Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
The Resurrection of Our Lord (Sunrise) + April 16, 2017
Text: John 20:1-18
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
No doubt you’ve seen it for a few weeks now. Easter sales, Easter dresses, Easter candy, Easter lilies. If you didn’t know better, you might think Easter is just another holiday with its traditions, no different from the 4th of July. It’s just an excuse to get together and have fun with family and friends.
But with all of these traditions, it might be hard to get down to the reason for celebrating. If we don’t know what Easter is about, then we’re just left with pastel colors, bunnies, and ham. The name “Easter” doesn’t tell the story. The reason we celebrate today is because this is the Resurrection of Our Lord. Jesus who was dead now lives!
It’s popular this time of year to try and debunk the Resurrection as old-fashioned myth, or just a peculiarity of Christian religious tradition. If it is, then get up and go home. Religion is just an opiate for the masses, and I’m peddling nothing more than therapeutic lies.
But it is not just myth, it is truth. Jesus actually was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. He actually suffered under the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. And yes, He did rise from the dead on the Third Day. All of this is true, and that’s what makes Easter such a reason to celebrate.
The resurrection of Jesus is a fundamental change to our existence. Sin is forgiven and death’s grasp is broken! Without Jesus and His resurrection, life on earth is depressing. All you can hope to do is live for the moment and spend time with all the other people who no more than a flash in the pan of time. But Jesus is risen, and that means human life has a hope and a future—the hope and future God truly intends for all people.
The resurrection of Jesus gives comfort in sickness and death. He gives the hope of a joyous eternity. His resurrection puts the greatest joys and most painful sorrows of this life into eternal perspective. As we grow weary of this life, that’s where Easter makes all the difference.
The true meaning of Easter—the death and resurrection of Jesus—is not something to be put on the shelf and brought out just once a year. The devil would love it if you believe that lie, because then he can get you to do whatever he wants, scaring you with the threat of the grave. If you believe that, you may as well eat all the ham and candy you can get your hands on, because you too will die. But if you want more, believe in Jesus whose death and resurrection changes everything.
That’s why Easter is such a big celebration. Jesus gives joy to our lives! He gives us more joy than can be found in fleeting things. He lifts up our hearts from the depths of sorrow and gives us new hope and strength. When it looks to us like everything is a lost cause, our Lord and Savior is there with His Word—“Do not be afraid.” Amen.
 The name Easter comes to us from the Old English name for the month of April.