Harbor Lights Sermon  Apr, 2011

Easter Sermon

Easter, as we call it, is all about the resurrection of Christ from the dead, which is central to the Christian faith.

Concerning what's most important in the Christian life, the Apostle Paul writes, "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also" 1Cor 15:1-8a

There is no other religion which has its claims validated by the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection from the dead of its founder, let alone the abundance of public miracles recorded by eyewitnesses. And whenever the gospel is preached in the Bible the resurrection of Christ from the dead is always included as evidence validating the claims of the gospel. The first Christian sermon was given by the apostle Peter in Acts chapter 2, and includes this section:

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. ..  God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." Acts 2:22-24,32

When Paul preached the gospel to the Gentiles in Athens he said among other things, "God commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:30b-31

Jesus himself during his ministry predicted this event. "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Luke 9:22 and he said that his resurrection from the dead was to be used as proof validating his word. For to skeptics he said, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Mt 12:39,40 So even to the most hardened of heart skeptic Jesus yet provides a sign, evidence validating his claims. The sign being his resurrection from the dead. That's why the historic fact of his resurrection is always included whenever the gospel is preached.

Furthermore Christ's resurrection from the dead is a forerunner of our own resurrection from the dead as Christians. "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." 1Cor 15:20 And as I mentioned last time, the Bible rarely speaks of Christians dying or being dead, nor does it ever use the popular phrase today "passed way" or "passed on". Rather it speaks of the saints having fallen asleep.

The resurrection is in a sense a complete gamer-changer. For death has little power over the saints. "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Heb 2:14,15 Though the process can be rather annoying, for the Christian there is no longer a basis for the fear of death.

So Paul writes, "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Cor 15:54b-57 And he says in Rom 8:37-39 "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." If you've played a game, the conquerer is concerning about winning, whereas concerning the saints, there is no way to lose the game. "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2Cor 1:21,22

Now if the resurrection validates the gospel, let us remind ourselves what the substance of the gospel is. There are many ways to describe the gospel. This time I'll use the analogy of the Passover. For Christ died during the feast of the Passover. And so we note that Christians celebrate Easter the same month as Jews celebrate the Passover.

In fact Paul writes in 1Cor 5:7 "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" Under the Law of Moses God had instituted the passover celebration as a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt, but it was also a foreshadowing of Christ, as is much of what is written in the Old Testament. The last of the 10 plagues God brought upon Egypt for enslaving his people God instructed the Israelites to sacrifice lambs and paint the door frames of their houses with the blood. God then sent angel of death to kill all the firstborn of Egypt, but passed over all the houses that had been sprinkled by the blood of the lamb. That's why it's called passover. And what we refer to as the Last Supper which Jesus celebrated with his disciples, and which we Christians celebrate as communion, was really a passover meal, during which Jesus took a cup of wine and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Lk 22:20 For "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Rom 3:25 

Thus we are saved from the wrath of God by the blood of Christ. Paul writes, "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!" Rom 5:6-9 And Peter writes, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." 1Peter 1:18-21 and goes on to say, "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit" 1Peter 3:18

Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for "in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace" Eph 1:7

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Rom 5:1,2 For sin no longer controls our destiny. "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Col 3:13-15

So we say as Paul does, "Thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—  if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel." Col 1:12-23a

Jul 29,2015