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He is Risen Indeed!

Celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus

Written by Mike Biolsi on .


 The Greatest Event

‌While you might think that Christmas is the Christian holiday with the most confusion connected to it, I would beg to differ. Though Easter is declared the most significant holiday in the Christian church, I am convinced it is the most confusing holiday to comprehend. 

‌The Weekend of Easter Events

‌Let’s start with the names of the days leading up to Easter. We have weird names for these events:

‌“Maundy Thursday” is the term for the Passover meal Jesus had with his disciples.  Anyone know what “Maundy” means? it is believed to be from the Latin, taken from a song sung in the Catholic church. Actually, there is another name for that meal right? “The Last Supper”? How confusing is that? Jesus is going to eat fish with his disciples a few more times after his resurrection which is pretty significant because he demonstrates that his resurrected body was still in some way very much physical. It was not really his last supper at all. 

“Good Friday”? Jesus was falsely accused, condemned, whipped, beaten, and crucified because of my sins. There is nothing GOOD about that! It is a testimony of the love and grace of God, but also the depravity of mankind.  

“Holy Saturday” where we do nothing. This day commemorates the Sabbath where the disciples were “suspended” in time between the death of their teacher and his resurrection. 

‌“Easter”? A word that most likely traces its origin to the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility. It is not even a biblical word - shouldn’t the most significant event in Christianity at least have some connection to the Word of God that tells the story? The Greek word is anastasis so why not Anastasis Day? Better yet, why not just “Resurrection Day”? Actually, that is what some groups call it, and I like it a lot better than Easter for sure!

Maundy Thursday, The Last Supper, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter.  

If you were not brought up in a church world with a context of those holidays, they would seem very foreign and non-descriptive. 

The Symbols of Easter

FUN: If a visitor from outer space came to visit Earth on Easter Sunday, what we he think about the holiday and the people? What might this visitor think is the meaning of Easter?

‌If you Google or Bing “Easter” I think you will see what the message might be. I DID, and it is VERY confusing!

The most prominent symbols are the eggs, bunny, and pastel colors. These most likely come from the possible connection to the spring solstice and the goddess of fertility - zero to do with the religious observance, though many have attempted to attach religious significance to them. 

The Many Easter Traditions

What are some of your Easter traditions? [new clothes, Easter lilies, hats, big dinner with ham??] We even put lilies with the scene of the cross, as if they grew in Jerusalem. And Ham (a forbidden food to the Jews, of which Jesus was) is the food of choice? Some cook lamb, which makes more sense. 

‌Country Living has a list of “32 Classic Easter Traditions That Have Stood the Test of Time” which includes:

  • ‌Send Easter Lilies
  • Dye Easter Eggs
  • Bake a cake
  • Eat chocolate bunnies
  • Fly kites
  • #8 was Get your feet washed (this one is actually biblical)
  • Go to church
  • Play music
  • ‌Baptize people (traditionally on Holy Saturday)
  • ‌Wear your Sunday best
  • ‌Egg tapping?
  • ‌Easter parades
  • Visit the Easter bunny
  • #29 - read the Easter story (while I am glad it made the list… really, #29 of 32?)

The list of activities you can find for Easter is all over the place from decorating trees with tobacco leaves to wearing costumes, egg tapping competitions, flying kites, or attending a re-enactment of the crucifixion. 

‌Can it get more confusing that that?

With all of the confusion in our society about Easter, I thought it would be good for us to spend some time unpacking what Resurrection Sunday really is and why it is regarded as the most significant day in Christendom. 

Defining Easter

‌ an annual Christian festival in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ

While that is the literal, textbook definition of Easter, when you delve into the history of it, the traditions and such, you find out that very little of the modern day “commemoration” has anything to do with the resurrection. 

The Jews for Jesus put out this definition, and I like it a lot!

‌Easter, or Resurrection Day, is a day to rejoice in Christ’s victory over death and sin, and a day to share that joy of salvation with a fallen world and our own people. 

‌The Events of Easter Weekend

‌Resurrection Day is the day that shapes and gives meaning to the events that took place the weekend before:

It was a Thursday when they had Passover together. 

‌Friday morning he was put on trial, condemned, beaten, mocked, whipped and crucified. 

From 12:00-15:00 — the sky was dark, and around 15:00 Jesus died on the cross.

He was buried before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath

Saturday was the Sabbath, and everything would have been still - and horrible!

Sunday, at sunrise, the women went to the tomb to finish the burial customs. Normally these would have been done on the day of passing, but there was no time.

SUNDAY is the day we celebrate as Easter - Resurrection Sunday. 

We are studying that last week leading up to Resurrection Sunday in our Matthew series. I encourage you to join us as we look at those events in detail in the weeks to come. 

No matter which book you read, video you watch or sermon you hear, almost all of them refer to the resurrection of Jesus as the most significant event in the Christianity. It is so important that the Apostle Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 15:13–14 CSB
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.

‌It is THAT important. 

