Easter Says …
By Dr. Hal Brady
For more than 50 years I stood in the pulpit on Easter Sunday morning and proclaimed, “Jesus Christ is Risen!”
And the congregation responded, “Christ is Risen, indeed.”
Almost needless to say, I made that proclamation by faith. If some of you reading this column are wanting proof that Jesus is alive, I can honestly say that I have none to give. No preacher, teacher or even the Bible can prove it. In none of the gospel accounts do we have an eye witness to the actual resurrection.
The Resurrection simply defies all logic and reason. It goes against our understanding of nature. So, if the Resurrection is to become a reality for us, we have to believe it without proof. We have to accept it through faith.
Bishop Will Willimon says, “You can't really ‘see’ the resurrection but you must believe the resurrection before you can see.”
So what does Easter really say? It says a whole lot more than I will write here.
First, Easter says that the reality of the Resurrection is more important than the details! What can we say about the differing details of the Resurrection story? To be sure, the biblical accounts of the Easter event differ according to the details. For instance, the gospel writers have different numbers of women at the tomb.
However, even though the biblical accounts may differ according to the details, they do not differ at the point of the reality of the resurrection. The accounts all agree on the essentials.
These accounts agree that the Resurrection of Jesus was an act of God. They agree that Christ confronted his disciples – they didn't just think up a fiction of a happy ending. All the stories show the disciples taken unaware by the One who met them in their sadness. The accounts agree that the event itself, however it was, transformed the lives of Christ's disciples.
The greatest evidence for the reality of the resurrection of Jesus is not the empty tomb; it's the transformed lives of the disciples.
Second, Easter says that God validates Jesus and His ministry! “Thumbs down” on you! That's what the world said to Jesus at the crucifixion. So Jesus was executed as a common criminal between two thieves. At that point, all the loveliness of his life mattered nothing.
But on Easter morning God answered the world's “No” with a resounding “Yes.” The resurrection was God’s validation of Jesus and his ministry. Despite the world's disapproval, God approved of Jesus. The reign of God as preached by Jesus, the nature of reconciliation, the new life and the ethics of love – all these take on added meaning because of the resurrection. And therein is our continuing hope for the world.
Third, Easter says that mercy and forgiveness are always available! For many years, my wife and I would receive a letter from her mother almost weekly. More often than not, there would be a phrase in that letter that had special appeal to me. “And tell Hal!” “And tell Hal,” she would say. Usually, some particularly good news of special interest would follow.
That is precisely what happened on that first Easter morning.
“Don't be surprised,” said the angel to the women, “You seek Jesus who was crucified. He isn't here. He's come back to life. Now, go tell his disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee, there you will see him...” (Mark 16:6,7).
“And tell Peter!” In all probability, these are some of the most precious words in the Easter story. This special message of comfort, naming Peter specifically, removed a great deal of his anguish. His master still loved him and had plans for him. In this command of the angel to the women, we hear God’s promise of forgiveness and restitution. We also hear God’s renewed call and all of our fresh start.
And fourth, Easter says that God has the last word! Easter is the basis of our hope of victory over death.
Now, the Easter faith in no way seeks to deny the reality of death. But the Easter faith does declare gloriously that death is not the final word. As a matter of fact, Easter says that our end is really our beginning.
Dr. Dan Poling, one-time editor of Christian Herald Magazine, wrote of his last visit with his mother out in Oregon. She was quite ill and elderly. As he prepared to leave and return to his office across the continent in New York, he sat with her for one final hour. When at last he started to leave the room, she called to him, “Dan, if I’m not here when you return, you’ll know where to find me.” Those were the last words he heard her speak, but he did indeed know where to find her.
In conclusion, John Wesley stated, “I believe in the Resurrection not because I can explain it, but because it has happened to me.” Happy Easter!
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries.