Easter Sunday: What’s the Excitement About?
Christmas and Easter are the two days of the year when you can count on American’s to put their church clothes on and head to service. I’m sure this trend is rapidly declining as America becomes increasingly post-Christian, but many who still have family or cultural ties to the church find themselves attending a service and eating a traditional meal with loved ones.
Many of the people who will cross the threshold of chapel doors, however, don’t have any idea what they’re celebrating. It’s fun to sing happy songs, to listen to a life-giving message and to stuff our bellies, but what’s the excitement really all about?
To understand Easter we must first understand Good Friday. It was on this day several thousand years ago that Jesus Christ was crucified. The Gospel’s don’t say much about it other than that he was “led away to be crucified” and that they “crucified him.” (Matthew 27:26, 35)
The biblical account is brief simply because the readers of that day would have known exactly what crucifixion included: exhaustion, trial, mockery, scourged 39 times with a flagrum, forced to carry a 100 pound crossbar one mile up a hill, nails through the wrists and feet and asphyxiation. (Matthew 26; 27) They would have seen thousands of them performed by the Romans.
The details, though helpful for modern readers, aren’t what’s important. The reason why Jesus went to the cross is. Paul helps us understand this in 1 Corinthians 15:3 when he says “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” Paul is saying that Jesus died because of our sins and for our benefit.
In other words, Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sins so that those who believe can be made right with God through him. Our sins, failures and short-comings keep us from God. Jesus removed the penalty of those sins when he died on the cross so that there would be nothing left to separate those who believe from the joy of God’s presence.
Thankfully, the crucifixion isn’t the end of the story. Following Christ’s brutal death is his life-giving resurrection. Without the resurrection Jesus is nothing but just another dead guy. If he has not been raised, his claims to be God and Savior amount to nothing more than lies and empty promises. Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 15:17 when he says “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
But praise be to God who has raised the Lord Jesus from the dead! The resurrection completes the good news of the cross because it validates that Jesus is who he said he is and he did what he said he would do. He is the God who is worthy to be worshiped, the Savior who is able to save and the Lord who rules over all, including sin and death!
Through the resurrection we have life in his name. Indeed there are no words that bring greater excitement to the Christian life than this: He is risen! (Matthew 28:6)