How You and I Benefit from Easter / The empty tomb
During the celebration of Christmas, many people spend time frantically searching for, buying, and wrapping gifts to give to others. During the celebration of Thanksgiving, our thoughts should be on God, but they turn toward family, food, and fun, and making sure that everyone has a good time. During the celebration of a New Year, we are forced to ponder the past and the future and we strive to do those things that will make our future better than our past.
The celebration of Easter is unique. The reason why we celebrate this holiday has nothing at all to do with anything we have done or can do for ourselves, for others, or for God. Rather, Easter commemorates what God did for us in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, to be buried, and to rise from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a once-in-history event that had never happened before and has never happened since. When the angels rolled back the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb, and declared, “He is not here. He is risen as he said,” Hell groaned in agony, heaven shook with rejoicing, and the earth trembled in awe. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the singular event in history that stands above all others in scope or importance, and each of us alive today benefit from the event commemorated by the celebration of Easter.
What are the benefits that mankind receives because of Easter?
MUSICAL SELECTION: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Kathryn Scott
We live in a world that appears to be awfully temporary. The events of each day seem bent on making us understand that we are living on borrowed time — that at any moment everything we know could come to a screeching halt. Everyday, lives are cut short by illness, car accidents, and criminal activity. Each hour serves as a reminder that we ought to be grateful for every breath we take. As the Bible says, life is just “a vapor that appeareth for a little while and then passeth away.”
Just this past week, dozens of high school students from Los Angeles were on a bus heading to northern California to visit a university. The journey was an expression of their dreams, aspirations, and plans for the future. However, it was cut short when a FedEx truck exploded into flames and crashed into the bus. Ten people on the bus were killed — their lives cut short, the dreams they had for the future forever left unfulfilled.
Despite evidence that seems to point to the contrary, death is unnatural. The cessation of a human life at any age was never meant to be. The reality is: we are eternal souls meant to live and enjoy a never-ending relationship with an eternal God. Death was not a part of the Creator’s original plan for you and me.
You may think that when you die, that will be the end of everything for you — you will simply cease to exist. But that is not the case. When your body dies, your spirit will separate from it and continue to live throughout eternity in one of two eternal locations — Heaven or Hell. Heaven and Hell are just as real as the city where you live. And your immaterial soul is just as real as the physical body it is held in right now.
Heaven, Hell, and your soul — these are things that last forever.
Over the past few weeks, as the world watched the tense situation in Ukraine, numerous analysts, experts, officials, and politicians likened the divide between Russia and Western nations to the conditions of the Cold War. After World War II, Russia and the USSR maintained a long period of conflict with the United States and European nations. During this time, there was not an all-out war between the two blocs, but both sides built up military capabilities and tried to undermine the other side in numerous ways including through economic sanctions, propaganda, and espionage. For many years, the Iron Curtain divided these two sides ideologically — on the Eastern side were nations under Communist control, and on the Western side were free countries under democratic governments.
In the late 1980s, a wave of change began to sweep across the European continent and culminated with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The conditions of the Cold War are a compelling metaphor for the division that exists between sinful men and a holy God. God wants to have a good relationship with all people. He wants to be on friendly and peaceful terms with us. However, sin rises between us and God like an iron curtain shutting us off from God’s blessings. Foolishly, many people cling to their sin. They know that they should get right with God, but they don’t want to give up the way they have been living, so a separation between them and God continues. One day, if things are not made right, the separation will be permanent, and that poor soul will never have another chance to get right with God.
Because God loves us and does not want us to be separated from Him forever, He took the first step in tearing down the wall between us and Him. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to die on the cross for our sins — taking the punishment that we deserve — so that we would have the opportunity to believe in Christ, have our sins washed away, and have a relationship with God. Ephesians 2 says, “Now in Christ Jesus, ye who once were far off have been brought nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” For each of those who have chosen to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior, this passage goes on to say, “Now therefore, ye are strangers and foreigners no more, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”
Hundreds of years ago, in the Jewish temple, there was a thick curtain that hung in front of a space referred to as the Holy of Holies. This space represented the presence of God among His people. However, the thick curtain represented the separation between humans and God. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, there was a great earthquake, and the curtain in the Temple ripped in half from top to bottom. The tearing of the curtain showed that there did not have to be any more separation between man and God. Through Jesus Christ, anyone can approach God and receive forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.
The much-anticipated film starring Russell Crowe as “Noah” is now in theatres. The story, of course, is based on the account of the Great Flood which is recorded in the book of Genesis in the Bible. A popular song titled “It’s Gonna Rain” captured the story as well.
