Easter Sunday is coming soon. And for many churches it is the biggest Sunday of the year. It is our day more than Christmas.
It is the one day of the year when Christians loudly celebrate the risen Saviour. It is the resurrection of Jesus that saves us.
And yet, some pastors reading this will be hiding a guilty secret. They are dreading to preach this Sunday.
I remember several years ago now when I was asked to preach on Easter Sunday thinking ‘Oh, no I will have to preach on the Gospel again.’ And immediately feeling the shame that was rightly mine. I had become complacent about the most glorious message the World has ever heard. I had even neglected the GOOD NEWS of the resurrection, focussing solely on the Cross. I was fond of talking about Good Friday, but often forgot to mention the most glorious day in Human History: the day DEATH itself was conquered!
And many Christians still neglect and assume the Resurrection.
Ask them why Paul said Jesus was ‘RAISED for our justification‘ (Romans 4:25) and they will mumble something about how wasn’t it the cross that took away our sin. (see my post explaining what this verse means)
And yet it is the belief in RESURRECTION that defines Christianity itself. In my book, Raised With Christ, I define a Christian as follows,
“A Christian is someone who believes in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and lives in light of the implications of that event.” Raised With Christ, Page 20
This broad definition is inspired by a phrase in one of the Apostle Paul’s letters. In it he says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
This “belief” is no mere intellectual assent. It is a deep heartfelt orientation of the heart towards trust and devotion. It involves a radical change in our worldview and approach to Jesus. We must learn to live out the implications of the resurrection: one of which is we need to be raised to life spiritually right now in order to be ready to receive rebirth when we die. It is this hope that makes us grieve in a different way to those who are not Christians.
The belief that Jesus, having died for us, was raised bodily, leaving behind an empty grave and folded grave clothes gave birth to the Church in the first place. Throughout history no major group has used the name “Christian” without believing this. Whether you meet someone who says they are an Eastern Orthodox or a Pentecostal, you will almost certainly find they believe that Jesus rose again. Why bother using the label “Christian” if you deny that Jesus body literally left the tomb? As has often been said, “If Jesus did not really rise again as he promised, why bother listening to anything he ever said?”
So, pastor, if you are feeling nervous, unprepared, even unqualified to preach this Sunday, PREACH THE RESURRECTION. In fact, let me let you into a secret: you can and should preach the resurrection EVERY SUNDAY. As, after all, it is to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus that was the reason Christians first began to meet on Sundays at all.
Spurgeon, as always is great on the resurrection:
Now, beloved, this is one of the articles of our Christian faith, to believe that God can raise the dead. You and I believe, if we are true believers, that God brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.
We believe that Jesus assuredly died, and that he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, but that on the third day he rose again, and quitted the tomb, no more to die. This we most firmly believe to be a matter of fact; not a fiction, or a piece of poetry, but a matter of fact, like any other reliable history, and we accept it without question.
We also believe that we, too, though we may die, shall live again; and that, although worms may devour this body, yet in our flesh we shall see God. At the sound of the archangel’s trumpet, the dead in Christ shall rise, and all the dead from land or sea shall gather before the great white throne. However scattered the particles of their bodies may have been, in ten thousand devious ways, it matters not; the body that was sown in weakness shall be raised in power, that which was sown a corruptible body shall be raised in incorruption.
This we unfeignedly believe; and our faith also believes that, even now, as to spiritual things, though by nature we are dead to the things of God, yet he can raise the dead. When we feel heavy and dull, and the music of our worship drags wearily, we believe that God can quicken us; and, though we know many who are this day without spiritual life, and far from God by wicked works, we go and speak to them the everlasting gospel with the full persuasion that God can raise the dead, even those who are dead in trespasses and sins. Though they were dead, yet shall they live. We believe this, and rejoice in it.
Spurgeon, C. H. (1894). The Two Pillars of Salvation. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 40, p. 182). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
Raised With Christ – How the Resurrection changes Everything
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion—whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. Adrian Warnock points us all to the centrality of the resurrection for every dimension of the Christian life . . . You will be greatly blessed by this book.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary