Christians proclaim “He is risen” one day a year. The tomb is empty. Sins are forgiven. Good Friday is defeated. Jesus lives forever.
I’m serious. If Easter is a one-day celebration, what’s the big deal?
Here’s a reminder: Easter is a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year event. We should post these “He is risen” memes every day.
The effects of that Easter morning about 2,000 years ago reverberate into the 21st century. It’s far from a one-time event.
For some, “religion” is a once-a-week thing. Show up for an hour, give an offering, I’m good for the week.
Nothing in the Bible, which explains Easter in detail, allows for that. Jesus is an all-or-nothing relationship. Jesus gave his life for us. He didn’t have to, but he cares for us that much.
The Bible demands we do the same. Follow in Jesus’ footsteps, if you will. Give to those less fortunate, time and money. Serve widows and orphans (those groups are mentioned by name more than once.)
With our schedules turned upside down by the novel coronavirus, how are we doing?
There’s a high school junior near here who plays the bagpipes each evening for his neighbors. Many of us call or text people we haven’t connected with in awhile – I’ve received a few of those calls too. We donate to food banks. We make masks for hospitals and other first responders. We buy groceries for our elderly neighbors.
Many people are serving orphans, widows and others very well during this time of need. It’s heart-warming to see.
Just the beginning
What will happen when stay-in-place orders are lifted? Will we continue serving our neighbors? I hope so.
Or will we go back to our old habits? Traditionally we go from crisis to crisis, forgetting any lessons learned as we make our living, feed our families and hope we get some free time on the weekend.
Easter has come and gone, and we don’t talk about it anymore. We should. Every day.
Jesus had 12 disciples in his inner circle, men who left their families and professions to follow him and learn from him. After the resurrection, their lives were transformed.
They couldn’t stop talking about it. They faced opposition, torture and even death. Didn’t matter. They kept talking and living their new lives, because now they had a purpose that transcended themselves.
Easter was not the final word. Easter was just the beginning of their story.
They lived differently. They shared their possessions with each other. Not because a virus forced them to, but because their faith in the risen Savior encouraged them to share.
They did so without even thinking about it. Their priorities had changed that dramatically. They held on to their own possessions loosely. They supported themselves and their families, and shared their surplus with widows and orphans, and others.
They did something else, too. They talked about their new-found faith with everyone they could. Some believed; many did not. That’s the way it goes.
The power of Easter
I just finished a lengthy study of the book of Acts, where those first disciples (and many others) received God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which helped them understand what Jesus had done.
One of the stars of Acts is Paul, an intellectual religious figure who knew the Scriptures and persecuted these new “Christians” because they weren’t behaving appropriately. Paul, however, had a dramatic encounter with the resurrected Jesus that changed his life overnight.
Some Christians today have a similar experience. For others, faith is a gradual process. God knows our hearts and what it will take for each of us to find him. He’s patient, and creative. But he won’t force you (or anyone else) to follow him.
If your eyes get opened like those first apostles’ eyes did at Pentecost, look out! Your life will change. Forever.
That’s the power of Easter.
The apostle Paul was given a very clear mission: “… for (Paul) is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)
Paul did that for the rest of his life. He was imprisoned for his faith. He was beaten. He was kicked out of town. He was shipwrecked.
Through it all, he kept his eyes on Jesus.
And he preached. That was his mission.
What did he preach? The resurrection of Jesus. Over and over and over. In synagogues, in city halls, in the streets, in private homes, on an island, in prison … he kept preaching.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:2
Paul, if he lived today, probably would have graduated from Harvard. Very smart, very intellectual. For a man like that to say he would proclaim only the resurrection of Jesus – everything else was a waste of time (“I count it all as loss”) – was astounding.
This is what the empty tomb does.
Paul did not throw away his intellect or intelligence. His focus changed, that’s all. No longer did he spend his time trying to follow all the rules and regulations of his religion, which was an impossible task anyway. Now, he followed Jesus – and talked about the cross and the empty tomb.
Paul used the gifts and talents that God gave him to worship God and live for him. We as believers today do that too. Every single day, not just on Easter.
He is risen. He is risen today. And every day.
That tomb will never contain Jesus’ body again.
Go ahead and look. You won’t find it.
Instead, you will find Jesus alive – in a different form, as the Holy Spirit – in your heart. Jesus the Son of God has returned to heaven, where he holds a place at his father’s right hand (Acts 7:55, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20 and other places).
This is why Christians worship the living God today. The tomb is empty.
Easter has just begun.