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March 28
March 28th is a really really important date to me. Probably one of the most important days of the year. It is the anniversary of my very first date with my wife Melanie. She was a senior in high school, I was a softmore in college. She used to stand right over there with her friends after church, much the same way different groups of young people will form after church…and so I started to lurk around her group. She had a boyfriend. Why she dated him, I will never know. I had a girlfriend. Both were long term relationships. Serious. And I still remember the Saturday before Easter that year, we had an all day rehearsal for an Easter concert we were doing, and so we went to lunch at wendy’s on route 40. I figured out a way to sit right across from her and her best friend who is the daughter of one of our greeters and long time deacons. And I said to her, I think you should break up with your boyfriend. He needs to go. She claims she was going to break up with him anyway. So she broke up with him. I had already broken up with my girlfriend. Such a sad story for Easter Sunday. It gets happier. That Tuesday night, I was in my college apartment. And I picked up this thing called a phone that was actually plugged into the wall. And I called Melanie. And I had to speak to her Dad first. Imagine that. And I asked her to go out on a date with me.
And as I wrote the directions to her house on a piece of paper, I wrote “this is the one I am going to marry.” And on March 28 we went to Chi-Chi’s…and we went to a park, I was a perfect gentleman. We sat on the see saw…on opposite sides. And we just had the most amazing talk. March 28…a day that changed everything for me.
There was my life before March 28th and my life after March 28th. Everything in my life changed. For the better.
WE
And we have moments like that in life. It could be the first date with a soul mate. It could be the date of a huge accomplishment. It could be the birth of a child. Every thing changes.
Easter Sunday-the day everything changed
And that is what Easter Sunday is. It is a dividing line. It is a date when everything changes. Easter is a day that changes the way you see the world. Your priorities. That which you worship and value. Easter is a day that changes the way you relate to others. The way you raise your children. Easter changes everything.
Because there is the pre-Easter way of living and the post-Easter way of living. There is living on the wrong side of Easter and living on the right side of Easter.
In 2 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul gives us the most detailed defense of the resurrection of Jesus. He tells us that Jesus appeared to his disciples. That he appeared to 500 others. Most of the passage is this awesome defense of the resurrection. But for a few verses, Paul imagines what life would be if Jesus didn’t truly rise from the grave.
1 Corinthians 15:12–19 ESV
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
In other words, Paul says if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead our faith is pointless, our sins remain unforgiven, those who have died before us are just gone, they just cease to exist, that we are wasting our lives, and people should feel sorry for us.
In other words, Easter is the whole ball game.
UCONN
The women’s basketball team from the University of Connecticut was undefeated in the regular season last year. But they were shocked in the semi finals of the championship. They were undefeated again in the regular season this year and played Notre Dame in the semi finals and lost again on a last second shot. They are 146 and 2 in the last 148 games. But for two years now, they were undefeated all season long but lost in the semi-finals. The head coach said, it’s as if all our wins, all the success of the season was all for nothing. We didn’t win when it counted.
If Jesus had lived the life he lived, performed the miracles he performed, died the death he died on the cross, and had even remained morally perfect throughout, but if he didn’t rise from the dead, it was all for nothing. It was like a basketball team being undefeated all year, but not winning when it counts. Just like the final four and the championship round is the whole ball game for a team like UCONN, Easter is the whole ball game for Jesus.
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead…we are living in a perpetual Holy Saturday.
Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday
The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the lowest and saddest day of the church year and is known as Holy Saturday. When we recite the apostles creed there is that little phrase that says, “he descended into hell.” That is a loaded statement, because it encompasses the many Holy Saturday events that are recorded in the Scriptures. While Jesus was descending into hell, says he was preaching to the spirits in hades, preaching to the dead during this time, raiding Hades, the waiting place of the saints who had died in the OT, and paying the ransom to free them from Hades.
