Earlier this week I read a blog post entitled “Why Easter is Bigger than Christmas” and that got me thinking… What is the big deal with Easter anyway? I mean, it’s a celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead. But that’s it…or is it?
Paul broaches the subject in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19, so let’s try and put this into context. Jesus’ resurrection is a big deal. A Really Big Deal. A Really, Really, REALLY Big Deal. So big, in fact, that it is the essential event every human must respond to at some point in their existence – either in this life or the afterlife. It’s that big.
Think about this with me for a second… If Jesus didn’t get up from the grave then obviously everything he said and did has been invalidated. But not only that, since the Bible contains the story of Jesus, if what Jesus said and did becomes invalid then everything else in the Bible is also invalid (that whole “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” thing). You read that right: if Jesus didn’t raise from the dead we can dismiss the entire Bible and everything in it. But it goes beyond that even. I’m arguing that without the resurrection then the very presences of an Almighty God is lost.
Think this through with me for a second… The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is what sets Christianity apart from every other world religion. No other religion says that God came to Earth to save us. No other religion says that God died on a cross. And no other religion says that God came back from the dead. Without the resurrection, Christianity is no different than any other religion or philosophy; religions all try to address the question of what to do with God – and, in essence, all religions (except for Christianity) say, at best, we have to do something to earn the approval of God. This is where Christianity stands in contrast to world religions, because it says there’s nothing that we can do to earn God’s approval.
Think of three competing philosophies: one that says there is no God, one that says we need to find a way to God, and one that says God reaches down to make a way for us. Christianity is obviously the last, but without the Resurrection Christianity is proved false. Yet because there are so many competing philosophies that fall into group B, all that basically say the same thing, one could argue that the very presense of so many competing philosophies in-and-of-itself invalidates them all (this is the argument Christian apologists have to argue to separate Christianity from other religions, because with so many competing viewpoints pretty much everyone is able to recognize that none are true). So after Christianity and Group B are both gotten rid of, the only choice left is that there is no God.
But what’s the big deal with that? Simple. Without God we are left ultimately with nothing but the here-and-now. Without God we have no purpose, no authority to answer to… We should “eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow we may die.” How does that look practically? To start with, we would have no reason to teach good and bad to our kids, but there is no right or wrong. We’d have no reason to listen to those who have authority over us because, well, no one is in authority over them to put them in authority over us – so we have anarchy. We have no reason to fulfill or honor any vows we have made throughout our life – be it to our spouse, our friends, our family, or our jobs. Life truly becomes survival of the fittest, and so any and everything I do is justified and “right” as long as it helps me survive. I keep my promises – as long as it helps me and makes me stronger; I don’t cheat in business – as long as it means I come out on top; I don’t honor authority – as long as doing so doesn’t get me killed; I don’t value the life of anyone – unless their value brings me strength and victory.
See, without the resurrection we have absolutely nothing. What purpose is there to being good, honest, and fair? Why fight for the freedom of other people – when they might end up being stronger than we are and overtake us? Why work for “the good of humanity”, when humanity will just be out to get me? Without the resurrection we have nothing.
But with it – well, now that changes things. Because Jesus did raise – bodily – from the dead, that means there’s a God out there who is just. A just God means that there are rules to be followed, order to be enforced, rewards to be earned, and punishments to be given. Let’s just say it – a just God means there is right and wrong. But it also means there is a God who paid the way for that justice to happen without compromising it in the least. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are not just because “God loved me so much…” (though they are about that). The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ mean that God is so just that he was not able to accept sinners into relationship with him unless a price was paid to wipe out their sin. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ show us that God paid that price and made a way for us to live in communion with him for all eternity. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ paid the way for a just and loving God to offer forgiveness to individual people.
That’s huge – it’s absolutely mind-blowing to consider this, but the Almighty God of the universe demanded something that we could not do, and instead of lowering his standards he made a way by which we could meet them through the death of his son Jesus. And then when Jesus got up from the dead, God showed us that he had the power to do everything the Bible said. And that’s really, really fantastic news! Now I have a reason to honor my vows, keep my word, obey those who are in authority over me, teach my children right and wrong, and work honestly.
But even more important than that – more important than “living a good and honorable life” – I have a reason to worship, to respond to what God has done. Yes, Easter – the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – is a really, really big deal.