What Really Happened on Easter?

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’” (Matthew 28:1-10 ESV)

What the Resurrection Doesn’t Mean

Jesus was a fraud

If Jesus was a fraud and all his miracles were magic tricks and his claims to be the Son of God delusional, where would we find Jesus today? Right where all the other liars, frauds, and charlatans are—dead in their graves with the rest of humanity. Many people claim many things; even claim to be God. Which one do you listen to? My money’s on the one that says he will rise from the dead, is crucified and certified dead by the best of the Roman army, and then three days later rises from the dead.

If Jesus really was risen from the dead, it separates him from every other religious figure in history. You can visit all their graves. There might be a Carnival cruise or vacation packages that include visiting the graves of the founders of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. All of them are still there.

Jesus stands uniquely in history with a birth announced by prophecy and angels. He was a man whose life was marked by power and miracles who also claimed to be the single and only Savior of men. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) How could we possibly know if that statement is true? How do we know Jesus isn’t a fraud? It is a claim so radical and exclusive. God validated the life and teachings of Jesus by raising him back to life. That’s how we know.

God hates sinners

I have learned some things about love. I got married about three years ago. I have an almost 2-year-old daughter and another one on the way. In God’s plan I became a parent a little later in life. I wondered in my single days about the whole parental love thing. It’s a huge commitment to be a parent. It takes time. Energy. Money. Lots of money. Why would any rational person make such a commitment?

Now I know. The love that I have for my daughter is different but as intense a love as I have for anybody or anything. That love is put to the test all the time because parental love has to be put into action. Caring for her in this or that. We’ve had a scary run to the hospital emergency room. We’re saving for college. It boggles the mind all the ways parents put love into action.

Can a child miss that a parent is making these sacrifices because of love? It happens all the time, especially with teenagers. “No, you’re not allowed to tattoo the name of your boyfriend of two weeks because we love you.” “You hate me!” Can we mistake love for hate? Can a sinner hear that God judges sin and assume that means God hates them? Can a sinner hear that God sent his son to die and assume God to be a hate mongerer? Can this whole thing be misunderstood?

The cross and the resurrection are God putting divine love for sinners into action. The extraordinary lengths, which to us are miraculous, show the extent of God’s love for us. He loves us in our sin and our guilt. He loves us when we hate him. He loves us in our rebellion against him.

Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He is just like a parent who goes on loving while a son or daughter screams accusations. God loves us in our sin and Jesus died for our sin. The resurrection doesn’t say God hates us. It stands in history as the defining moment of divine love for you.

We all go to hell

Here is the wonderful reality and offer of God. Hell is where God’s justice and holiness requires sinners to spend eternity. Hell is absence from God and love and beauty and everything else good. Hell is real. So is eternity. We are made for eternity and all humans will either be with God or be without God. One is heaven. The other is hell.

The resurrection doesn’t mean we all go to hell. Instead it means there is real forgiveness of our sins made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross. There is real eternal life granted to all who believe. It means God has provided a path to heaven, glory, beauty, and eternity with this God who loves us and will for all eternity. Which will it be for you?

This is a joke! Not if Jesus was resurrected. God doesn’t love me! Not if Jesus was resurrected. I’m destined for hell! Not if you believe in Jesus as the risen Savior of the world. Eternal life is offered to all who believe. That’s what the angel said. That’s why the stone was rolled away. That’s why Jesus appeared to Mary and the other Mary and the disciples. That’s why he held out his hands and scars –to convince and assure them and us of what the angel said, “He is not here, for he has risen!” (Matthew 28:6)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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