Holy Saturday was a day of despair for the disciples and the followers of Jesus. A dead Messiah was no Messiah at all. They had seen him die. They dispersed, began to go back to their old lives. If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, it is still Holy Saturday. And if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, it shouldn’t even be called Holy Saturday because if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead there was nothing holy about that Saturday at all.
And go back even further before Holy Saturday, go back in time further to before Good Friday and to Jesus’ ministry and life. See that whole time period as pre-Easter, Easter as the day that changed everything, and post-Easter. Which side of Easter are you living on. I didn’t ask you if you believe Jesus rose from the dead, I am sure most sitting here either believe he rose from the dead, or hope he rose from the dead…I am not asking you if you believe in Easter Sunday, I am asking you which SIDE of Easter Sunday are you living on? Because it is two different ways of living, two different ways of seeing the world, two different ways of interacting with others, two different sets of priorities, two totally different ways of living. The pre-Easter way and the post-Easter way. And I’m not just talking to those who are either far from God, maybe you are here because someone made you attend, perhaps you don’t believe all this Jesus stuff, or you are skeptical, I am talking to you, but I am also talking to those who claim to be Christians. Who claim to love Jesus. Who are followers of Jesus. Which side of Easter are you living on?
Pre-Easter Versus Post-Easter
Supernatural versus Natural
Those who are pre-Easter people live in the natural and not the supernatural. You believe in what you can see. In hard work. In your own efforts. In climbing the ladder.
A post-Easter person lives in the supernatural. Paul said in it is living by the law of the spirit of life. With Easter…everything changed. We were propelled into the supernatural…verse 3:
Matthew 28:1–10 ESV
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
The best trained Roman soldiers being struck down as dead men. Supernatural. An angel appearing to the woman. Supernatural. An angel speaking to the women. Supernatural. Jesus appearing to the women after being butchered on a cross and dead in the tomb. Supernatural.
It gets better…
Luke 24:30–37 ESV
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.
A man disappearing…supernatural. A man appearing out of nowhere right in front of you. Supernatural. It gets better…
30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.
A man disappearing…supernatural. A man appearing out of nowhere right in front of you. Supernatural. It gets better…
Luke 24:50–52 ESV
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
A man standing on planet earth who begins ascending up into Heaven in plain sight. Supernatural.
Application
Living in pre-Easter is believing in only what you can see. Only in the natural.
But Easter changed everything.
Post-Easter living is living in what you can’t see. So practically, it is trusting God when all seems lost. Instead of feeling the need to control situations and people it is knowing that God is somehow at work usually in a way that you can’t always see. That God is always working. Living on the wrong side of Easter is an incessant need to have all the answers and to only believe in what you personally can see. Living on the right side of Easter is believing in what you can’t see and when you don’t have all the answers.
Think about what this means for a church…or for a family…a post Easter church, a post Easter family believes in God doing the impossible. In God using us to reach all people with nothing but Jesus. In God supernaturally using each of you to reach others.
CJ and Texas Roadhouse
Think about what this means for a church…or for a family…a post Easter church, a post Easter family believes in God doing the impossible. In God using us to reach all people with nothing but Jesus. In God supernaturally using each of you to reach others.
Easter changed everything and to live on the right side of Easter is to live in the supernatural.
Jesus Plus Something Versus Jesus Plus Nothing
Living on the right side of Easter is to be a Nothing but Jesus person.
A pre-Easter person is a Jesus plus something else person. It’s a person who sings your grace is enough and in Christ alone on Sunday but is an anything but Jesus person on Monday through Saturday.
A pre-Easter person is someone who has muddied the message of Jesus.
Who is unclear about the message of Jesus.
The Galatians were people who had distorted the message of Jesus, listen to a paraphrase of what Paul says to them in :
I can’t believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.
Paul said in:
:
1 Corinthians 2:1 ESV
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
1 Corinthians 2:3–5 ESV
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
And I, when I came to you, brothers,[f] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony[g] of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men[h] but in the power of God. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
In other words, Paul said, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified and what it means in your life.