Many years after God created the earth, humanity had become extremely wicked. The Bible says the “whole earth was filled with violence.” Men and women were fighting each other, killing each other, robbing each other, having illicit sexual relationships, and ruining the beautiful world that God had made.
God was grieved by how His creation was acting. He decided that He would not tolerate their evil ways anymore and that He would wipe out the earth’s population and start all over with the only man who was living righteously. That man was Noah.
God came to Noah one day and told him that, for the first time in history, it was going to rain. The water pouring down from the sky, and the release of the water under the earth’s surface, would cause a great flood that would destroy the earth and every living thing on the earth. God also gave Noah instructions to build a huge vessel — an ark — in order to save his family and save the animals.
Noah and his family got busy building the ark, and for many years, Noah warned the people of earth that destruction was coming because of their sins. Unfortunately, the people didn’t listen to Noah. They didn’t believe that rain was going to come because nobody had seen rain before. So they continued to live as they pleased, ignoring Noah’s warning.
However, just as God promised, the rain came causing all of the earth’s surface to be covered in water. Only Noah, his family, and the animals with them in the ark were saved. All of those outside the ark perished in the flood.
MUSICAL SELECTION: “It’s Gonna Rain” by the Sensational Nightingales
Have you ever asked someone to do you a solid? Have you ever heard someone else use this phrase?
According to UrbanDictionary.com, the term “do me a solid” became popular in urban communities during the mid-1980s. It gained even more popularity after it was used in a Seinfeld episode in 1991 where Kramer says to Jerry, “Hey. Hey, would you do me a solid?” Jerry says, “Well, what kind of solid?” And Kramer says, “I need you to sit in the car for two minutes while it’s double-parked. I gotta pick up some birds.”
You might remember it from the film American Hustle, where Pete Musane (played by Jack Huston) tells Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale), “my boss knows you did him a real solid.”
The term was also used in the movie Juno, where the title character asks a man who is about to leave his wife and put the well-being of a child they promised to take care of at risk, to “do me a solid and just stay with Vanessa [his wife].”
More recently, Dennis Rodman used the term in a Twitter message to the president of North Korea, saying: “I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him ‘Kim’, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae [an imprisoned American missionary] loose.”
The phrase “do me a solid” means to do a favor for someone or to help out a friend.
We could say that many years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did us a solid by showing grace and favor to us when He died on the cross for our sins so that we can be forgiven and be able to go to Heaven with Him one day. Let me explain:
1. Jesus did us a solid by loving us even when we were yet sinners and didn’t love Him. Perhaps, as a child, you heard or sang the chorus, “Yes, Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.” God the Father expressed His love for each and every one of us by sending Jesus Christ to Earth to live and die for our sins. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” First John 4:19 says, “We love him because he first loved us.” As Jesus carried out His ministry on earth — healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, and preaching that the kingdom of God had come — many people rejected Him, hated Him, and wanted to get rid of Him. However, Jesus continued to love and serve them anyway. Even today, there are people who speak negatively of Jesus Christ and do not appreciate what He did for us. Some people simply try to ignore Him and His influence on the world. However, Jesus loves us anyway. To use a Biblical phrase, He loves us “with an everlasting love.” Jesus did us a solid.
2. Jesus did us a solid by dying for us and taking the punishment that we deserve. Jesus did not just come to earth to tell us how much He loves us. He came to earth to show us how much He loves us. The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “God commendeth (or shows) his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Without Jesus’ death on the cross — without the punishment for sin being poured out on the perfect Son of God — each of us would die and be punished forever in Hell because of our sins. The Bible says “the wages of sin is death.” If Jesus did not take our place and our punishment, we would be doomed to Hell forever. Jesus did us a solid.
3. Jesus did us a solid by making it possible for us to go to Heaven when we die. Even though Jesus died a cruel, painful death, that was not the end. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the dead demonstrating that He had defeated sin, the devil, death, and hell. In Revelation 1:18, Jesus Christ declared, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection gave each of us the opportunity to overcome sin, death, and hell as well. If we believe on Jesus Christ and the sacrificial work that He completed by His death on the cross and by His resurrection from the grave, we will be given salvation from sin, deliverance from the punishment of sin, and eternal life with God in Heaven. As the Bible says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
My friend, Jesus Christ did us all a solid even when He didn’t have to. He made it easy for us to live a meaningful life on Earth where we can have a relationship with God as well as an abundant, joyous life in Heaven.
MUSICAL SELECTION: “How He Loves” by the David Crowder* Band