April 17, 2017
The celebration of Easter impacts the entire globe in one way or another. The traditional celebrations vary from country to country, and just like in the U.S. many secular traditions have been added or in some cases replaced the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul spoke of the significance of the resurrection for believers in his letter to the Corinthian church. “If it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.
According to research by the Barna Group, the majority of Americans consider Easter to be a religious holiday, but less than 42 percent of Americans associate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with Easter. Even within people who identify themselves as Christians aren’t in full agreement with the meaning of Easter. Only 73% of Evangelicals, 55% of “born again” Christians and 35% of “notional” Christians identify the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the meaning of Easter according to Barna. In addition, just 2% of all those interviewed describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith.
Based on the responses from this study, maybe our focus as 21st century Christians may not require our defending the physical resurrection of Jesus, but instead, maybe we should focus more on the VICTORY of the resurrection, and what it means for every individual who believes in Jesus.
Paul said in I Corinthians 15:50-54, 57, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed 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. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 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. But thanks be to God! He gives us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul says that before Christ returns, what happens to believers who experience physical death is a mystery, but we also know, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” When Jesus returns He will give us a new body, whether we are still alive or we are with Him. Because of His resurrection we will receive a glorified body that will be incorruptible and immortal. It will be a body, that even if our present body is disfigured, deformed, or racked with disease and sickness, will be raised in glory and power. The Bible says also that our glorified body will be a spiritual body, like that of Jesus after His resurrection. I John 3:2, “We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Philippians 3:20-21, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” Even the psalmist said in Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake with your likeness.”
Truly these verses should be a great source of joy and hope this week following the celebration of the resurrection. The message of Easter is that through His resurrection Jesus proved He was God. His resurrection assured us that our sins could be forgiven. His resurrection also proves that physical death is not the end for us, and heaven awaits those who by faith receive the free gift of salvation. We can celebrate the VICTORY the resurrection has brought us, not only at Easter, but every day by the way we live before a skeptical world that can lead them to a risen Savior.