Just when was the church really born? Was it at Pentecost? We often celebrate this as the birthday of the Church. Was it when Jesus gave the great commission, “Go make disciples of all the world”? Was it when Jesus taught the sermon on the mount that included the Beatitudes — these amazing teachings are often credited as the core of the Christian faith. Was it when Jesus called his disciples, when Peter got out of the boat and left his nets? Maybe.
I think that even though Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit filled the Church and they spilled out into the street speaking the glories of God, I don’t think it was the key moment when the Church was born or the key message.
I don’t think the amazing, inspired teaching of Jesus is when the Church was born.
I don’t even think when the first disciples began to follow that that was when the Church was born.
I think it was when the words were spoken that first Easter Sunday morning, “He is not here, He is risen, just as He said,” and when Mary and the other Mary quickly ran to tell the disciples that Jesus was not there in that sad tomb anymore, that He had risen from the dead.
There is no Church without Easter. There is no “Jesus loves me, this I know.” There is no Lord’s Prayer. There is no hope in Christ, life in Christ, answer that is Jesus Christ. There is no Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Bible books we call the Gospels. There is no book of Acts, the story of the life of the early Church. There is no Revelation, the promise that Jesus will return again. There is no Galatians, Ephesians, James, 1st Timothy or any other book that for 2,000 years has guided and directed the life of the Church and those who call themselves Christians and followers of Christ.
When the young and fresh Church went into the world, when Paul and Peter preached into that Roman and Greek pagan world, when they shouted the good news of a messiah named Jesus to the Jewish people, it was the message of the resurrection, the fact of faith that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead that they preached, that drew people to hear, accept and change, that birthed a Church that changed and is still changing the world.
There is no “Jesus loves me” without the resurrection, no savior, no salvation, no teaching of this amazing rabbi, because that love, that salvation, those teachings would have stopped dead at the cross, and the story would have ended at the point of the blood of an unnamed and unknown man pooled there, just another dead Jew, and God knows there was plenty of them.
The most exciting message of Christianity, the most meaningful, the most important, the most seismic and the core that makes the Christian faith what it is and unlike any other world religion is the resurrection.
Without the resurrection, death and sin would have won. Because of the resurrection, life and grace win because God says they win. His voice that rings out is that the tomb was empty that first Easter morning, “He is not here, He is risen, just as He said, come see where He was lying, go quickly now and tells His disciples that He has risen from the dead.”