by Pastor Bob Norton
On a certain Friday a group of people saw the leader to whom they had committed their lives crucified on a cross. Bewildered, heartbroken, they had watched him die, and late that afternoon saw his dead body placed in a tomb. When the heavy stone thudded across the door of the tomb and was secured by the seal of the Roman Empire, it also crashed through the corridors of their minds, demolishing forever all their hopes and dreams. In black despair, blind confusion, and shattering disillusionment they scattered furtively across the country, determined to resume the vocations they had left abruptly over three years before.
Within a few weeks all of this was changed. The scattered followers of Jesus came together again, filled with confidence, joy, and purpose. In the very city where Jesus had been publicly executed they launched the most powerful and dynamic people movement in history. Something obviously had happened!
The cross of defeat suddenly became the symbol of victory. The message became not what Jesus of Nazareth taught, but the person of Jesus himself. And the Christian Church began its unpredictable yet triumphant march through history. Something obviously happened! What was it?
The event of Easter day provides the answer. The followers and friends of Jesus believed without question that while he had died on Friday afternoon, he was now alive. How did they know? It certainly wasn’t because any of them had seen Jesus burst through the stone door in a blaze of glory. It was not because his body had disappeared. True, it had vanished, and the tomb was empty. But there’s more.
These people knew that Jesus was alive because they saw him and talked with him. For almost six weeks Jesus appeared to a person here, two disciples there, to a group, a crowd. The ten recorded post-resurrection appearances became the primary proof of the resurrection. Each encounter with the Risen Lord radiated a tremendous self-authenticating power. Until, the defeated disciples became the “resurrected disciples” themselves. Now, as then, the miracle of Easter is discovered through personal encounters with the living Christ. This is what makes the difference. And this is what produces Easter people.
Because of Easter, Christianity is not primarily a religion, but a dynamic relationship with a living Lord Jesus Christ. Like the early church, our victory chant is “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25)
Christ is alive! His presence brings a wonder into our lives filling our days with hope. Our resurrection friends become our closest companions on life’s journey. Everyday is an adventure, because like Paul we yearn “To know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” (Phil. 3:10).
Canon Michael Green puts it so well… The Church …beginning from a handful of uneducated fishermen and tax gatherers, swept across the whole known world in the next few hundred years. It is a perfectly amazing story of peaceful revolution that has no parallel in the history of the world. It came about because Christians were able to say to inquirers: “Jesus did not only die for you. He is alive! You can meet him and discover for yourself the reality we are talking about!” They did, and joined the church and the church, born from that Easter grave, spread everywhere.”
Dear brothers and sisters, He’s alive! It’s time to celebrate!