One reason Easter really matters

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One reason Easter really matters

April 6, 2023 -

Steps within a dark tomb lead up to an opening where a stone has been rolled away as a bright sun shines through, a scene evoking Easter Sunday morning. © By PhotoGranary/stock.adobe.com

Steps within a dark tomb lead up to an opening where a stone has been rolled away as a bright sun shines through, a scene evoking Easter Sunday morning. © By PhotoGranary/stock.adobe.com

Steps within a dark tomb lead up to an opening where a stone has been rolled away as a bright sun shines through, a scene evoking Easter Sunday morning. © By PhotoGranary/stock.adobe.com

Sometimes I just can’t take it.

I opened the news to a headline and I immediately deleted the email.

The headline read “Arlington toddler dies after reportedly shooting himself.”

The story is yet another tragedy in the midst of Holy Week. A little boy in our area, who would have turned three before the end of April, apparently found a loaded gun in his sibling’s room and accidentally fired it, ending his beautiful life. Police arrived to find his mother holding him at the front door.

The article closed with a reference to another story about a three-year-old girl involved in a similar shooting accident the week before. As the grandfather of two preschoolers myself, these tragedies and others make it hard to breathe, hard to sleep, hard to hold onto hope.

Death stalks us.

Death is pervasive, consuming everything with its ferocious appetite.

Proverbs 30:15–16 says, “There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’”

Yesterday, I was talking with a church security expert. He consults regularly with churches and church-based schools on preventative and rapid response strategies for keeping people safe when they gather for worship and in other ministry settings. We briefly discussed last week’s Nashville school shooting.

My friend commented, “Here’s part of what’s awful: the school, the police, the teachers, and the parents did everything right and still six people died.”

Our great enemy

Sin, evil, and death are the black canvas to the glory of Easter.

God knows this enemy of ours. It’s his enemy before and more than ours. He knows the appetite of death. See Habakkuk 2:5, where God comments on the relentless appetite of both death and evil. His enemy is our enemy, and our enemy is his.

The good news of Easter is that God in Christ defeated the enemy of death we had no hope of overcoming. He steps in front of us and for us to conquer.

Two great verses give me hope this Easter week in the face of death’s rampage.

From the longest resurrection hope chapter in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15, God says through Paul’s pen, “The last enemy to be abolished is death” (v. 26). Through that same pen to the Roman believers he said, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (Romans 16:20).

An Easter I’ll never forget

This Sunday will be just the second Easter in thirty-four years that I am not preaching a message celebrating and claiming the death, burial, and victory of Christ. In my current work, I’ll have the joy of a worshipper sitting with my wife and my daughter’s family—including those two grandkids. I’ll be eager to hear what the pastor preaches, teaches, and reminds us about that victory.

For another reason, I’ll come this Easter Sunday looking for a fresh handhold on hope.

Thirty years ago this week, I was preparing to preach my first Easter sermon at the First Baptist Church in Van, Texas, one hundred miles due east of Dallas. Van is a small community of two thousand that was once a Texas oil boom town in the 1930s. The First Baptist Church measured 250 in average attendance in the early ‘90s and met in the nicest building in the county. I’d taken over as pastor three months before Easter.

As Holy Week began in 1993, I was more than a little nervous about “delivering the goods” for Christianity’s Super Bowl. I was new to the church and the town, and our extended families were coming to hear me.

On Monday of Holy Week, my wife and I gathered in the home of our Student Pastor to play board games and to get to know one of the new couples who had recently joined our fellowship. As we talked, shared, competed, and laughed, there was a knock at the door.

When it opened, there stood Lee, our Worship Pastor. In an urgent tone he asked to speak to my wife and me privately on the front porch. When we stepped out, he said my family was searching for me.

My dad had suffered a heart attack.

Stunned, I looked at Lee and asked, “Is he alive?”

Lee locked eyes with me and whispered no as he looked down.

I couldn’t breathe as my wife burst into tears of grief.

The scene and the week are vivid in my imagination today. My dad, known as “Big Man” to his grandkids, was gone in an instant at just sixty-two, at just the moment the 1993 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament championship game tipped off.

Our family experienced a loss that day more profound than any other. It has shaped the last three decades for us in countless ways.

Death can do that. That Easter in 1993, the good news of Jesus was never more needed or more fully reliable. From then till now, that news and his Spirit have carried us forward in faith.

Jesus is still risen

So pastor, take a moment to envision the faces and souls who will hear you this resurrection Sunday.

Ask the Spirit to suggest those you have walked with in the valley of the shadow of death this year and in recent years.

Ask him to call to your mind those who have and who are facing death-like challenges right now. The grave is never satisfied; the “womb, earth and fire never say ‘enough.’” Then claim the awesome and wonderful privilege of being the Spirit’s voice of hope and help with the good news of Jesus.

There is hope in no one else!

As one of my coworkers said just today, “Jesus is still risen!”

Yes, he is, YES he is!

Let’s keep working with him and each other until all the world hears.

May God’s Spirit and word and hope fill you to overflowing as you speak and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord and our King of kings.

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