An Easter Sermon: (Well, Why Not?)

Title: “What Does the Resurrection of Jesus Mean to You Personally?”

Since I’m not pastoring anywhere and the only preaching I do is either filling in for my pastor friends or doing revivals, I’m never called on for “special day” services. That is, a pastor wants to be in his own pulpit at Christmas and Easter seasons. Therefore, my outlet is to post a sermon here and trust that my “congregation,” mostly pastors and church leaders, will find it to be a blessing and perhaps even add it to their own files as a future resource.

I asked a fellow once: “What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you personally?” He didn’t hesitate. “Knowing I can go to Heaven and the debt has been paid.”

Hard to top that.

My observation is that everyone will answer that question just a little differently. Mainly, that’s because we are different, our histories vary, our consciousness of our failing past and our blessed future will not be identical, and thus what Jesus means to one will be different from what He means to another.

Let’s bring out an array of New Testament characters and run that question by them. This, incidentally, is not all guesswork. We have a fairly solid record in Scripture of a number of people who encountered the risen Jesus and were transformed by the event.

The Apostle Paul.

Last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.(I Corinthians 15:8)

So, Paul, you saw Jesus on the Damascan Road. What did this mean in your life?

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.(I Cor. 15:20) Because Jesus lives, we too shall live. (Jesus gave that very promise in John 14:19.)

I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.(Philippians 3:10-11)

I want that kind of transforming power in my own life!

The Apostle Peter.

He has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance…. (I Peter 1:3-4)

The future is wonderful because Jesus rose from the dead. We have a living hope–not a dead one which might be directed toward someone in a graveyard somewhere–because our Lord is very much alive and well.

We are in a divine union with God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God…(I Peter 3:21-22) We owe everything to His resurrection!

The Apostle John.

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.(I John 2:2).

We have a Savior because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. There is a workable salvation!

…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler over the kinds of the earth.(Revelation 1:5)

Jesus carved out the way for us to come after Him.

And when I saw (the glorified Jesus), I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.(Revelation 1:17-18)

Jesus is Lord.

The Apostle Thomas.

Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’(John 20:27-29)

Jesus is Lord of all. He is God. He deserves all our devotion and loyalty.

Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for a Jewish man, Thomas, to look at another man and call him “My Lord and my God”? Under any other circumstances, this would have been the sheerest blasphemy.

The Two Disciples on the Road to Emaus.

They rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.(Luke 24:33-35)

Jesus changed everything for us: our direction, our attitude, our faith, our hope for the future.

There is another category of people whose lives were forever changed by the resurrection. Unfortunately, we don’t have their personal stories.

There is Mary Magdalene (John 20). This broken-hearted friend of the Lord Jesus went from the depths of despair to a kind of joy that the angels must have envied. Weeping in the garden when she found the tomb empty, she was approached from behind by a stranger who turned out to be the risen Christ Himself.

That is one of the great scenes in the history of the Jesus narrative. The hymn “In the Garden” celebrates that moment. Two of the churches that I pastored have enshrined the magical meeting of the weeping disciple with the risen Christ in massive stained-glass windows. The 1908 sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi, and the 1988 worship center of the First Baptist Church of Charlotte, North Carolina, each celebrate that moment. It’s a picture of worship at its best: you bring your sadness and sorrows to worship; there the risen Christ comes to you and turns them into joy and gladness.

We do wish, however, we had Mary’s testimony as to the effect the resurrection of Jesus had on her personally.

Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know the Lord’s resurrection had to have been incredibly precious to her, but we wish we had her story.

And, let’s not forget the disciples as a whole. Twice in John’s gospel, even after the news of the resurrection had reached them, they locked themselves into the Upper Room (John 20:19,26). Oddly, seeing Jesus in His glorified body did not immediately make them radiant and courageous disciples. It took the filling of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) to do that. We get the impression from Luke’s account of that experience that the Spirit blew the doors off their hinges and thrust the disciples into the streets to bear testimony to the multitudes.

Good lesson there for us today. It’s not enough to know the right answers or to have the whole truth. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the promise of Acts 1:8. We receive the power and only then do we share our faith in Jesus.

The story is not complete here. The question remains: What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean to you personally?

Remember how the Acts of the Apostles opens? Luke tells his friend Theophilus that in the Gospel which bears his name, he wrote of “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” (Acts 1:1) The implication of that is clear: The Acts of the Apostles is the continuation of Jesus’ acts, even though He has gone to Heaven.

Jesus continues to work in our world through people like you and me.

The disciples of an Eastern guru said to me once, “We don’t think anything that happened 2,000 years ago has any possible meaning for us today.” Just so easily did they dismiss the resurrection of Jesus.

The point of the resurrection is not that “Jesus rose from the dead.” The point, rather is: Jesus is still alive, still with us, and active in our world today.

So, what’s He doing in your part of the world? What has He said to you today? What does He want to do in you and through you in the next 24 hours?

Ask Him. He’s not timid. He has work to do and seeks those who will cooperate with His purposes and honor Him as Lord.

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