What amazes me about it is that it is so overwhelmingly under reported in the gospels! 

What I mean is, of the 1,071 verses we have in Matthew’s gospel, only 25 verses speak of the events of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. That is only 2.3 percent. There is the same number of  verses talking about the birth and genealogy of Jesus. Half of Matthew record of the resurrection is about the soldiers sealing and guarding the tomb and then being bribed to tell people that the disciples took the body. That leaves only about 14 verses that talk specifically about Jesus being buried and raised from the dead. We are now down to 1.3%. If you just focus on the actual Resurrection, it is about 10 verses, or less than 1%.

‌Let’s read the 1% of Matthew’s gospel regarding the actual resurrection. At this point in the narrative, Jesus was crucified on Friday, buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, and the Sabbath day of rest has just come to an end.  

Matthew 28:1–10 CSB
1 After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards were so shaken by fear of him that they became like dead men. 5 The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you.” 8 So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell his disciples the news. 9 Just then Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” They came up, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

‌Sunday - the first day

Immediately after the Shabbat, the women head to the tomb to complete the burial rituals that could not be completed before the day of rest. 

It was the first day of the week, which is Sunday to us. The Sabbath was the seventh day, and is Saturday. The Jews would go to synagogue on Saturday. The Resurrection was so significant to the church, the believers in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, that eventually they started meeting on the first day of the week - Sunday! On this particular Sunday it was not a day of rest, but a day of work.

The Earthquake

‌There was an earthquake. An earthquake happened when Jesus died on the cross (Matt 27:54) and now when Jesus is released from the grave. His giving up of life and being raised to new life were accompanied by earthquakes. 

The angel(s)

Matthew records one angel, but Luke records two angels. They are clothed in light. This is a link back to the time when Jesus was on the mountain with Moses and Elijah:

Matthew 17:1–2 CSB
1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 He was transfigured in front of them, and his face shone like the sun; his clothes became as white as the light.

‌Why do I say this is a direct link?

Matthew 17:9 CSB
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

‌The transfiguration was meant to prepare the disciples for the event of the resurrection. The angels appearance was a reminder of the glory that Jesus now inherited. 

Just like the earthquakes bookend the end of one life and the start of the new life, the angels appearance bookend the coming of the Messiah to do his work, and the completion of that work. 

In the Gospels, angels appeared to:

  • Zechariah (a priest) to tell him about John being conceived. 
  • Mary about conceiving the Christ
  • Joseph to marry Mary, to flee to Egypt and to return to Israel (3 times!)
  • The Shepherds regarding the birth of Jesus

‌That was the coming of the Messiah to accomplish the work of the Father. The next time we read of angels in the gospels is when an angel attends to Jesus in the garden just before his arrest, and then after the resurrection. 

  • To Jesus in the garden before his crucifixion
  • At the tomb after the resurrection

Those appearances are split up from the beginning of the Messiah coming to earth and the end of the earthly stay and returning to heaven.  

‌These angels represent a connection between the earthly and the heavenly, where the two worlds are visible at the same time - to explain to the humans what God has done or is going to do - each is an “apocalypse”. 

The Message of the Angel

‌I think the message of the angel is one of the most powerful sermons recorded. Let’s look at that message and see how we can better understand the Resurrection:

Matthew 28:6–7 CSB
6 He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you.”

‌He is not here. 

‌Well, that was going to be quite obvious as soon as they walked in, right? That was not the news. When you hear that a dead body has moved what question comes to your mind?

“Who took it?”, right? That was the response of Mary, according to John’s account:

John 20:1–2 CSB
1 On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she went running to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him!”

‌That is the introduction to the second message:

He has risen. 

He was not taken, he was risen. Jesus proved that resurrection from the dead was a reality with God when he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8). He also raised a widow’s son (Luke 7). Neither of them had been dead very long. 

‌He also raised Lazarus from the dead and called him out of a tomb after 4 days. While we do not often think of this as an Easter passage, it really is! Let’s read it together: 

John 11:11–45 CSB
11 He said this, and then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.” 12 Then the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.” 13 Jesus, however, was speaking about his death, but they thought he was speaking about natural sleep. 14 So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.” 17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem (less than two miles away). 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her. 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” 28 Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw that Mary got up quickly and went out. They followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to cry there. 32 As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” 33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked. “Lord,” they told him, “come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Couldn’t he who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said. Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” 45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he did believed in him.

There was a tomb with a large stone in front of it, this time 4 days had passed. Notice who the key people are in this passage: Jesus, the dead man and Mary & Martha. The purpose was not to make people sad.  This event was designed to help them believe.

‌Jesus said to his disciples:

‌John 11:15 CSB
15 I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”

‌Believe what? Well, the most immediate would be to believe that Jesus was sent from Yahweh and was the Messiah:

John 11:42 CSB
42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.”

‌However, this is also an experience for the disciples, and the women - to see the power of God to raise someone from the dead that had been gone for more than a few hours! If anyone would be able to understand the power of resurrection it would be this group.  Surely, after knowing of three people what were raised from the dead, and one of them long enough to stink, the concept that Jesus had risen would not seem impossible. 

