Easter is the celebration of one of the most important events in human history. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s cosmic yes to all the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught that he was the long promised Messiah of Deuteronomy 18.18 and Isaiah 52 - 54. He proved his authenticity by healing miracles and prophesying His own death and resurrection. Jesus taught that God was making a new Covenant of forgiveness. This Covenant offered forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in Jesus sacrificial death. It did not replace but did supersede the Old Testament Covenant of Moses.
1. This sounds too good to be trueIt is hard for modern scientific people to believe in miracles. Many have sadly bought into the great lie of modern liberalism which has deconstructed the Bible and questioned everything supernatural. There are three reasons for believing the resurrection story is historically true. First of all the specific details about the linen bandages and napkin suggest an eyewitness account as opposed to a made up story. Secondly the non-heroic confusion and misinterpretation of the Disciples also suggest this is real life rather than fiction. But the biggest reason for belief is the changed lives of the people who were there. This small group of people who had known and seen the risen Jesus went on to change the world. They went fearlessly to horrible deaths with joy on their faces as they witnessed to the intervention of God in history.
2. Jesus overcome the old order of sin and death
Ever since the Garden of Eden Satan had been tempting, deceiving and then accusing people. His work was to lead them into sin and rebellion against God. His goal was to separate people from the love of God through guilt and shame. He works with our human laziness, ignorance, selfishness, insecurity and desire for material things and human approval. The result is human pollution by guilt and shame. The Holy Spirit cannot live in such spiritual pollution so people become separated from God and died spiritually. They had no hope of eternal spiritual life.
3. Jesus death and Resurrection created a new way for sins to be forgiven.
Christians believe that Jesus was sinless and died for the sins of others. We believe, as we say in the Creed in “the forgiveness of sins” The Bible teaches us that we can repent, confess our specific sins to Jesus, ask for forgiveness and receive forgiveness. We can do this privately at home or during worship services. There is a profound scene in the movie The Passion where Satan confronts Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and questions whether Jesus can die for the sins of the whole world. The later scene of Satan screaming in rage, underground, beneath the Cross answers this question. This is the New Covenant of Jesus.
4. How does this forgiveness work?Jesus in effect replaced the Old Testament way of forgiveness through repentance and animal sacrifice. The Temple sacrifices were not very effective. Many people did realize the seriousness of sin. They did not have a clear teaching on life after death. Christians believe that God intervened directly in history by coming to earth in the human form of Jesus to show us what God was like in human terms. God offered Himself as a sacrifice to pay for human sin and guilt. This is very hard for us to understand. This is where love and faith comes in. We don’t all understand how our computers work either – but we use them. The bottom line is that faith works. Millions of people have experienced the healing love, grace and forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus. Easter is a celebration that God has intervened in history and said yes to the new Covenant of Jesus.
5. If we have died with Him we shall live with HimUnder the New Covenant God has promised the forgiveness of sins on two conditions. First of all there must be repentance. Repentance is like an emotional death where we die personally to our attraction to the sin. It is a death of the heart where we experience grief at how our actions have wounded our love relationship with the divine. This repentance is at the heart of having a spiritual life as it cleans us out and makes a holy place inside us for the Holy Spirit to come and live and guide us. The second condition is personal belief that Jesus has already died for our sins and has the authority to grant forgiveness. This is how we die with Him so that we can live with Him. The Good news of the Covenant of Jesus is that the grace of God will cover and remove our guilt.
6. In the Eucharist we celebrate the New CovenantThe night before He died Jesus gave us a new way to celebrate our New Covenant relationship with God. This is the Covenant we enter at Baptism and re-affirm by saying ‘amen’ after the Eucharistic Prayer. As preparation we all go through a formal Confession and Absolution. This is probably the most important part of the service. It gives us an opportunity to go through the process of briefly examining our lives and inserting personal things we have done or not done which have offended God or other people. The words of Absolution, given by the priest, are a prayer that God will honour the New Covenant of Jesus by forgiving us whatever we have personally repented. What we are celebrating in the Eucharist is our new way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God and other people.
We are continuing as witnesses to the Resurrection as a validation of the Covenant of Jesus.