How could you destroy Christianity? Many have tried through force. From the earliest years of the church, people have been trying to tear it down. The religious leaders in Jerusalem did their best (Acts 5:40), as did Saul (Acts 9:1-2). Ancient Rome tried. Today, Christian leaders and lay people are regularly discriminated against, beaten, murdered, and more. Yet the church continues.
Others have tried to destroy it from within by bringing in practices that go against the Bible, or bringing in teaching to undermine the core message. In the earliest days there was a move to divide Christians by race (Gal 2:11-14). There was also a move to not recognise that Jesus not only God, but also a man (1 John 4:1-3). Today, there are many practices and beliefs within what are called churches which are not biblical and lead people down the garden path. Yet the church continues.
There is only one sure-fire way to destroy Christianity: show that Jesus didn’t rise. Paul is adamant that if you do that, then Christians have nothing to hold on to.
‘If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain .. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins … If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor 15:14, 17, 19).
Only Christianity, of all the religions, has an historical event upon which it hangs its hat. You can’t disprove that someone had a vision in a cave (Islam) or a realisation under a tree (Buddhism). But Christianity is founded on an empty tomb. This means his death worked as a sacrifice. Have you found forgiveness in the risen Lord?
Easter is one of those wonderful times of the year for us to get back to the basics, and to once again ask the question “why?”
“Why did Jesus have to die?” “Why would Christians celebrate this event?” “Why would we decorate our churches with crosses, or wear crosses around our necks?”
Consider Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Think about what Paul says there – He’s already rammed home the point that all people are sinful. We can’t minimise or balance out our sin by good deeds – we’re guilty of crimes against the God who gives us life and breath and everything else.
So Paul says what our punishment is. “The wages of sin is death.” And we’ve earned our wages. We’ve done the crime, now we do the time.
But that’s not the end of the story! This is where Easter comes in, because the one person who didn’t earn those horrible wages is the one who received them! Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn’t, died the death we should have, and gives us a free gift which we didn’t deserve and couldn’t earn. A gift we receive when we repent and believe: Eternal life.
This is the gospel, the good news. This is why we celebrate Easter. Christ died to save sinners, to give them eternal life. And he proved it by being raised to life again himself. The one who gives life freely is alive now.
Why celebrate Easter? Because the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Join us this Easter as we consider the work of Jesus on the cross and rejoice that God raised him from the dead.
‘All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”’ (Psalm 22:7-8)
You can feel the heartache, the drowning despair, in these words. The loneliness in the sea of people, as they all turn on this person in mocking derision. The shame as he is attacked for his trust and loyalty to God.
These are the words of David, King of Israel. When did he feel this way? When did this event happen? It is hard to pinpoint exactly when anything like this happened in his lifetime. Was this when Saul was chasing him? When Ish-bosheth challenged him?
While David may have had moments where it felt like everyone was against him and mocking him, this Psalm is not about him (when did verses 16-18 happen to David?!). This Psalm describes the heart-wrenching pain of great David’s Greater Son. It is a prophecy about the King of God’s people who was willing to suffer to save his people.
What a Saviour we have. What a King! It has long been the pattern throughout biblical history that’s God’s people have suffered at the hands of their enemies – e.g. Abel, Joseph, Israel in Egypt. And Jesus not only followed the pattern – he was the reason for the pattern! He didn’t suffer to be like them; they suffered to be like him, to show what the Saviour-King would endure.
He endured the cross, depising the shame (Heb 12:2). He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:7). He set the pattern – shame now, glory later. That is a fundamental truth Easter teaches, and it’s a pattern we must follow ourselves. Are you ready to be mocked like Christ?
‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and envy, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Cor 5:7-8).
Easter is coming quickly. Many in the churches and in the world don’t understand, however, that this was an event long planned and promised, and even prefigured. Rather than being a random and brutal death of someone who became the founder of a religious movement, this was the fulfilment of God’s eternal plan to save his people from sin, judgement, and the one who would judge them – God himself.
This lack of understanding in the churches is tragic and is reflected in an unwillingness to read and teach through the Old Testament. Rather than seeing a unified story of God’s grace – that the Old Testament is the record of promises made, and the New Testament is the record of promises kept – they see a God of anger and judgement in the Old, and a God of love in the New.
But this is plainly wrong! Christ is our Passover lamb. In the Exodus, God saved his people through the Passover lamb. He saved them from both the cruel slavery of the Egyptians, and also from himself. He saved them from the plague of death, instead only bringing it upon the Egyptians.
Repeatedly, this event is used as a prefiguring of Jesus’ work on the cross. The lamb died instead of the firstborn – Jesus died instead of the sinner. Israel were slaves to Egypt – we were slaves to sin. Israel were led to the promised land – we are being led to the promised land of heaven/the new creation.
Let us then trust in the sacrifice, ‘celebrate the festival,’ and live lives of sincerity and truth.