He Is Not Here: He Is Risen
April 1, 2003 - Easter Sunday is the most triumphant day in the calendar of the Christian Church. Yet there is no trace of an Easter celebration, as we know it, anywhere in the New Testament. The celebration of Easter actually began with the early Jewish Christians who continued to celebrate the Passover, regarding Christ as the true Paschal Lamb. The event naturally passed over into a commemoration of the death and Resurrection of our Lord.
A Message by Billy Graham
Down through the years, the actual date of Easter has changed from time to time. Since about the 16th century, Easter has been celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon after the first day of spring. Thus, the Resurrection of Christ is symbolized by the bright color of laughing daffodils, the fresh green of the countryside breaking forth from the brown death of winter.
But most of all, the wonder of His resurrection is symbolized in the hope that beats in the hearts of believers everywhere as they sing triumphantly: "Christ the Lord is ris'n today" in the Charles Wesley song.
It was that message that lifted Christianity out of the category of dead superstitions and archaic religions and made it the abiding faith of multiplied thousands of searchers after truth. When the glorious truth of the empty tomb and risen Christ was whispered in the streets of Jerusalem, and was spread to the marketplaces of Corinth and Antioch, that glorious truth came as an electric shock. It awakened devout persons in every quarter of the world to the fact that Jesus was indeed the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
The Resurrection quickly became the central theme of the apostles' preaching. Within 50 days of the death of Christ and the seeming collapse of His cause, the city of Jerusalem rang with the cries of those who with all boldness declared that God had raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that they were His witnesses. Craven cowards were changed into courageous confessors, and crude unlettered fishermen from Galilee became royal heralds of the King; all who saw and heard them were compelled to acknowledge that something had utterly transformed their lives. When questioned by their critics, the apostles had no hesitancy in making reply by attributing everything to the risen Christ.
The Resurrection was the dominant theme in all of the Apostle Paul's preaching. Everywhere Paul went, he declared, "God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power" (1 Corinthians 6:14, KJV). This true, earth-shaking fact, proclaimed with heart-piercing conviction, was the axle and wheels of the early Christian Church.
The truth of Easter has more than historical implications. When its truth in all its wonder dawns on us, it is capable of transforming our individual lives and, in turn, our society. On Easter Sunday this year, thousands of people will go to church to hear sermons on the Resurrection; but how many actually believe that Christ is alive? What a difference it would make if they did! What a transformation would take place in our homes! What a difference there would be in our nation's deteriorating morals! What an increase of purpose and power in our lives, if we caught the wonder of the biblical declaration that Christ is alive today!
The greatest news that has ever flashed from heaven to earth is that Christ the Lord is risen. The angel at the tomb delivered the most important message ever to fall on the ears of mankind: "He is not here: for he is risen" (Matthew 28:6, KJV). The power of those words changed the course of history, brought hope to a hopeless world, and gave believers a purpose and a power that they had never known before.
We live in a day of power, when people have developed machines that smash through sound barriers and hurl spheres beyond the pull of earth's gravity. It is a day when people have harnessed the basic power of the universe and have used it to forge weapons of death and destruction.
But such power has made the world no better. It has not solved human evil. It has not dealt with the problems threatening the peace and security of the world's peoples.
We have a feast of mechanical power, but a famine of spiritual dynamics. As a civilization, we stand on the edge of a dark abyss, and we need to recapture the power of Christ's Resurrection.
What relevance has Easter and the Resurrection of Christ for us? Everything! The risen Christ, being alive forevermore, can do today what He did for those who received and believed Him in days gone by.
The Resurrection Redeems Us
First, the power of the Resurrection saves and redeems us. Christ said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25, KJV).
I have seen hundreds, yes, thousands of men and women who were among the living dead. They groveled in misery and loneliness and were bored and fed up. Life to them was a hollow mockery and sham, without purpose and meaning.
Then, with simple, trusting faith, they step into the presence of the living Christ. There they put their trembling hands into the strong hands of the Crucified. In the glow of the living Christ they step out of a casket of broken hopes and dreams to become useful, integrated human beings, filled with purpose and power.
Jesus' words have not changed. Time has not robbed them of their power. The Christ who lived on this planet still lives today, and all those who believe in Him, He raises from lifelessness, from a wretched quality of living that is worse than death: "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1, KJV). Even when we were dead in sins, He quickened us together with Christ and raised us up together.
Have you been raised to new life in Christ? You who are beset by sin and temptation? You who lie at death's door? You who are discouraged and despondent today? You who experience gnawing fear and insecurity? I tell you, on the authority of the Bible, that the risen Christ can raise you out of your spiritual lifelessness and transform you, as the coming of spring transforms a seemingly dead cocoon into a beautiful butterfly.
The Resurrection Empowers Us
Second, the Resurrection empowers us to live victoriously in this life. The living Christ is able to bring all your energies and powers into focus and to help you to be a conqueror over the world, the flesh and the devil. The Bible says, "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25, KJV).
I have exciting news for all those who are staggering under the burden of life's load. After the Resurrection, Jesus promised, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20, KJV). It is a promise that is yours for the taking. In that promise there is encouragement for the discouraged, hope for the hopeless, help for the helpless.
The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to you today. The moment that you receive Him as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into your heart and takes up residence. He gives you the power to overcome temptation, to smile through tears, to have lightness of heart in the midst of life's burdens.
God wants you to have His power today. He longs to give it to you, but you must by faith open your heart. When you come to the cross of Christ for forgiveness of sin, the Holy Spirit raises you from the mundane and the monotonous and the hopeless to new and adventuresome life filled with dynamic power.
The Resurrection Gives Us Hope
Third, the power of the Resurrection gives us hope. Many years ago, a submarine sank off the coast of Massachusetts. As soon as possible, divers descended to the disabled ship, endeavoring to find signs of life. One diver heard a gentle tapping. Listening intently, he recognized the dots and dashes of the Morse code. This was the message: "Is there hope?"
Is there hope? That is the constant cry of humanity, and Easter is the answer to that cry. The New Testament is the textbook of hope. That word occurs again and again after Christ was risen from the dead. It was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that set off a chain reaction of hope around the world. And Christian hope is the one lone ray of light on the foreboding clouds of despair that canopy our world.
On the purely human level, there is little hope in the world. International tensions become more complex and increasingly insoluble with each passing day. Crime, immorality and lawlessness seem to be worsening daily. In the battle for the minds and hearts of the world's peoples, wrong seems to be winning, and right seems to be losing. But the Scripture says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3, KJV).
We have misplaced our faith. We have put our faith in weapons, machines, stocks and bonds, pleasures and thrills. Our intellectual life and our educational system are in trouble because we have left God out; we have left the Ten Commandments out; we have left the Sermon on the Mount out. And now we are reaping the tragic results.
But there is hope in the Easter message today. There is hope for all in Christ today. There is hope beyond the grave, because the same power that raised Christ from the dead will also raise those who confess Him. Death becomes only a veil, only a river to cross. On the other side is heaven, home and Christ.
I do not know what people without Christ do. They must have utter hopelessness. There just is no hope without Christ.
Today humanity is facing a decision. Each person individually is faced with a decision. Easter, with its message of Resurrection power, brings you face to face with the living Christ. You have to make a choice. Will you choose to accept Christ and the life that He alone can give you? Or will you choose to reject Him and be lost for all eternity?