Easter Weekend 2016
Pastor Joe Wittwer
What Does It Mean?
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
If that is true, it changes everything! My starting point today is that it’s true. I realize that some of you may not share that starting point. Perhaps you’re not convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead. Maybe you think it’s just a nice story, a fable or make believe. I’ve done other Easter talks about the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and why I believe it’s true. If you’re not convinced, I’d encourage you to check those out. But today, my starting point is going to be that this really happened: Jesus really died, He was buried, and on the third day He was raised from the dead, and then appeared multiple times to many people over the next 40 days. Then He ascended to God and lives forever. Jesus is alive! Christ is risen!
The gospels tell the story of Jesus’ resurrection; the rest of the New Testament unpacks its meaning. Why is the resurrection of Jesus so important? What does it mean for us today? That’s what I want to talk about.
ILL: A pastor was presenting a children’s sermon, and he asked the children this question, if they knew the meaning of the Resurrection. It’s always a little dangerous to ask kids questions like this. Sure enough, a little boy piped up, “I know that if you have a resurrection that lasts more than four hours you are supposed to call the doctor.” That kid has seen too many TV commercials.
That is not one of the meanings of the resurrection. We’re going to look at four huge things it means.
- Jesus is the Son of God!
The first and most important meaning of the resurrection is about Jesus. The resurrection shows that Jesus is no ordinary man—He is the Son of God. The apostle Paul wrote:
Romans 1:2–4 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
The word “gospel” means “good news”. The Christian message is good news. I want to emphasize that. So many people think the Christian message is bad news.
ILL: There was a billboard in Eugene when I lived there that said in Old English script, “The wages of sin is death!” Romans 6:23. That’s all. Good news or bad news? That’s bad news! Your sin has separated you from God and you’re going to die forever! The crazy thing is that they only quoted the first half of that verse. The whole verse says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There’s the gospel! The good news is about what God has done for us in Christ—He is offering us eternal life instead of death!
About that same time there was also a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is coming back, and boy is He ticked off!”
So many people think the Christian message is bad news—but it’s not! It’s the good news of what God has done for you in Christ. Paul says that this good news was promised long ago by the prophets, and that it’s about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Then he says two important things. First, as a man, Jesus was a descendant of King David. Jesus was a man—a human being. Second, “he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.” He was a man, but He was more than a man. He was the Son of God, and that was clearly shown by His resurrection from the dead.
For three years the disciples watched Jesus do miracles and listened to His teaching. They were often astonished and asked, “Who is this man?” For example, there is the story of sailing across Lake Galilee. Suddenly, a violent storm swept down from the surrounding hills, and the waves threatened to swamp their boat. Jesus was asleep in the stern while the disciples bailed for all they were worth. Finally, afraid for their lives, they shook Him awake and said, “Don’t you care that we’re about to drown?” Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind died and it was completely calm. The disciples had been afraid of drowning; now, they were terrified—there was Someone inside their boat greater than the storm outside their boat! “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey Him!”
Who is this man? That’s the question. And after three years of following Him and watching Him, the disciples were starting to believe that He was more than just a man.
Then came Good Friday. Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten and crucified. He died a shameful, humiliating death on a cross. How could this man who calmed the storm and healed the sick…how could he be killed like this? Couldn’t he have stopped it, saved Himself? That was the very taunt that His enemies hurled at Him on the cross. “He saved others but He can’t save Himself. Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” But He didn’t. He hung there, naked and bleeding until He died. On Friday His disciples went home in shock and despair. He must be just a man after all.
Then Sunday came…and God raised Him from the dead. If there was any doubt about who Jesus was, it was erased by the resurrection. He was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Who is this man? The resurrection shows Him to be the Son of God. He is more than a man; He is the Lord. And so the resurrection confronts us with a choice. What do you believe about Jesus? Those who believed that He rose from the dead decided He was more than a man. Perhaps doubting Thomas said it best. When he saw the risen Jesus, he said, “My Lord and my God.”
And if Jesus is Lord, what are you going to do about that? Will you follow Him? Will you surrender your life? That’s what it means when we say,
“Jesus is Lord.” He is God—He is in charge, not me. He is my Leader and I follow. Paul said:
Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Do you believe that God raised Him from the dead? Will you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord? Would you say that with me: “Jesus is Lord”. For many of you, that’s a reaffirmation; for some of you, that might be the first time you’ve confessed Jesus is Lord. If you believe it, you will be saved—your sins will be forgiven, and you will begin living a new life with Jesus at the center. We’d love to help you do that. If you’ll text the word “First” to this number, 509-412-3658, you’ll be prompted for your contact info. Fill that out and one of our team will contact you and personally help you take your next steps following Jesus. If you’re new to Life Center and wondering how to get connected, text “Next” to this number and follow the prompts and one of our team will contact you to personally help you with your next steps.
The resurrection says something about Jesus, and something about you.
- You can live a new life!
The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians and explained the significance of their baptism.
Romans 6:1–4 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
In a few moments, we’re going to celebrate with people who are being baptized. During the early centuries of Christian history, most people were baptized on Easter Sunday. They did it then because of the meaning of baptism that Paul explains here.