Just as he said. 

This is a key phrase. We already mentioned that 3 times Jesus said he would be killed, buried and rise from the dead after 3 days. 

Matthew 16:21 CSB
21 From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.

Matthew 17:22–23 CSB
22 As they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised up.” And they were deeply distressed.

Matthew 20:17–19 CSB
17 While going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the twelve disciples aside privately and said to them on the way, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death. 19 They will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and on the third day he will be raised.”

‌THREE TIMES Jesus told them this would happen, and it happened “just as he said”.  I think Luke does a great job of making this connection in his account of the Resurrection: ⭐

Luke 24:1–8 CSB
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’8 And they remembered his words.

‌The resurrection proved that Jesus’ words were true and that he has the power to accomplish what he said he would do.‌

IF THERE was no resurrection, Jesus was a liar and everything he said would be worthless.

The resurrection is the “proof” of the power of God and that through Jesus there is redemption:

‌Acts 4:8–12 CSB
8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man, by what means he was healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing here before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”You crucified him, God raised him and in his name there is salvation. 

‌If they had crucified him and there was no resurrection, he was just a martyr. If they killed him and he stayed dead, then they wielded more power than the son of God. Perhaps the ultimate example of humility - that the son of God would allow himself to be tortured and killed by men. He gave them power over him, so that in the end, he could give us power over death. 

‌IF THERE was no resurrection, there is no hope and our faith is in vain.

Check out ALL of 1 Corinthians 15! Let me highlight a few verses:​

1 Corinthians 15:20–22 CSB
20 But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

‌The reversal of the death form Adam is the life in Jesus. We who believe have a confident hope that death no longer rules us, but instead we have life, because of the resurrection. The same resurrection that Jesus experienced is available to all who will believe in him

1 Peter 1:3–4 CSB
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

1 Corinthians 6:14 NLT
14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead.

‌That Jesus rose, “just as he said” is the reason we celebrate Resurrection Day.  We celebrate the resurrection because it:

  • Demonstrates that Jesus was TRUTH (what he said came to pass)
  • Rreveals to us that Jesus is the WAY
  • Compels us to accept new LIFE in Jesus
  • Strengthens us because of the HOPE we have in Jesus. 

John 11:25–26 CSB
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

‌Jesus IS the resurrection. Not he will be the resurrection or can perform a resurrection, but he IS the resurrection. That means that he is the AGENT of making that which was dead, alive. [other Bible authors might refer to this as “in Christ”]

Just as so many of Jesus miracles used the physical to demonstrate the spiritual, the physical resurrection of Jesus proves the power that he has to make the claim that he can provide eternal life. 

If Jesus was able to conquer a physical death, then he is able to conquer the spiritual death that came from Adam.

Why the resurrection? Why was it necessary?

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross paid the price for the penalty of our sins. ​

1 John 2:1–2 CSB
1 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous one. 2 He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.​

1 John 4:10 CSB
10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

‌It was the sacrifice of Jesus, on the cross, that atoned or paid for our sins. 

‌The resurrection proves that Jesus has the power to pay for our sins and be made right in God’s eyes. It provide a way for us to be adopted into the family of God. If he can conquer the physical he can accomplish the spiritual. 

The resurrection is not about a “get out of hell” card. It is not “fire insurance”. 

The Resurrection is an invitation to be reconciled to God. 

To have our relationship with God restored back to what it was meant to be… what it was in the garden. 

‌As a Christian, Easter is not the celebration of the death of Jesus. It is the acknowledgement of the LIFE of Jesus. It provides new way of living - being directed by God for the kingdom of God; where we get to be the ones that God chooses to use to bring blessing to the nations by sharing with them how THEY can be reconciled to Yahweh - the God who loved them enough to sacrifice his own son for them. 

‌So why do we celebrate Easter?

‌In his dying, Jesus paid the price for my sin and yours - the sins of the whole world. In his resurrection he proved he had the power to conquer sin and death and give us the gift of new LIFE. 

While the crucifixion is about the death of the Savior and a death of sin through Jesus, the resurrection is about life, and the new life that is available. 

Easter is not just a religious festival that celebrates an event that took place 2,000 years ago, it is also about an event that can take place in your life today!

Romans 10:9–13 CSB
9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, 12 since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

‌This is the hope that Jesus offers you today!

The Charge of the Angels

For those of you that have already tasted the rich grace of God and are living in the new life that Jesus provides, the last message of the angels is for you and me. The angel told the women to:

‌Come and see...

‌...Go and tell.

‌I believe this is our part in the Resurrection celebration. Those of us who have seen Jesus are to go and tell others who have not.​

2 Corinthians 5:17–21 CSB
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! 18 Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

‌May the life of the Resurrection be real in your life today, and everyday. 

‌Thanks be to God our Father who, in his great grace has provided forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and new life through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

He is Risen Indeed!