BY REV. TIM NAPPE - HARBOR OF JOY LUTHERAN CHURCH
These past couple of weeks have been significant around the world. We who identify ourselves as Christians have been sharing our annual observance of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the celebration of Easter Sunday. To us, these days mean much more than Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs.
This is the holiest time of the year. It is the time that we remember the purpose for which Jesus Christ came into the world. We remember the depth of His love for us that caused Him to lay down His life as a sacrifice for sin. We remember His commitment to serving the will of His Father to redeem the world. And we remember his perseverance, being willing to suffer, even when He could have chosen not to do it.
And we remember our own sin and human imperfections. Our disobedience and inability to walk the path of faith is what made it necessary for Jesus to die in our place.
Holy Week can be a dark, solemn remembrance of the reality of sin and God’s just punishment of disobedience. But Easter morning is also the celebration of victory as Jesus steps out of the tomb, triumphant over sin, death and all the power of the enemy.
For those who take their faith in Jesus Christ seriously, these last couple of weeks remind us of our foundation. This is the core of our faith: the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of what Christ accomplished, we have hope! Our sins are forgiven and eternal life is assured.
Without the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our hope is gone. We are still trapped in sin, without a savior to rescue us.
The Apostle Paul reflects on these fundamentals of the faith in 1 Corinthians 15. He also comes to the same conclusion. Because of Christ, we can have hope. But without Him, our hope is gone.
Starting with verse 3, Paul repeats the core of our confession of faith, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
And then, beginning a few verses later, in verse 13, Paul explains, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
For we who believe, our faith stands or falls in the shadow of the cross and the empty tomb. If it is true, then Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the world! If it is not true, then our faith is futile and our hope is in vain.
I choose to live in hope. I place my trust, along with fellow believers around the world and over the centuries, in Jesus Christ. For me, the Bible is true, God’s Word can be trusted and His promises are rock solid. I look forward to seeing every one of His promises come true.
The empty cross, the empty tomb and the empty promises of the world all point me in the direction of God’s promise for the future. If you would ever be interested in talking to me about it, feel free to give me a call. It won’t be in vain!
God’s blessings to all of you.