The disciples and followers of Jesus, and practically everyone who encountered him, wanted Jesus to give more than only himself.
*They wanted him to be a political figure. To overthrow Rome. To settle old scores. Jesus said squat about politics. He said give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. And he said my kingdom is not of this world. He basically said the exact opposite of what we see acted out when it comes to Christians and politics.
PR Problem
Christians really do have a PR problem out in the world. If you were to ask non Christians to describe evangelicals they would say a bunch of different things because we have had a bunch of different messages. They would identify us with a political party. Or a political hot button issue. Or people who supported this candidate or that candidate. Or people who are judgmental. Or those who don’t drink, who don’t dance, who don’t smoke, or whatever depending on what denomination you are talking about. Or people who focus on theological minutia, or those people who fight over style of music or the color of paint on the walls.
Christians have a PR problem because we live on the wrong side of Easter. There was mass confusion over who Jesus was and what his message meant before Easter. Jesus wasn’t confused or confusing, the people were, even his disciples were…but post Easter, after the day that changed everything, the message was crystal clear. Paul got it, he said in I want to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Vegetarian Illustration
This past week, I was teaching a Bible class to some high school students, and we were talking about what it means to “stand up for your faith.” And I was prying by making the kids define exactly what it was they were standing up for. And they talked about defending on this issue, or that moral issue. Honestly, it’s alarming. And I told them that when they stand up for their faith that means standing up for nothing but Jesus. That’s it. That’s the whole ball game. And I could see a light bulb went off for one of the students. She said…when you think of a vegetarian, you think of someone who doesn’t eat meat because they believe eating meat is cruelty to animals, so that is why they eat vegetables. Period. Full stop. That’s it. That’s what a vegetarian is. A vegetarian doesn’t only eat vegetables because of gun control. Is it possible that vegetarians are more laser focused on what they are about than Christians are?
A pre-Easter Christian, a person living on the wrong side of Easter doesn’t have their message straight.
Great Commission Poll
51 percent of Christians when asked, have you heard of the Great Commission answered NO. An additional 25 percent said yes, but I can’t recall the exact meaning. Only 17 percent had heard of the Great Commission and could say what it meant.
That’s because we are pre-Easter people still confused about Jesus.
The Great Commission is when Jesus said to his disciples, go into all the world and preach the gospel, make disciples of all people. In other words, live to reach all people with nothing but Jesus. That is the great commission. That is our message.
Those living on the right side of Easter get that. They are laser focused, not looking to the left or to the right.
And it makes a difference in your life. In the way you respond to things. It’s so easy to say NBJ when things go your way, but how about when things don’t go your way? When you are offended. When you are mistreated.
Living in pre-Easter means always having to press your case. It means needing to get even. We talked about that last week—but it is so easy to preach that—but what about when you are offended?
It almost never fails...in the days leading up to my sermon and the days immediately after my sermon I am personally tested or faced with the exact issue I preached about. So last week was on and Paul says do not repay evil for evil. Bless those who persecute you. Extremely difficult passage.
CJ and Texas Roadhouse
CJ and Texas Roadhouse
And so Tuesday was CJ’s birthday. He is our youngest. He looks forward to his birthday every year. He plans it. And so he wanted to go to his favorite restaurant for his birthday, he loves the peanuts there. And I won’t tell you which restaurant it was except that it is named after a state where George Bush was governor and a movie that starred Patrick Swayze. But I won’t tell you which restaurant.
