What is so special this Sunday? What is it that brings more people to church on this particular Sunday each year than on any other Sunday of the year? What is the draw? Is it just a nice tradition? "Everyone goes to church on Easter Sunday. I don’t want to be the odd man out. Besides, I’ve been doing it every year. Why stop now." Does it make us feel good to be here? Do we get an emotional high? Is that why we come on this day? Have we ever asked ourselves these questions? Often times, people do things without thinking or knowing why. They just do something because…well…everyone else is doing it. Or, that’s just how it is. People go to church on Resurrection Sunday, as I like to call it, because that’s just what people do.
I hope each of us knows exactly why we are here. But if there are some among us who don’t really know why they are here, let me help you understand why people come to church on Resurrection Sunday. For those of us who know why they are here, may the message strengthen your faith in the Lord and add to your Resurrection Sunday joy.
Each year on this day, we come to church for a special celebration of Jesus’ rising from the dead. Now, if you didn’t follow Jesus to the cross during Lent, you may not understand what is so significant about Resurrection Sunday. During Lent, we journeyed with Jesus to His death on the cross. Along the way, we saw how Jesus suffered at the hands of wicked men who viewed Him as a threat to their power and authority. These men had hoped to do away with Jesus once and for all. They stirred up the crowds to have Jesus crucified. They persuaded Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, to execute Jesus.
Their demands were met. Jesus was sentenced to die by crucifixion, even though He had done no wrong. With Jesus out of the way, these wicked rulers could go back to their evil ways without feeling guilty. They had removed the problem, so they thought.
What the wicked religious rulers of the Jews did reminds of what the dictator Stalin said and did when he was ruler of Russia. He would say, "No person, no problem." What he meant was that he could get rid of a problem by getting rid of the person who was causing the problem. History tells us that Stalin got rid of quite a few people. The religious leaders of the Jews thought the same. If they got rid of Jesus they would no longer have to deal with all the trouble He was causing them.
Killing a person is a sure way of getting rid of a problem. And so Jesus was killed. The problem was eliminated.
However, what the religious leaders failed to realize was that Jesus was God. They thought they were dealing with an ordinary man. Not the case. Jesus was God in the fullest sense and because He was, it was impossible to kill Him for good.
On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. Death had no power over Him, and neither did the religious rulers. Jesus defeated death to show that He is Lord and Master of all. He came back to life and appeared to His followers.
Believe it or not, this was all God’s plan even though the wicked rulers didn’t realize it. It was God’s plan that Jesus be crucified on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. You see, we sin against God and the penalty for sin is death. But all of our sins were heaped upon Jesus who died in our place. As a result our sins are forgiven. If we want to enter into heaven, all of our sins need to be forgiven by Jesus. It doesn’t matter if in life we were a good person and did all kinds of good deeds. If we haven’t been forgiven by Christ, we won’t enter heaven. God’s plan was to save us through the sacrificial death of Jesus.
But how tragic it would have been if Jesus had remained in the grave. Had He not risen from the dead, it would have turned out that He was just an ordinary man. His death on the cross would have meant nothing. You see, forgiveness of sins without the resurrection from the dead is nothing. What good is it to receive Christ’s forgiveness if we can’t live to enjoy it? Jesus died to forgive us so that we could live with Him forever. If there is no resurrection from the dead, how will we be able to live with Him forever?
Jesus rose from the dead to show us that death has no power over Him and us. God plans to raise us from the dead just as Jesus was raised from the dead. Once He raises us, we will live with Him forever.
There is a television series called "Resurrection." People are brought back to life. Loved ones are reunited with those who die. Unfortunately, the series doesn’t give the credit to Jesus. But the point I’m making is that people have a longing to be reunited with those who have left this life. There is a desire on our part to want to live on. We’re not fond of death even though it is a reality for us.
But the good news is that Jesus will raise us from the dead. We’ll be reunited with those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. We won’t remain in the grave forever. Death is not the end. We will be brought back to life.
Often times, sadness surrounds death. But Jesus will turn that sorrow into joy with the resurrection. Never again will we have to grieve over the loss of those we’ve loved. In Jesus’ kingdom, death will be absent. It will vanish from our thoughts, from our reality. We will be with God and those we love forever, never again separated by death.
Jesus rose to give us eternal happiness. On Resurrection Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death and the eternal joy that means for us who believe in Jesus Christ. That’s why Christians all over the world come together on this day.
So why did you come to church on Resurrection Sunday? If you didn’t know why, I hope that now you do. I hope that you have come to the realization that coming to church on Resurrection Sunday is more than just to receive an emotional high or observe a longstanding tradition. We come on this day to celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead and victory over death.
That has profound implications for us, even though most of us don’t think about it. We’re busy going about our day-to-day affairs and going after the American dream. After all, that’s what life is about. Well, I hate to interrupt the dream, but life is much more than spending all our efforts on acquiring material things. Jesus Himself said that life is more than just food and clothing. As a matter of fact, He said seeking His kingdom is more important than material possessions. Didn’t He say seek my kingdom first and all these other things will be given to you? We’ve got it backwards. But let me make it clear to us: Jesus first and then our material, physical life.
So, expand your view of things and make room for Jesus. Don’t be like the animals of the field that have no understanding of spiritual things and are concerned only about when they’ll be fed next. We are more than that.
May the resurrection of Jesus be our proof that if we believe in Him we will be raised as He was to live with Him forever.