By Partor Casey Cleveland
Is Easter the New York or Boston of Christian celebrations? Just like these two major cities, followers of Jesus have two major celebrations. And just like the cities, one seems to get more attention than the other. New York is consider “the city”, while Boston to many is thought of as the second city. So what about Easter and Christmas, which one is the New York of celebrations? For most, the answer would most certainly be Christmas. It is Christmas that gets the most attention, the most media, the most resources, the most emotion, the best mascot…I mean really, how can a rabbit compete with a jolly fellow that gives out gifts? But when I look in the Scriptures I see something else.
Easter is the real New York. We seem to get this wrong almost every year, but the Scriptures make it clear that it Easter is the Super Bowl of Christianity. Put more theologically and historically, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the defining moment of all history. There is no more significant event in all of creation that carries with it the same weight and significance. Of course we need the birth of Jesus to have the death and resurrection of Jesus. But it is the resurrection that changes everything.
Allow me to explain, so that maybe this year we don’t miss Easter.
It is the resurrection that takes Jesus from martyr to redeemer. Jesus came with a specific purpose. His mis
sion was clear…rescue and redeem sinners, of which I am most certainly one. But how? Well first some biblical background about God, people, and sin. God is righteous, just, and loving. We are all sinners having broken his perfect moral law time and time again in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Because God is righteous he cannot be in the presence of sin and must separate himself from all sin. Because God is just he must punish sin, as it is really crime against his perfect law and no righteous judge shows partiality. The punishment for sin is death, spiritually, physically, and eternally. We are all familiar with physical death, but what about the others? Spiritual death is being disconnected from God the way he was meant to be known, and eternal death is being separated from God and all that is good for eternity. This is the predicament that all of us find ourselves in, and it is crazy bad news. But the best news of all is that God is also love.
And in his love for us he sent a substitute to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. That substitute was a person…Jesus Christ. God’s most perfect expression of love to you and me. The nature of Jesus is cause for a whole different article, but for our sake the Bible defines him as both divine and human. This is critical because his divine nature means he is perfect having no sin of his own, allowing him to die for the sins of others. His human nature allowed him to be a viable candidate for this role because it was through a man that sin entered the world, and thus a man that would have to defeat sin. Enter Easter.
Jesus our perfect substitute would go to a cross, where God the Father put all of my sin on him and punished him in my place. Jesus died. This was the death I should have died, and on the third day the greatest news the world has ever heard was proclaimed. “He has risen!” His resurrection meant that he had once and for all defeated my two greatest enemies, sin and death. Death accompanies sin, so when Jesus had completed the payment for my sin death could no longer hold him. And now a sinner like me can receive forgiveness of sin and new life, by grace through faith in Jesus and his finished work.
None of this would be possible without the resurrection. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul says we Christians are to be most pitied as fools if the resurrection did not happen. Pitied because we have absolutely nothing without the resurrection. A dead Jesus means we are not forgiven, cannot know God both now and for eternity, and are above all others fools for the way we live our meaningless lives’. There is no middle ground in the Scripture over this issue. The whole story of God’s love for humanity depends on a resurrected redeemer named Jesus. Easter is by far the New York of all celebrations.
So take heart, the grave is empty and the throne is occupied! Be encouraged today because no matter who you are, where you have been, or what you have done, the resurrected Jesus invites you to come and find forgiveness and life in him by faith through grace. And not just forgiveness, but also freedom to be the person God has created you to be. Someone you probably couldn’t even imagine. This is God’s love for you and me. This is Easter. This is the gospel, and it is really good news.