Easter: The Centre of Christianity

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Easter season reminds us of the central events of the Christian faith. None of us will know the breadth and depth of the good news about Jesus in this life, but anyone can know the key points.

Paul underlines them for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

“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…”

These truths are the most important truths of the Christian message. That is not to say that the rest are dispensable, but that these are the facts without which the message about Jesus would be worthless.

Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). His death on the cross was no accident. It was not just an example of love. It was an effective and sufficient sacrifice for all who repent and trust in Him. That is what the Old Testament Scriptures told believers to expect: God’s anointed, chosen Saviour would suffer and die, not because He deserved to, but for the forgiveness of the sins of others (Isaiah 52-53).

So, the message of Easter goes back far before the death of Jesus. It reminds us of the sovereign plan of God from all eternity to save a people for Himself (Genesis 17:7-8, Exodus 6:7, Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 30:22, Ezekiel 36:28, Revelation 21:3). It highlights the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises of salvation. It emphasises the obedience of Jesus in coming to earth, submitting to life as a servant and enduring temptation every day so that He would have a perfect life to offer as the sacrifice for sin (Philippians 2:8).

Our salvation could not be achieved by anyone deciding to become the Saviour, or to sacrifice Himself for the good of others. The sacrifice had to be perfect (1 Peter 1:18-19). The obedience had to be lifelong. And the offering had to be of unmeasurable value, otherwise it would not be enough for anyone but the one who died (Romans 5:15, 19).

Without the sacrificial, atoning death of Jesus Christ, there is no Christian message. We are still in our sins and unable to be forgiven. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

The truth of each of these claims is proved by the other point of Paul’s Gospel summary: “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:4). The resurrection is spoken of in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:9-11, Isaiah 53:10-12, Jonah 1:17). Jesus clearly understood so (Matthew 12:40, 16:4, Luke 24:26-27). And so too did the first believers (Acts 2:34).

The resurrection is an amazing miracle, proving the power of God over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). It is a declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 1:4). It is the source of spiritual life for all who believe (John 8:28, 10:10, 17-18, 12:32). It is where lasting moral transformation comes from (Philippians 3:10).

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, there is no Christian message. It is useless to trust in a dead Saviour. As 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 says,

“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.”

So, this Easter, let us meditate on and rejoice in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as promised in the Scriptures, as testified to by the eyewitnesses of His glory (2 Peter 1:16). It may seem that God’s plans for the world are not yet finished, “but we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Yours in Christ’s service,

Stephen McDonald