So we went to dinner and Melanie told the waitress that it was CJ’s birthday—hint, hint…can you guys do your thing…she said of course. A few minutes later, a bunch of the waiters come out and one of them hollers out to the whole room, “attention everyone, we have a very special birthday today...” and Melanie and I look at each other thinking wow that was fast. But it wasn’t for CJ. No big deal. A few minutes later, another one. Attention everyone we have a very special birthday. Not for CJ. Again, no big deal. It happened again. Three birthdays for three adults who didn’t even look like they wanted the birthday recognition. So we are coming to the end of our meal—maybe they forgot. So our waitress comes over and we reminded her and she said, “oh I’m sorry, I asked and the waiters and waitresses don’t want to do it.” We thought she was joking. She wasn’t. She said she would ask again. We sat there in shock. She comes back and says the same thing.
CJ handled it really well. He didn’t seem to care. But then we started thinking about it. Who do those punk waiters think they are? I started to plot revenge. I said, I’m going to stand up on the booth like they do when they get everyone’s attention, Melanie can video-tape, this will go viral. I am going to shout out, can I have everyone’s attention please. Tonight is my son’s birthday and he has been looking forward to coming here all year long. Because he loves the peanuts. But we were just told twice that the lousy staff here doesn’t want to sing to him. So let’s all raise our glasses and instead of shouting out yee-haw, let’s all boo them.
Those living on the right side of Easter live in the supernatural, those living on the right side of Easter are NBJ people with a laser focus on NBJ, and those living on the right side of Easter live in bold, confidant, hopeful anticipation of the future.
Fear Versus Hopeful Anticipation
Those who are pre-easter people are gripped by fear, by anxiety…think about the disciples on Holy Saturday. Hiding. Wondering if they were next.
I believe that we should walk through Good Friday and through Holy Saturday. We shouldn’t rush to Easter Sunday. But Holy Saturday isn’t a destination point, it’s a place that we visit. It’s a place and time that we remember and ponder. But isn’t a place that we stay.
But think about the disciples post-Easter. After the day that changed everything. They were beasts. They were bold. Peter had denied Jesus to a little girl…now he is out in the open preaching the Gospel. Willing to go to prison. The post-Easter disciples, I think are the greatest proof of all that Jesus rose from the dead.
Proof of Disciples
These are 12 men who pre-Easter, on Holy Saturday and even before, were cowardly, were confused, were looking to add something, anything, something political, something moral to the message of Jesus. Post-Easter they are openly preaching the Gospel all over the place. 12 men, plus many others, don’t die for something they would have known to be a lie. One of them would have buckled.
Charles Colson who was a close advisor to Richard Nixon spent time in prison for his role in Watergate. He became a Christian and became one of the most influencial Christians of the late 20th century. He said
I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned, and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world—and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.
-Charles Colson
The pre-Easter disciples? Bound by fear, focused on themselves, lots of anxiety, focused on the moment.
The post-Easter apostles? Relentlessly preaching the Gospel. Boldly anticipating the future.
The Apostle Paul closes out his long defense of the resurrection in showing us that a post-Easter person, a person living on the right side of Easter, has their eyes on the hope and glory of the future…
1 Corinthians 15:51–58 ESV
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
My Nightmare
Gripped by fear. Palpable fear. Living on the wrong side of Easter.
A person who lives on the right side of Easter knows that we are strangers in this land, that we are citizens of another time of another place…they keep their eyes on the crown of life Jesus promised to those who trust in him, on his death bed, Paul said, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing”.
A person living on the right side of Easter sees death as a beginning and not an end, departing from this life as setting sail to a greater land, as Paul said, “we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”.
A person living on the right side of Easter is confident that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…that if God is for us, who can be against us, that God fights for us all we need to do is be still, that the Lord watches over us, that the Lord will watch over our lives, that the Lord will watch over our coming and going both now and forevermore, that there is no judgment, no hell for those who are in Christ, that we are welcomed home into our eternal rest.
A person living on the right side of Easter can say because he lives, I can face tomorrow, because he lives all fear is gone, because I know he holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives.
A person living on the right side of Easter can say when we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.
And that until then he gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. That if the son has set us free we are free indeed. That all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
Are you living on the right side of Easter? Easter was the day that everything changed.
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