Here we are. Easter 2021. In some ways this weekend is a type of chronological marker. It was only a few weeks prior to Easter Sunday 2020 that society embarked into the murky waters of a global pandemic. So, here we are. One year later.
For the last year, most of us have been socially cocooned to one degree or another. One month, two months, three months, alright. But now we stand at thirteen months and feel the brunt of the pandemic. Our social equilibrium has been upset. Relationships have been strained, if not nearly dissolved. For many, personal anxiety remains at or near flood-stage. Mix in the home office and the virtual classroom, and we have lived in a social swirl.
Take into account the various aberrations of Christian community as expressed in the locally gathered church — which is God’s good means of grace for our lives — and the past year has been tough on the soul.
Let me state my point plainly: the people of God are in desperate need of revival.
What is revival? When God gives his people a hug. It’s a seasonal intensification of the normal functions and operations of the Holy Spirit. Revival is a special, sovereign supernatural act when God draws near, when he moves among his people, and when he becomes their heart’s deepest affection.
As James wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (Jm. 4:8)
Some have outlined marks of revival as —
- Self-denial: A deep hunger for and dependence on God
- Spiritual service: An intense desire to serve the church and glorify Christ
- Anointed worship: A great awareness of the presence and holiness of God
- Recovered gospel: A strong desire to know and study God’s Word
- Repentance of sin: A sobering sensitivity to personal and corporate sin
- Extraordinary prayer: A fervent desire to pray and pursue personal purity
- Church growth: A numerical growth in salvations, baptisms and members
- Spirit filling: An abundance of joy and assurance of salvation
- Cultural impact: An increased boldness in missions and evangelism
And today is Easter. Let’s not miss this moment. God is presenting each of us with a unique opportunity to worship him, to draw near to him, to focus on the glorious resurrection of his Son, the Lord Jesus. If the resurrection of Christ does not bring spiritual life, revival and vitality to our souls, I’m not sure anything will.
In chapter 20 of John’s Gospel we see the disciples forever changed. What began as just another Sunday morning, perhaps sleepy and grey, was soon turned upside down. The news came—that Jesus was alive.
How then can belief in the resurrection and its application to our lives lead to a personal, spiritual revival?
The resurrection leads us to…
1. Investigate the evidence of the empty tomb.
“So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple who Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (Verse 2)
Easter challenges us to think about Christ and Christianity. We cannot ignore the truth claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Especially not when it’s a 2,000-year-old claim that still changes lives.
The burden of proof is not on believers, but unbelievers. To argue that Jesus never rose from the dead, one must explain a historically feasible alternate explanation. One must provide some other account for the birth of the church. After all, liars make really bad martyrs. All but one of the twelve apostles (John) gave their life for Christ. Think about that.
If the body of Christ is produced, Christianity crumbles. Thus, everything hinges on the resurrection. It’s been said, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said?”
If then Jesus did rise from the dead, he is worthy of your life surrendered to him. Step into the truth that Jesus is alive today. He bids you repent of your sins, turn to him in faith, trust him with your life, and enjoy him forever.
2. Understand why Jesus had to rise from the dead.
“Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” (Verse 8-9)
The death of Jesus propitiated the wrath of God (Rom. 3:25). That is, on the cross Jesus bore the wrath of God that was due sinners. In the hymn “In Christ alone” we sing, “On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied; for every sin on Him was laid; here in the death of Christ I live.” The sacrifice was made for sinners as Jesus hung on the cross, died in our place, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. Having lived our life, he died our death.
However, we do not worship a dead Jesus. Rather, we worship a living Christ. He is no longer dead but alive. Death had no victory over him. And for those who follow Christ, death will have no victory over them either (cf. John 11:35). The good news of the cross is complete in the resurrection. If I might say, a dead Jesus is of no spiritual advantage without him stepping out of the grave—and that he did.
Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). But they failed to connect the dots. In our humble 2,000-year-removed perspective, let us not follow suit. Rather, we see the resurrection as a gospel necessity. In the resurrection, God the Father approves of Jesus’ death for sinners; Christ defeats the grave and holds the keys to life; and in so doing validates all the promises of God in Christ.
3. Approach life from a supernatural perspective.
“And she saw [two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.”(Verse 12)
One of the more well-known statements of the apostle Paul was made to the Corinthians: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Such is the experience of every Christian. We are called to journey this life by faith, not by sight. One of the reasons for Paul’s statement is that there is simply more to life than meets the eye.
Christians are not naturalists, but supernaturalists. There is room in the Christian worldview outside that which can be tested and affirmed by science. It is not that we deny scientific evidence, or refuse to be grateful for technological advances. To the contrary, we are most grateful!
But what is significant to Christian thought is that the biblical worldview affirms more, not less, than what science can affirm. Enter the presence of angels in the empty tomb of Jesus, for example. That is not a mythological invention by a first-century Jewish author. No, what is recorded in the pages of holy Scripture is historical fact as a reflection of spiritual reality.
4. Long for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (Verse 15)
If you were to ask me what aspect of the resurrection account grabs my attention most, it would be this part of the story: the almost mysterious scene where Mary dialogues with a person assumed to be a gardener, but in actuality is the risen Christ. Why she does not recognize him, we do not know. Is she kept from seeing him, does Christ intentionally disguise himself, or does she simply not look his way? I think it may be a touch of all three.
But notice the word that gets Mary’s attention. It’s her name. Jesus says, “Mary.” He knew her and called her by name. Here we find the essence of the Christian experience: a personal relationship with the risen Christ. She knew him, and he knew her, and they called each other by name.
Reader, let me remind you that Christ desires a relationship with you too. He died in your place and rose for your life. His work on the cross and in the tomb was for your redemption. Not to simply push paperwork in heaven and punch your ticket. Rather, to redeem you, restoring you to himself so that he might know you personally. In Christ your name matters. He knows your name and longs to say it. That makes all the difference.
5. Mobilize on mission and evangelize the world.
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ — and that he had said these things to her.” (Verse 18)
We do not live life in the garden of John 20. Mary didn’t, and neither can we. Life is not one continual Easter Sunday. The resurrection moves us out of the garden and into the world. There is a mission to complete and things to do. There is truth to share, a story to tell and a gospel to preach.
In verse 18 we find the convergence of every believer’s testimony with the urgent need of a lost and dying world. Mary left the garden and “announced” she’d seen the Lord. Christian, is that not your testimony? And though she went to the disciples, the disciples would go to the world. We find, therefore, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that reality that compels us to go “out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in,” (Luke 14:23). Jesus is alive, the gospel is true and the world is lost. Right now counts forever, and Jesus is coming again soon. His mission is par excellence.
This Easter, let us not simply go through the motions. If we have learned anything over the past year, the religious treadmill is a miserable game to play. Instead, embrace Christ, commit your life to him, set spiritual priorities and let the reality of his resurrection permeate your soul. Pandemic or not, he is alive, and he is Lord. Go tell it on the mountain.