It was one of my early years coaching baseball here in Oldham County at North Oldham Little League, and, as it happens here in Kentucky, the Spring had not been kind to our practice schedule. A mix of cold, rain, and snow had eliminated around half our scheduled field times. Games had already started, and I was discovering my team wasn’t very good. So, looking at the game schedule and noticing that the first weekend in May had no scheduled games, I thought, “What an opportunity! We can use that whole weekend to get better at baseball!”
Upon announcing my plans to my little league team, you would’ve thought I scheduled practices on Christmas morning. “Don’t you know that’s Derby weekend? Are you from another planet?”
As you can probably tell, I’m not from around here. However, I have lived in Kentucky for nearly two decades now and consider this great state my home. But I must confess something: After nineteen years, I still don’t get the Derby. Weeks of build-up and excitement. Parties and gaudy hats. Usually miserable weather. And then it all culminates in a two-minute horse race where one very wealthy horse owner gets a whole lot wealthier. We didn’t end up practicing that weekend, and my team stunk that year.
Every region has its own strange traditions. I won’t even start on some of ours’ in Alabama. But it occurred to me last week as I was preparing for our Easter service, that a lot of people feel about Easter the way I feel about the Kentucky Derby. For the church, it’s our highest holy day—the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We plan in anticipation, buy new clothes, and invite as many as we can to church.
So, what’s the big deal about Easter? Why does the resurrection of Jesus, assuming it really happened (it did), matter? What difference does it make for me as I deal with the daily grind of my own life?
The Bible presents the death and resurrection of Jesus as the turning point in history. Imagine thousands of years of God revealing himself to his people, making promises about a future day when he would reverse the effects of sin and corruption and death and make a new creation. Those promises included a time when God’s people would no longer live according to God’s law but would be guided by God’s own Spirit and would no longer have to fear death. As promise after promise builds up, the pressure builds like a dam ready to burst.
Jesus’s resurrection is the most momentous turning point in history because it’s the beginning of the fulfillment of all those promises. In the resurrection, God defeated all the things that cause human beings pain and suffering. The Bible says God “makes all things new,” and the resurrection was the beginning of that process.
Here’s where it meets us. The Bible also connects Jesus’s resurrection to the lives of all the people who trust in Jesus. When Jesus was raised from the dead, it impacted the lives of all people “in Jesus” by faith. Jesus’s resurrection impacts us in two primary ways.
First, Jesus’s resurrection is the “firstfruits” of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20). The word “firstfruits” doesn’t merely indicate first in time. It means pledge of future harvest. The resurrection of Jesus was part one in a two-part event. Because he was resurrected, all his people will likewise be resurrected. Therefore, Paul can say “death has lost its sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55). We no longer need to fear death because death will not win ultimately. Jesus defeated death by his death and resurrection.
Second, believers in Christ get to experience his resurrection now. When we believe the gospel—the message that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised for our eternal salvation—something happens inside of us. We transition from spiritual death to spiritual life. We experience an inner resurrection in which we go from bondage to sin to freedom to live righteously for God. In Romans 6:4 Paul says that our union with Christ’s resurrection results in “newness of life.”
What does it mean to experience “newness of life”? Our lives no longer center around our own desires, but around the Lordship of Christ. We become joyful worshipers who possess the very Spirit of God. The Spirit begins cultivating the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In short, we become resurrection people.
If you’re an outsider to Easter, you don’t have to be any longer. Come experience the resurrection of Christ right now by faith as we await our future resurrections in the new world God is creating.