Easter: The first Easter began in a then familiar way — Mary and the other Mary going to the tomb where Jesus’ body was. They had been twice before because up until the fourth day mourners went each day to anoint the body with expensive ointments and spices (to hold off the smell and allow grieving to continue at the grave as long as possible). Typically by the fourth day the smell had begun, and one could no longer go to a tomb to mourn. When they arrived, the stone had been rolled away, and an angel told them, “He is not here, he is risen just as he said. Come see where he had been laid.” Jesus appeared to at least 500, including the 11 surviving apostles after this event, telling them to “go and make disciples of all the world.” Then, as Acts records, he ascended into heaven.
The first holiday known as Easter, when the church celebrated the resurrection as a singular event, was probably in the 2nd century, more than a hundred years after Christ’s resurrection. But the message of the early Church, as recorded in the book of Acts, had the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as central in this amazing good news; this preaching of the resurrection began almost immediately after the ascension of Jesus Christ. In fact, all early preaching about the Christ began first with the news that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The teaching of Jesus followed the miracle of Jesus’ victory over death. The former means very little without the latter.
This means that the “preaching of the resurrection” predates the celebration of Easter as a holiday by well over 100 years.
I want to ask you to do something for me. First Methodist is preparing for a tremendous Easter weekend, three services at the MISD Center for the Performing Arts and two on our campus. Pray with me that it is not just a religious holiday we celebrate but that it is what it is supposed to be, “a weekend we preach the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This gospel, or good news, is the hope of the world, the hope of the hopeless and the hope of the lost, grieving, hurting, empty people of our world. It is this gospel that changed the Roman and Greek world of the first century. May it change the world we live in today. Holidays don’t change very much, but the power of God working through the good news he orchestrated when he emptied the tomb, now that changes the world.
Pray: that God is honored.
Pray: that our members are encouraged, blessed, empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Pray: that we have 1,000 visitors and thousands in attendance to hear the good news.
Pray: that many come to the Christ most of us are blessed by daily.
Pray: that the outcome of Easter is the outcome that God desires.
God, we pray that this Easter weekend you are honored, we are encouraged, thousands hear the good news, thousands more come to celebrate, that many will come to know Christ and that it is your kingdom that comes and your will that is done. In the name of the resurrected Christ, Amen.