A farm hand in Virginia recently died at forty-four after a short life of hard drinking; a suburban man of forty unexpectedly of a heart attack. Even if you live eighty or ninety years, death creeps upon you, haunts every step, stares at you in the mirror with his wrinkled leer. Death comes vividly to families through divorce; not so vividly though just as bitterly through the coldness and quiet rebellion of a spouse. Death stalks businesses through poor management and regulation. Nations also die. Embrace socialism, die; spend more than you collect in taxes, die; think government is the most important institution on earth, die; be obsessed with politics and power, die. Death surrounds us; vain is the thought that we can elude this predator.
The apostate West observes Easter today. The leader of a supposedly Christian nation can only mumble something about the death of Christ teaching us courage. A radio spot for a national grocery chain tells us that Easter is a time to “share potato salad recipes and admire the ham.” More death; forget the meaning of Easter, and you die – even while your heart is beating. Your god becomes your stomach, the gizmo in your pocket, or the digits in your bank account.
As a people, we have died. We have died because we have spurned God’s law, God’s Christ, and God’s kingdom. We have died because we think we have no need of a physician, except, of course, our next political savior. We have died because we hate the light and love the darkness. We have died because young and old, rich and poor, powerful and weak have broken the everlasting covenant. Sweet to us no longer is the sound of the gospel. The Son of God is not precious to us. We rejoice not at the voice of the Bridegroom. Easter is a day to admire the ham. Our death, admittedly, is marked by technological innovation, mobility, and convenience. If you are dead, does it matters not how ornately your tomb is decorated, how loudly others shout you are really alive, speak of hope, or promise you will get up again? The wages of sin is death. The toll will be paid.
However silly the shows and stories many believers will submit themselves to this morning, however unholy the messages about “Spring rebirth” and “personal renewal” and “Egg Life” that will resound from many mute pulpits, every child of God has a life or death interest in Easter. Our Savior’s empty tomb proclaims that the dead can live again. It says “no” to naturalism, “no” to statism, and “no” to death. It says “yes” to forgiveness, rebirth, and God’s eternal kingdom. His resurrection preaches that the wages of sin have been paid. Sinners may now leave their tombs because the Just One died for the unjust. He has brought us to God, to life. His blood cleanses our leprosy; his righteousness is a garment that cannot be stained. A new age has dawned, the day of his power, the reign of love and grace, the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. The only life to be found is in this realm, yet unseen, but growing daily as the Son of God calls men from their tombs to join the living. Forget the ham, the potato salad, and the eggs. Life has swallowed death.
If Easter has died in the West, it is because those who profess to believe are silent. Pulpits by the thousands resound, of course, and scores of information mediums are filled with ostensibly Christian words and pictures. By “church,” however, I mean that living temple in which Christ dwells by his Spirit. By “silence” I mean our hesitance to share the love we have received, the hope brought to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the compassion the Lord has shown to us poor sinners. We talk about many other things that interest us, engage in many other battles, and grow agitated over a plethora of social and political ills. Are we agitated by life? Do our hearts tremble with amazement that the Son of God was crucified for us, rose for us, and reigns for us at the right hand of the Father? Have we grown so cold, so focused upon the day’s activities, that little room remains for the amazed thought that he healed me, cast out my demons, stood at my tomb and called me out?
Easter’s death is not to be blamed upon unbelievers, the world, or Satan. It is not because our President makes blasphemous remarks – a blind man cannot speak of light he has not seen – or retailers cater to the low and carnal aims of covetous consumers. We have not watched Easter slowly drown in the myths and feel-good messages of toothless preachers because the old, old story has lost its freshness and needs a rewriting. We have lost the power of that first Sabbath morn in our own hearts and lives. The triumph of life over death no longer grips our collective conscience as the first thing of which the apostle spoke (1 Cor. 15:3). Our thoughts are not overwhelmed by the love of God to poor dead sinners, his enemies, for whom he sent the Lord of glory to die and save.
And yet, Easter remains our hope. The crucified Lamb of God did not remain in his tomb. He walked out, life outliving death, swallowing death by the power of his righteous life and perfect sacrifice for sin. He ascended to fill all things with his life. Here is why Easter is lost upon us. We have forgotten that he died and rose again so that he might abide with us forever through his Spirit. He died to bring us to God: that the holy God might fulfill his covenant to walk and talk with us, enjoy fellowship with us, empower us to be slaves of righteousness. These blessings are ours because Jesus lives! Wishful thinking does not make it so, nor does religious enthusiasm. All our cleverness and slogans cannot convince our slow-to-believe hearts that our merciful Father has done what he promised from the beginning: to kill death by life. In the process, he killed us in Christ: all our guilt and curse, the filth and contagion of our original sin, the dominion and tyranny of our sin nature. We died with him. We died to the power of sin in the death of Christ. We also live with him: no longer the “I” of sin but the Christ of life. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
If Christ truly lives in us, Easter is recovered. If we live in him and unto him, Easter will be revived. No spring concerts, nifty programs, and bunny rabbits will be necessary. This is fluff, not the reality. The empty tomb is too precious, too confrontational for such gauche substitutions for a crucified, risen Savior. No, what we need is more “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We need to stand more amazed before his majesty: “See my hands and feet.” We need to feel the loveliness of his face, smell the aroma of his garments. We cannot do this unless we believe. We cannot believe unless his word dwells richly in us. When his word dwells in us, he himself dwells in us by his Spirit. Then, we shall live as living men. Believing in him, we shall share his joy and peace. Fellowshipping with him, he will lead and guide us, teach and comfort us. Loving him, we shall speak of him: his living voice calling to others to leave the tomb. He is alive: the One who lived, loved, and died for us. He lives to live with us, to build his church and kingdom through our words and deeds, his words and deeds in us. These are his greater works. To hear a believer speaking of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ without embarrassment, to behold a child of God keeping himself unspotted from the world, these are more miraculous than his calming of the seas. He will do these things in us because Easter is true. He will do them because he is the Lamb of God now crowed with glory and honor. He indwells his resurrected people with his own life. O, should we not seek him more, drawing near to the Father through the veil of his flesh and loving him who first loved us! Should we not study him, adore him, behold his glory in the Gospels, and devote ourselves to the Captain who brought us out of the dark dungeon of sin and judgment?
Easter is true. Our stories and sideshows dirty and demean it: like the moneychangers in the temple. We need the resurrected Son of God to come into his temple again and cleanse it. This begins with you, dear believer. Do you love the Son of God? You profess to have life in him; do you live as someone who has been raised from the dead? Fathers, when was the last time you spoke to your children of the great things Christ has done for you soul, when you spoke of him as alive rather than as a venerated religious figure? Businessman, to whom do you credit your success, that you do not curse as your co-workers or make tawdry remarks about females in the office? Do you mumble a few religious remarks or speak of a living Savior who saves dead men? The future of the West does not lie in the hands of the politicians and bankers. It lies in the hands of the risen Son of God and his living servants, made alive by grace, trembling before that Sabbath trumpet that sounded the death of death in the life of Christ. Know him. Seek him. Learn of him. Recovering Easter is nothing other than the recovery of the living Christ walking in his living temple, speaking his living word, still bringing the dead out of their tombs.