am sure the women must have many questions like these. God did not leave the women bewildered in questions without answer, He understood our human ignorance. So He sent his messengers to the women to explain the situation and the reason of the empty tomb. Today, when we are confused of life situations, wondering why life is this and what the future may be, we can be assured of God's explanation in the Bible, His Word. Search and read His explanation when we have questions of life we don't understand.
3) Empty tomb foretold by the Lord: ˇ°Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day he raised again. Then they remembered His words.ˇ± (24:6-8) Few may predict how they are going to die, and certainly no one may predict he is going to be raised from the dead again, except in the case of Jesus Christ. In fact the painful death, the resurrection and its effects were all foretold in the prophecy of Isaiah 53, more than 500 years ago. All these are not just historical facts, or things just randomly happened; they are records of God's plan executed step by step exactly as God said it would. God had a perfect plan to send his Son to die on the cross, then He will raise Hi Son from the dead to be the Savior of all men in the history of the world. (John 3:16)
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RESURRECTION: (1 Corinthians 15)
1) The fulfillment of prophesy: ˇ°For what I received, I passed it on to you as of first Importance that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.ˇ± (15:3-4) Paul was quoting scriptures from Isaiah 53:3; Luke 24:27; Acts 2:24, 27) This is of supreme importance: Christ died for the forgiveness of the sins of men, and was raised from the dead, all happened as they were prophesied in the scripture, the word of God. The birth, the life, the message, ministry and the death and resurrection were all planned, fulfilled as God wanted it to happen. This set Jesus apart from all other religious founders: none of them was born in prophesy, lived and died in prophesy, and of course none of them was raised from the dead ever. From this we see the unique life and death of Jesus as the Son of God, came to this world to fulfill the purpose of God.
2) The guarantee of our resurrection: ˇ°But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruit of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.ˇ± (15:20-21) Many Christians don't truly understand, much less believe, what it may be like for us Christians when we see God in heaven. Here the Bible states in unambiguous terms that we, all those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be raised from the dead, following the pattern of Jesus, the first fruit of resurrection.
3) We shall become the incorruptible: ˇ°I declared to you, brothers, fresh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the corruptible inherits the incorruptible... For the corruptible much clothe with the incorruptible, and the mortal with the immortality. When the corruptible has been clothed with the incorruptible, and the mortal with the immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up with victory.ˇ± (15:50, 53-54) This is of vital importance because mortal bodies may not inherit the kingdom of God, only resurrected bodies may enter heaven to be with God. If you believe in eternal life, here God reveals a little light on how it may look like to live in heaven with God for eternity.
1) Easter is for harvesting: Easter, the day Christ rose from the dead, is a time of harvesting for the fruits from the Good Friday, the day Christ died on the cross. Without the suffering on Good Friday, there isn't any harvesting on the Easter Sunday. While we celebrate with great joy the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, his walking out of the tomb, and his ascension soon after that, let us not forget his willingness to die, his obedience to the Father and the excruciating pain he suffered on the cross. We all want to share the glory of his resurrection, then we need to share the price and the pain of his sacrifices. It is a good time at Easter to examine our attitude toward God and Jesus, and to examine the way we life to see if we are willing to obey God the same way as Jesus did. If we never sow, we can't have any harvest.
2) Easter is for your life: The death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is about life, life on earth and life in heaven. The victory Jesus brings us is both for life here and now and there and then. No one says life is easy no matter which ever way you look at it, but to have the risen Lord walk by your side is the best choice anyone may make. After that, what a blessing to be with him in heaven where we shall live forever in joy and love with God. Each Easter is a good opportunity for us to face the reality of eternal life. If Jesus can die and rise from the dead, why won't you trust him and accept his offer of a new life here today, and there tomorrow. The choice is yours.