The word, “baptize” means “to immerse, dip, plunge or saturate.” So we baptize by full immersion, which beautifully shows that you are identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. You have died with Christ—the old you, your old life is dead. What do you do with someone who has died? You bury them. So, you died with Christ and are buried with Christ—that’s the symbolism of going under the water. Then, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we are raised from a watery grave to live a new life.
This is the meaning of baptism. We are raised to a new life in Christ. Jesus’ death and burial and resurrection have made it possible for us to live a new life. Can you see why the early Christians wanted to be baptized on Easter? What better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than to be raised to a new life with Him! If you decide to follow Jesus today, or want to be baptized, we have a 20 minute baptism class after this service in the room next to the Info Center.
While baptism is a symbol, the new life is real. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, you are really raised to a new life.
ILL: When Ole moved, he discovered he was the only Lutheran in his new town of all Catholics. That was okay, but the neighbors had a problem with his barbecuing beef every Friday. They were not allowed to eat red meat on Fridays, but the tempting aroma was getting the best of them. So they got together and confronted Ole.
“Ole,” they said, “since you are the only Lutheran in this whole town and there’s not a Lutheran church for many miles, we think you should join our church and become a Catholic.” Ole thought about it and decided they were right. Ole talked to the priest, and they arranged it.
The big day came, and the priest had Ole kneel. He put his hand on Ole’s head and said, “Ole, you were born a Lutheran, you were raised a Lutheran, and now,” he said as he sprinkled some incense over Ole’s head, “you are a Catholic!” Both Ole and the neighbors were happy.
But the following Friday evening, the aroma of grilled beef still wafted from Ole’s yard. The neighbors went to talk to him about this, and as they approached they heard Ole saying something strangely familiar as he sprinkled salt on the steak: “You were born a beef, you were raised a beef, and now, you are a fish!”
When you become a Christian and are baptized, we aren’t pretending that you are new. “You were born a sinner, you were raised a sinner, and now, you’re a new person.” No—you really are a new person!
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
You are a new person in Christ. Paul goes on in Romans 6 to explain the change and summarizes it like this.
Romans 6:10–11 When Jesus died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
This is the reality of your new life: you have died with Christ to sin, and you are raised with Christ to live a new life with God. You are dead to sin and alive to God!
To be dead to sin means you are unresponsive to it. I’ve spoken to audiences that don’t laugh at my jokes or don’t respond when I challenge them. What do you call an audience like that? A dead audience. Does that mean we should call the undertaker? Order a thousand caskets? No; it just means they are unresponsive. I’ve also spoken to very responsive audiences—like you—and afterwards I say, “That audience was alive!”
In your new life, you are dead and unresponsive to sin, but even better, you are alive and responsive to God. When God speaks, you sit up and listen. This is the new life—to be alive to God. And to be alive to God is to be fully alive, to live life as it was meant to be lived, life to the fullest. The resurrection means that you can live a new life—fully alive to God.
Where are you not fully alive? In your marriage, family, friendships, work, finances, happiness? Jesus came to make you fully alive—in every way. When we say that Jesus saves us, we mean He saves everything! We come fully alive in every area of life. This is why we’re going to take the next four weeks to talk about “The Jesus Marriage”. Here’s the big idea: the secret to a great marriage is Jesus. If you want a great marriage, the secret is not to focus on your marriage, but on Jesus! If you’re not married, you’ll find this series very helpful, because it’s all about Jesus. Jesus makes us fully alive—you can live a new life in every area of your life.
The resurrection says something about Jesus, something about you, and something about death.
- Death is undone!
When Jesus died, He conquered sin. When Jesus rose, He conquered death. Paul wrote,
Romans 6:9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
Death no longer has mastery over him. When Jesus rose, He conquered death. But Jesus’ resurrection means that death no longer has mastery over us either. Death is undone—not just for Jesus, but for us!
1 Corinthians 15 is Paul’s great chapter on the resurrection, both Jesus’ resurrection back then, and ours still in the future. Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Jesus is the firstfruits. That means that He is the first to rise from the dead, and we will follow. When you pick the first ripe apple off the tree, you don’t think, “One apple! Well, enjoy, because that’s it for the year!” You know that first apple is just that: the first of many more to come. Just as surely as the first ripe apple is the sign of more to come, Jesus’ resurrection is the sign that ours is coming too. Jesus is the firstfruits, guaranteeing our coming resurrection. Paul goes on to describe our resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:50–57 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the last trumpet, at the return of Christ, our bodies will be raised imperishable and immortal. Our bodies now are perishable and mortal—they die and perish, and turn to dust. But they will be raised imperishable and immortal. Notice that it’s not just our souls that are immortal, but our bodies too. Just as Christ’s body was raised imperishable and immortal, you will be too. Ours is an embodied faith. God came to earth as a man, in a human body, and He saves us spirit, soul and body. Our bodies will be raised! We won’t be disembodied spirits floating on clouds playing Amazing Grace on imaginary harps. We’ll have resurrection bodies and live in a new heavens and a new earth that will be beautiful beyond imagination.
