My wife and I were cleaning out some old cupboards this past week and we came across one of our old wedding albums. When the kids realized what it was they had a blast looking at all of the old pictures of mom and dad before they were mom and dad. This album in particular starts off by telling a story. This is how it began. There was a boy. Photo. There was a girl. Photo. They met. Photo. They fell in love. They got engaged. They got married: photo, photo, photo, photo It was a fun, quick trip down memory lane, but that was the thing about it, you had to go down memory lane, you had to start at the beginning, there had to be a beginning, a boy and a girl, that would eventually lead to the wedding photo and ultimately to a young boy named Philip and a young girl named Emma looking at the album.
When we hear the reading from First Corinthians 15:1-9, I think it’s a lot like that old photo album of mine. This is, in summary, the story of how the Christian church began.
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.
Now you could start at the later pictures: Jesus with 500 disciples at one time, Jesus meeting with Peter then finally appearing to Paul; but you wouldn’t understand why all of this was so monumental. You could even start with what the church is now but you would still be missing something crucial. You have to start at the beginning and go down memory lane to understand how the whole story began.
That is what Paul does for us. This is the story; this is how it began, there were promises made by God to His creation, to all of us. Promises of redemption and hope and of the one person, a savior all of this would happen through, photo. That savior is Jesus Christ and he died for our sins just like God’s promises said he would, photo. Jesus was dead and buried, no confusion, photo. Jesus rose on the third day from the dead according to God’s promises; photo. From the Resurrection then we get to see the rest of the photos, the Resurrected Jesus with the 500, with Peter, with Paul, the Christian church now celebrating the Resurrection some 2,000 years later, photo, photo, photo.
But here’s the thing, just like in my wedding album, if the boy never met the girl, if Jesus had not been raised from the dead on the third day according to God’s promises then there wouldn’t even be a photo album. No scared disciples cowering in room for fear of imprisonment and death changed overnight into bold proclaimers of the Resurrected Jesus knowing full well speaking out would bring their death. There would have been no post-resurrection meeting with the 500, or Peter or Paul; there would not have been such an amazing Spirit-led response of faith and love in the resurrected Jesus that grew exponentially overnight and for over 2,000 years. You would not have had countless men and women willingly lay down their life at the hands of cruel persecutors instead of rejecting their hope in the resurrected Jesus. There would have been no Christian church, period. No 2.6 billions Christians worldwide celebrating Easter together this very day.
If Jesus was not bodily raised from the dead by God on the third day absolutely none of this, not one moment, one photo, one hope, one Easter (not to mention Christmas) none of this would have happened and we would still be lost in the darkness of sin separated from God.
Easter Sunday at its very heart is not simply a day to celebrate spring, chasing after a bunny or eating chocolate eggs, though chocolate can definitely be a part of it. It is not a time simply for family meals, community celebrations or smelling the flowers, though all of those special moments can and should be enjoyed.
There is only one reason for Easter Sunday, only one reason for us to gather or celebrate, only one reason alone and everything else, all of our other celebrations and additions must be placed in the proper perspective and order to it. Easter Sunday is about the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day according to God’s promises and the hope and new life we have been given in faith because this occurred.
Coming here on Easter Sunday is like opening up the photo album once again and seeing all of the pictures so we can remember why we are here. Like my two little ones, Philip and Emma looking at my old wedding album, because that is really their story as well that tells where they came from and without it they wouldn’t be here today. This Easter Sunday is really our story in the Christian faith as well and where we came from and without it we would not be together today. Sitting here today let the pictures of that first Easter morning open your hearts and minds to the wonderful reason why we ARE here and the new life and hope we have because of it. This is how it began, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day according to God’s promises, photo. Amen.
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