Many on Easter went home after church and hung up their Easter clothes. Many others spent the rest of the day with family, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. There were pictures taken and egg hunts and meals shared. Around the table, families talked about the big crowd at church that morning and expressed hope that a global pandemic seems to be finally relenting a little.
As a pastor, I’ve learned to take advantage of the cultural excitement surrounding Easter. On that day, there’s usually more people in our church than any other Sunday. There’s a palpable enthusiasm in the air. People seem to sing louder. They get there earlier. They can’t wait to hear about the eternal hope of resurrection. In a culture where, according to Gallup, less than half of American adults are church members for the first time in over a century, it’s nice to know that the crowds still show up on Easter.
But here’s the thing: Easter is not over. You don’t have to wait until next year to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. How many new outfits you choose to buy in commemoration is completely up to you, but the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not the kind of event that you put away and only bring back out once per year. The resurrection of Jesus initiated a brand-new creation that you are invited to live in every single day for the rest of eternity.
So how does Jesus’ resurrection change things? Here are just a few of the ways.
First, the resurrection of Jesus means the resurrection of your life. Listen to Paul’s description of it: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Paul is not inventing this language about new creation; he is steeped in the Old Testament, especially the prophets. Ezekiel had foretold of a day when God would give people a new heart put his Spirit in them (36:26-27). Paul is saying that when Christ woke up from the dead, that day dawned.
In other words, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, you can have a brand-new start. You no longer have to be enslaved by the mistakes of your past. You no longer have to live with the guilt and shame of a lifetime of failures. Jesus died to pay for sins. Jesus rose to bring you out of them. The resurrection changes your understanding of possibility. There is now a life available for you to live that you never dreamed was possible.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus means the death of your sin. In Colossians 3 Paul applies the resurrection to our battles with sin. He does the same thing in Romans 6. In essence, Paul believes that putting one’s faith in Jesus joins that person to Jesus forever. Our union with Christ, represented most clearly in our baptism, means that his death is our death, and his resurrection is our resurrection.
We are now dead to sin and alive to Christ. Sin no longer has power over us because Christ has defeated it. While we expect to sin until the day of our own resurrection, Paul makes it clear that those who are in Christ are no longer enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:5). Therefore, the believer in Christ can do something no other person is capable of doing. The believer can put sin to death (Col. 3:5) and live the kind of lives that God wants his people to live, lives of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12). The resurrection of Jesus actually changes the way we live our lives every day in the present.
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus means the end of your fear of death. Because Jesus died and was raised, those in him are assured that we too will be raised when we die. The resurrection of Jesus leads Paul to mock death, saying, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Jesus has won the decisive victory over both sin and death. We are invited to live in that victory for all eternity. We are invited to face life’s many threats with bold assurance that our Lord beat death at death’s own game.