When that happens, the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Right now, it feels like death is winning, like death swallows up life. But Jesus has conquered death, and the day is coming when death will be swallowed up in victory; death will be swallowed up by eternal life. This gives us hope even in the face of death.
ILL: Jonathan Van Keulen is 32 and is battling osteosarcoma, and that battle is down to the final few weeks. Jonathan and Becky have amazed me with their faith and peace. Last week, Becky wrote in her blog, entitled “The Start of a New Beginning”, that Jonathan is in the final stages of his cancer. As you would expect, Becky wrote of the sadness and pain they are feeling, but she also wrote this:
Jonathan has had the most amazing 6 months that anyone could really ever have. We went to New York and had the time of our life. Field seats to the Seahawks game. Jonathan had a golfer’s dream trip to Pebble Beach and Cypress. He knocked off 2 more bucket list items in Hawaii with our boys. Most people will live through their 70’s and never experience what we did in the last 6 months. We have no regrets! We are at peace. Really the boys and I get the short end of the straw. Jonathan got to have a great 6 months and then he gets to go hang with Jesus in an even better paradise.
I am still praying for a miracle for Jonathan—would you join me in that prayer right now? Prayer.
Jesus resurrection gives us hope, even in a world where the death rate is still 100%. These bodies get sick, wear out and die. But Jesus’ resurrection guarantees that it won’t always be that way. A change is coming. Paul says that the last enemy to be put under Christ’s feet is death.
1 Corinthians 15:20–26 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Until Jesus comes back, the death rate will remain at 100%, and it will seem like death is winning. But take heart—death is undone. Christ has already broken its power. He has taken the sting out of death. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees ours so we live with gratitude and abandon…which leads to our final point.
The resurrection says something about Jesus, something about you, something about death and finally, something about life.
- Life matters!
Life matters—specifically, your life matters. What you do every day matters, because there is a resurrection coming. Paul finishes his great chapter on the resurrection with this final verse:
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Therefore—because there is a resurrection coming—always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because nothing you do for Jesus is in vain. Your life matters. What you do for Jesus counts. Every act of love, every act of service, every word of truth matters. Nothing you do for Jesus will ever be wasted. You may not see the results now, but the resurrection is coming and on that day, you’ll be amazed to see what God has done with your life.
ILL: When I was in college, I was studying late one night for finals, and felt the need to take a break. I was studying the Bible, and I wanted to share with someone. So I went outside and prayed, “Lord, if You want me to share the gospel, bring someone along.” I started walking and before long a young guy with a backpack asked me if I had any spare change—he was hungry. I offered to buy him a burger and coke at the nearby Dairy Queen. As he ate, we talked, and I shared the good news of Jesus. He didn’t seem very interested or receptive. When he finished, he thanked me and left and I headed back to my dorm, grateful for the chance to share, but thinking that it fell on deaf ears.
Three years later, I had just finished speaking at Faith Center when a young man approached me and asked if I recognized him. I didn’t. He reminded me of the night I bought a burger and coke for a young guy passing through town—that was him! After he left me, he hitchhiked to Eureka, California, but he couldn’t get the story of Jesus out of his head. So in Eureka, he went to a church, gave his life to Jesus, and now, three years later, was in Eugene to go to Bible college!
That’s a cool story because I got to see the results. I got to see what God had done with my meager offering. But it’s an example of what I’m saying. I thought my words fell on deaf ears. I thought it was wasted effort—that nothing happened. And I thought that for 3 years, until I met this guy again at church. Actually, it was worse than that—I just forgot all about it until I met this guy again.
Well, there’s a resurrection coming, and on that day, you’re going to have dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of these experiences. People will come to you and say, “Remember when you shared the gospel with me? Remember when you loved me? Remember when you listened to me?” And you’ll probably say, “No…I don’t remember.” Then God will run the DVR and replay the scene, and then that person will say, “Well, here’s what God did in my life because of you. Thank you.” You will be blown away! Nothing you do for Jesus is ever wasted.
1 Corinthians 15:58 (The Message) Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.
Nothing you do for Jesus is a waste of time or effort. So throw yourself into the Lord’s work. Give yourself fully to serve the Lord. There is a resurrection coming, and on that final day, you will be amazed to see what God has done with your life. Your life matters.
Christ is risen! What’s it mean?
Jesus is the Son of God.
You can live a new life.
Death is undone.
Life matters—your life matters. So go live it full on for Jesus!
- Why is the resurrection of Jesus so important? What does it mean for us today?
- What do you believe about Jesus? Why didn’t this man who could calm a storm and heal the sick stop his own crucifixion?
- Where are you not fully alive? In your marriage, family, friendships, work, finances, happiness? Do you have an idea of what it will take for you to become fully alive in that particular area?
- Do you believe that what you do everyday matters? If we live life with this understanding, what are some things we could do differently to be more intentional in our interactions with those around us?
Nothing you do for Jesus is a waste of time or effort. So throw yourself into the Lord’s work! Give yourself fully to serve the Lord and you will be amazed to see what God will do with your life.