Two recent polls (Barna & Gallup) reveal what Americans think of Easter:

hope-lives_gold67% see Easter as religious in nature…
(which explains why church attendance is UP)
42% connect it to the event of Christ’s resurrection
(spiritual literacy is declining quickly in US)
33% simply deny the resurrection as a fact
(the number of embolden agnostics & atheists is on the rise)

On April 10, on Fox and Friends, Bill O’Reilly said:  “No one knows if Jesus’ resurrection really happened.”

If you were asked to prove the Resurrection as fact, could you?

1 Corinthians 15 includes the oldest-known New Testament passage… a CREED written shortly after the events that it records. This creed has 4 simple parts…

hope-lives Patrick.0031. Christ died for our sins*
2. Christ was buried
3. Christ rose on the 3rd day*
4. Christ appeared to 500+ eye-witnesses

May I humbly submit each of these as their own portion of evidence for proof?

Exhibit A – The cross.  Christ died for our sins.  Put to death by professional killers.  Romans had perfected its art.  Legalized torture & execution, using criminals as public examples.  Jesus was carefully executed in cold blood.  There is no denial.  But he was not criminal… yet he was more than a martyr.  The creed says that he died FOR OUR SINS… ACC to SCRIPTURES.  Not just one passage – but the whole of the Bible pointed to this moment.

Because we all have sinned, we all have strayed, and because our sin demands a price, Jesus Christ shed his blood.  Heb 9:22 – without blood, there is no forgiveness.  In the Old Testament, priests would constantly stand in the temple, shedding blood of lambs and other animals, offering up the bodies on an altar as an appeasement to a God very angry with sin.  As the sin debt piled up, animal blood could not truly pay for it.  Heb 9:26 – Jesus offered himself as the perfect lamb of God.  He gave up himself as the lamb of God!

hope-lives_blueExhibit B – He was buried.  I overlooked this one.  But this is essential.  It goes to prove that he died.  He didn’t swoon or take Dr. Banner’s special serum that lowered his heart to 1-beat/min.  He was gone.  After being beaten, having a spear stab through his heart, hanging on a cross for 6 hours. He was buried in a rich man’s tomb.  A huge stone was rolled in place, the tomb was sealed, and 2 roman guards stood outside.  A historian of that day, Josephus, who was not a believer, records these events just as I tell them…

Exhibit C – He rose again on the 3rd day. There is no natural explanation, this was a supernatural event. The Son of God came to life from death as easy as you wake up from sleep.  There’s an empty tomb to prove it!  Jesus is the only religious leader who didn’t stay dead!  Some have THEORIES… he woke up, snuck out… that’s a miracle!!  The Jews & Romans tried to cover it up by saying his body was stolen… you’ll notice that they never denied that He actually died and was buried!  It was a fact.

Exhibit D – the most compelling evidence. The fact that he was seen of over 500 different people after his death and burial! For most people, your funeral is the last time people see you… Spoke to TN DA this week…  how much evidence is needed to PROVE something in court.  Can one eyewitness do it?  [Scenario.]  Depends on the credibility of the witness in the eyes of the jury/judge.  So Jesus was seen of over 500… but are these people credible.  Is this creed credible testimony…  I asked the DA, what if the witness, knowing that sharing their account would mean their death, would that lend to their credibility.  She laughed as if the question was absurdly obvious… of course!  Of these 500, over a dozen gave their lives because of this fact.  Who would endure torture & death to foster a lie/myth?  Few men would die for the truth!  These did…

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I beg for your decision.  Consider the evidence.  If you cannot deny it, shouldn’t you accept it?

Why is Easter so important to Christians / church?

Why does this even matter?  1 Cor. 15:17… if Christ is not raised… you are still in sin.  The entirety of our faith hinges on this…  But if you flip easter over and look again, you’ll see a different kind of proof.  Not proof FOR The resurrection, but you’ll see that the resurrection IS proof!  It is proof of God’s mighty POWER.  It is proof of God’s incomprehensible LOVE.  It is proof of God’s MERCY & grace – that our sins are not counted against us.  It is proof that our debt – the debt of all our sin – has been PAID IN FULL…  IT’S YOUR RECEIPT!!

This is important because – like 1 Cor 15:19 says…  without the resurrection, we are without hope.  But, in Christ, Hope Lives.  The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15… is an explanation of the living hope…

hope-lives_purpleHope Lives… in this life!

– your faith is more than a crutch
– joy, truth, and grace are more than words – they are real
– God is totally and completely in control – even when I am not!

Hope Lives… for eternity!

– believers will rise again to new life
– we are free from the curse of sin & it’s consequences
– we have comfort to be able to endure tragic loss
– that fuels us to be faithful Christians

My Dad’s death is so recent, I still feel it’s sting like it was yesterday…  Just a few months before we came to Grace Park, on a warm, sunny day, I got a frantic call from my mom… a call that has brought fear to phone calls ever since: “Patrick, I NEED YOU.  Your Dad, he’s shot himself!  I NEED YOU.”  What?…  Minutes earlier, my Dad had gone to his cabinet, pulled out an SKS rifle, walked behind the barn, and sat down… and exited this life.  He pulled the trigger because he lost hope.

He was a deacon, a SS teacher, and He loved the Lord & church.  He was a good man.  He was a Christian man, BUT He was in constant pain, He couldn’t handle it. Later, we found out that he was on some medication and began taking himself off… He lost his way, He lost hope.  He died a death of hopelessness.

Hopelessness is dangerous. Christian, don’t lose hope!  Hope Lives – because Jesus lives.  The empty tomb offers you a full life.  We don’t have to live empty lives, because Hope Lives.  Jesus is alive!